A Brief History of Barcelona
The origins of the name of Barcelona are not certain, but there are various theories as to its roots.
One is that the tribe of the Layetanos was conquered by Cornelio Escipión and that the area subsequently became a Roman colony named Iulia Augusta Paterna Faventia Barcino, from which the name of Barcelona was derived. The Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca is another possible source, following his arrival in Hispania. Another version attributes the name of the city to Hannibal, the son of Hamilcar Barca.
The origins of the city date back to the first century B.C., when the Romans established a small colony called Barcino around Mount Taber. The remains of two Roman walls are a testimony to this period.
From the 4th to the 13th century, Barcelona went through a major expansion which consolidated the core of the city founded by the Romans. Towards the end of the 13th century a second wall was built around the Cathedral of Santa María del Mar, an icon of medieval Barcelona. In the area of La Ribera, which surrounds the Cathedral of Santa María del Mar, an area of craftsmen’s workshops flourished.
The unstoppable growth of the city was boosted by the early stages of industrialisation and by the trade generated with the former colonies of Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, which transformed the Old Regime. However, the real revolution arrived when the old walls were pulled down in order to expand the city in line with Cerdà’s plans, which saw the construction of the area of L’Eixample.
This was the era of the first railway, which joined Barcelona and Mataró (1850), and this symbol of industrial prosperity would soon be reflected in the city’s architecture, as industrialists had art nouveau houses built for themselves. One of the most notable architects of the time was the Catalan Antoni Gaudí, who designed
emblematic buildings such as Casa Milà (also known as the Pedrera), Casa Batlló and the Sagrada Familia Cathedral.
At the beginning of the 20th century Barcelona was a modern city and a social and cultural melting pot. However, with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and the subsequent dictatorship under Franco, the city saw some of its darkest days. In spite of this, economic development continued, especially from the 1950s onwards.
With the arrival of democracy and then the hosting of the 1992
Olympics, the city became an international reference. It was at this time that the city opened out to the sea and underwent a largescale urban transformation, which continues today with events such as the Forum of Cultures in 2004 and other important urban development projects.