Once the proud capital of al-Andalus, with its splendid court and cultured caliphs, Córdoba’s opulent Islamic heritage resonates with faded glory. Originally a small Roman settlement on the Guadalquivir River, it was taken over by the Visigoths, then by the Umayyad Caliphate in the eighth century. It became the capital of a Muslim emirate, and then the Caliphate of Córdoba, which included most of the Iberian Peninsula. During this period, Cordoba became a center of education and learning, and by the 10th century, the city had grown to be the largest in Europe. It was recaptured by Christian forces in 1236, during the Reconquista. Today, Córdoba is home to many notable examples of Moorish architecture such as the Mezquita, but much of this architecture, such as the Alcázar and the Roman bridge has been reworked or reconstructed by the city's successive inhabitants.
In 169 Roman consul M. Claudius Marcellus, grandson of Marcus Claudius Marcellus, who had governed both Further and Hither Spain, founded a Latin colony alongside the pre-existing Iberian settlement. A Roman forum is known to have existed in the city in 113 BC. The famous Cordoba Treasure, with mixed local and Roman artistic traditions, was buried in the city at this time; it is now in the British Museum. The city was sacked by Caesar in 45, and settled with veterans by Augustus. It became the capital of Baetica and boasted a colonial and provincial forum and many temples. It was the chief center of Roman intellectual life in Hispania Ulterior, and its republican poets were succeeded by Seneca and Lucan. The great Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger, his father, the orator Seneca the Elder, and his nephew, the poet Lucan came from Roman Cordoba.
Córdoba was captured in 711 by the Umayyad army. The new Umayyad commanders established themselves within the city and it became a provincial capital, subordinate to the Caliphate of Damascus.
Different areas were allocated for services in the Saint Vincent Church shared by Christians and Muslims, until construction of the Córdoba Mosque started on the same spot under Abd-ar-Rahman I. He allowed the Christians to rebuild their ruined churches and purchased the Christian half of the church of St Vincent. In May 766 Córdoba was chosen as the capital of the independent Umayyad emirate, later caliphate, of al-Andalus. During the apogee of the caliphate (1000 AD), Córdoba had 400,000 people. It was one of the most advanced cities in the world, and a great cultural, political, financial and economic center. The Great Mosque of Córdoba dates back to this time. After a change of rulers, the situation changed quickly. The vizier al-Mansur, the unofficial ruler of al-Andalus from 976 to 1002, burned most of the books on philosophy to please the Moorish clergy.
Córdoba had a prosperous economy, manufacturing leather, metal work, glazed tiles and textiles, as well as agricultural produce. It was also home to over 80 libraries and institutions of learning, with knowledge of medicine, mathematics, astronomy, botany far exceeding the rest of Europe at the time.
In 1002 Al-Mansur died. His death was the beginning of the end of Córdoba. In 1012 the Berbers "sacked Cardova." As the caliphate collapsed, so did Córdoba's economic and political hegemony, and it subsequently became part of the Taifa of Córdoba.
During the Spanish Reconquista, Córdoba was captured by King Ferdinand III of Castile on 29 June 1236, after a siege of several months. The city was divided into 14 sectors, and numerous new churches were added. The mosque was converted into a large Catholic cathedral.
During the Renaissance, the city declined, and in the 18th century it had barely 20,000 people.