The water in Seville

Water, one of the most important elements for ecosystems and the beings who live in it.

In Seville, water flows in a way that it influenced in its history, even giving shape to its destiny. How is that possible? Well, let's travel back in time to more that 4000 years ago.

Around 2500 BC, the phoenicians from Siria and Lybanon sailed the Mediterranean Sea freely. But they were not brave enough to cross the Strait of Gribaltar because they thought, if they did so, they would die because the Atlactic Ocean didn't exist for them.

Then, a really valiant navigator named Melkart, he was the first one to cross the Strait and founded the city Gádir (Cádiz) and he sailed up the River Guadalquivir, which was name Tartessos by the phoenicians. Up there, in a place similar to a delta, he established a small village. That village was one of the most important comercial ports for the phoenicians.

Ispal means "city built on top of sticks", which means that Seville was the andalucian Venice. This got some advantages and disadvantages since the people living there were basically workers of the industry and from the docks. From Seville, silver and gold were the most important products.

That's why, we cannot say that Ispal was, in fact, a city. Basically, it was one of the comercial headquarters of the phoenicians. We needed to wait for the romans to, finally, reach the status of a city.


In 206 BC, with the arrival of the romans, Seville changes dramatically. The new owners named her Hispalis and they noticed the possibilities for it because the river could be problematic when it came to live a comfortable life but, also, it gave the city a perfect strategic position.

That's how the romans, who stayed here until the 5th century, they started to modify and give shape to the riverbed.They limited the river to three different arms, instead of being such a dangerous floodplain. These three arms passed by actual streets of Seville like Alameda de Hércules or Sierpes Street.

Romans named the river Betis or Baetis.


Between the 5th and early 8th century, the visigoths settled down in Hispalis but, in their case, they spent more time enjoying the fall of the Roman Impire and fighting each other than doing great things for the city. That's the reason why we don't have so many remains from them.

In the 711 Muslims arrived and they settled down here in the city they named Isbilya until 1248. That's when the king Ferdinand the 3rd from the Kingdom Castilla conquered three of the four great muslim kingdoms in Al-Andalus.

They baptised the river as Al-wadi al-kivir, from there is the actual name River Guadalquivir. In these times, the Muslims tried to make the roman walls taller and stronger but they had to fight one of the arms of the river: Targarete.


With the christians, after the New World being found by Christopher Colombus in 1492, the River Guadalquivir brought the sweetest and most glorious times for the history of Seville. The Catholic Kings established the main port in Seville adding to the Royal Alcázar the Contracting House.

That's the place where everyone who wanted to travel to the New World, they needed to go to Seville first, do the paper work and pay the taxes. In the docks, all the new products from America arrived first to Seville: potatoes, tomatoes, tobacco leaves, chocolate,...

Thanks to the river, Seville turned into the main capital of the world back in the 16th Century.


But it also brought misfortune. When the ships started to be bigger and the level of the river decreased, it was impossible to sail up to Seville so the port was unreachable. Because of this, the main port was changed for Cádiz which was in the sealine, way more easier for the ships to access.

With this, Seville started to suffer from an important economic crisis, tied to the dark times that came with the arrival to the kingdom of the Cahotlic Kings: the Inquisition.

Even when the river didn't have a comercial use, with centuries, the river kept provoking huge floods which produced great damages. In the 19th Century, part of the walls of the city were destroyed and they covered one of the most problematic arms of the river, the one the Muslims tried to control, the Targarete.


In the 20th Century, during the reign of the King Alfonso the 13th, the main promotor of one of the most important international expositions, Iberoamerican Exposition of 1929, they started strong actions against the uncontrolled river to make it more functional.

With channels, like the Alfonso the 13th Channel, they cut smaller strands of the river to make the main arm of the river more navigable.

And, finally, before the exposition of 1992, they did the last modifications. Being the real river the arm that is behind Triana neighborhood and the arm that is crossing the city under all these beautiful bridges is just a made up.


Thanks to that, in case of big rains, the flow of the river is controlled and we don't suffer from floods anymore. This detail, you can appreciate it in the Golden Tower. On the facade, you can see the marks and the dates of the floods during the centuries.


Maybe today Water is just one these dairy things in our lives, but people used to travel big distances looking for it. For them, to establish themselves where there was water, was as if they found "El Dorado".



Tartessos, Baetis, Al-wadi al-kivir, Guadalquivir... with the evolution of its name, it brought life to Seville: phoenicians, romans, visigoths, muslims and christians.The 'Agua de Sevilla' gave shape to our lifestyle and our culture.

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