Archaeological finds unearthed in the Badajoz area have been dated to the Bronze Age. Megalithic tombs are dated as far back as 4000 BC, while many of the steles found are from the Late Bronze Age. Other finds include weapons such as axes and swords, everyday items of pottery and utensils, and various items of jewellery such as bracelets. Archaeological excavations have revealed remnants from the Lower Paleolithic period. Artifacts have also been found at the Roman town of Colonia Civitas Pacensis in the Badajoz area, although a significant number of larger artifacts were found in Mérida.
With the invasion of the Romans, which started in 218 BC during the Second Punic War, Badajoz and Extremadura became part of the administrative district called Hispania Ulterior (Farther Spain), which was later divided by Emperor Augustus into Hispania Ulterior Baetica and Hispania Ulterior Lusitania; Badajoz became part of Lusitania. Though the settlement is not mentioned in Roman history, Roman villas such as the La Cocosa Villa have been discovered in the area, while Visigothic constructions have also been found in the vicinity.
Founding to Middle Ages
Badajoz attained importance during the reign of Moorish rulers such as the Umayyad caliphs of Córdoba, and the Almoravids and Almohads of North Africa. From the 8th century, the Umayyad dynasty controlled the region until the early 11th century. The official foundation of Badajoz was laid by the Muladi nobleman Ibn Marwan, around 875, after he had been expelled from Mérida. Under Ibn Marwan, the city was the seat of an effective autonomous rebel state which was quenched only in the 10th century. In 1021 (or possibly 1031 ), it became the capital of a small Muslim kingdom, the Taifa of Badajoz; with some 25,000 inhabitants. Badajoz was known as Baṭalyaws (Arabic: بَطَلْيَوْس) during Muslim rule. The invasion of Badajoz by Christian rulers in 1086 under Alfonso VI of Castile, overturned the rule of the Moors. In addition to an invasion by the Almoravids of Morocco in 1067, Badajoz was later invaded by the Almohads in 1147.
Badajoz was captured by Alfonso IX of León on 19 March 1230. Shortly after its conquest, in the time of Alfonso X the Wise of Castile, a bishopric see was established and work was initiated on the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista. In 1336, during the reign of Alfonso XI of Castile, the troops of King Afonso IV of Portugal besieged the city. However, soon afterwards, the Castilian-Leonese troops, which included Pedro Ponce de León the Elder and Juan Alonso Pérez de Guzmán y Coronel, second lord of Sanlúcar de Barrameda and son of Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, defeated the troops of Alfonso IV in the Battle of Villanueva de Barcarrota. Their victory forced the king of Portugal to desert the city and it fell into neglect.
In medieval times, the Sánchez de Badajoz family dominated the area as the lords of Barcarrota, near Badajoz, acquiring the property in 1369 when it was granted to Fernán Sánchez de Badajoz by Enrique II. They temporarily lost Barcarrota after a tiff with the Portuguese but soon regained control. Fernán Sánchez's grandson of the same name, son of Garci Sánchez de Badajoz, was both lord of Barcarrota and Mayor of Badajoz in 1434. Garci Sánchez de Badajoz, probably his son, was a notable writer, and one of his descendants, Diego Sánchez de Badajoz, was also a notable playwright; his Recopilación en metro was published posthumously in 1554.
The first hospital was founded in the town by Bishop Fray Pedro de Silva in 1485. Those affected by the plague epidemic were treated here in 1506. During the 16th century the city experienced a cultural renaissance thanks to personalities such as the painter Luis de Morales, the composer Juan Vázquez, the humanist Rodrigo Dosma, the poet Joaquin Romero de Cepeda, the playwright Diego Sánchez de Badajoz, the Dominican mystic Fray Luis de Granada and architect Gaspar Méndez. In 1524, a board meeting between representatives of Spain and Portugal took place in the Old Town Hall in the city to clarify the status of their territorial arrangements, attended by Hernando Colón, Juan Vespucio, Sebastián Caboto, Juan Sebastián Elcano, Diego Ribeiro and Esteban Gómez. With reason to assert their rights to the Portuguese Crown, Philip II of Spain briefly moved his court to Badajoz in August 1580. Queen Anne of Austria died in the city two months later, and on 5 December 1580, Philip moved out of the city. From 1580 until 1640, as a result of the absence of war, the city flourished once again. According to the historian Vicente Navarro del Castillo, some 428 residents of Badajoz contributed to the Spanish conquest of the Americas, including Pedro de Alvarado, Luis de Moscoso, Sebastián Garcilaso de la Vega y Vargas (father of Inca Garcilaso) and
Hernán Sánchez de Badajoz. In 1640 the city was attacked during the Portuguese Restoration War.
Depiction of Badajoz in the mid-1600s
The battle for control of the town and its fortress continued with attacks by the Portuguese in 1660. In 1705, during the Spanish War of Succession, Badajoz was controlled by the Allies following the death of the heirless King Charles II. It was taken by Spain, prompting Philip V, grandson of Louis XI of France, to take over the reins of Spain itself. In 1715 Portugal signed a peace agreement with Spain and surrendered its claims to Badajoz in lieu of Spain's cession of Sacramento territory in the La Plata area in South America. The Peace Treaty of Badajoz was signed between Spain and Portugal on 6 June 1801. The Portuguese, feeling that an attack by French troops stationed in Ciudad Rodrigo was imminent, agreed to cede Olivenza to Spain and declared that it would close its ports to British ships. This agreement was revoked in 1807 as its terms were breached when the Treaty of Fontainbleau was signed between Spain and France on 27 October 1807.
During the Peninsular War, Badajoz was unsuccessfully attacked by the French in 1808 and 1809. However, on 10 March 1811, the Spanish commander, José Imaz, was bribed into surrendering to a French force under Marshal Soult. A British and Portuguese army, commanded by Marshal Beresford, endeavoured to retake it and on 16 May 1811 defeated a relieving force at Albuera, but the siege was abandoned the following month.
The Storming of Badajoz (1812)
Siege of Badajoz. Watercolour en grisaille by Richard Caton Woodville Jr. (1856–1927).
In 1812, Arthur Wellesley, Earl of Wellington (and future duke), again attempted to take Badajoz, which had a French garrison of about 5,000 men. Siege operations commenced on 16 March; by early April, there were three practicable breaches [a] in the walls. These were assaulted by two British divisions on 6 April, reputed to be "Wellington's bloodiest siege", with a loss of some 5,000 British soldiers out of 15,000, after a five-hour onslaught the storming of the breaches failed. The French also lost some 1,200 of their 5,000 soldiers in the battle. Despite the failure at the breaches, the castle and another section of undamaged wall had been attacked and the town was successfully taken by the British. The victorious troops massacred about 4,000 Spanish civilians. Wellington wrote to Lord Liverpool, "The capture of Badajos affords as strong an instance of the gallantry of our troops as has ever been displayed, but I anxiously hope that I shall never again be the instrument of putting them to such a test as that to which they were put last night." However, Wellington's storming of San Sebastián in 1813 was much like that of Badajoz.
Pedro Caro, 3rd Marquis of la Romana, died at Badajoz on 23 January 1811 in a fit of apoplexy, seized at the moment when he was leaving his house to concert a plan of military operations with Lord Wellington. In the Siege of Badajoz, a detachment of the (later amalgamated with the to form the Sherwood Foresters Regiment) succeeded in getting into the castle first and the red coatee of Lt. James MacPherson of the 45th regiment was hoisted in place of the French flag to indicate the fall of the castle. This feat is commemorated on 6 April each year, when red jackets are flown on regimental flag staffs and at Nottingham Castle. Volume 23 of the Museum of Foreign Literature, Science and Art, published in 1833, described Badajoz as "one of the richest and most beautiful towns in the south of Spain, whose inhabitants had witnessed its siege in silent terror for one and twenty days, and who had been shocked by the frightful massacre." On 5 August 1883 there was an attempted revolt by the armed forces when a climate of confusion and chaos prevailed.
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil War in Badajoz in the 1930s was a gruesome affair. During the war, Badajoz was taken by the Nationalists in the Battle of Badajoz. Infamously, several thousand of the town's inhabitants, both men and women, were taken to the town's bullring after the battle and after machine guns were set up on the barriers around the ring, an indiscriminate slaughter began. On 14 August 1936, hundreds of Republicans were shot at the Plaza de Toros. In the course of the night, another 1,200 were brought in. Overall it is estimated that over 4,000 people were murdered by the Nationalists after the battle. Even those who tried to cross the Portuguese border were captured and sent back to Badajoz. The troops who committed the killings at Badajoz were under the command of general Juan Yagüe, who, after the civil war, was appointed Minister of Aviation by Franco. For the actions of his troops at Badajoz, Yagüe was popularly known as the "Butcher of Badajoz".
A city planning map of Badajoz in 1873 (Spanish edition)
After the war, the town continued to grow, although since 1960 it has suffered significant migrations to other Spanish regions and other European countries. During the following decades, the predominant economic activity of the city increasingly fell within the tertiary sector, and today Badajoz is a major commercial centre in southwestern Spain and an important bridge between Spain and Portugal for trade and cultural relations. On 6 November 1997, a heavy flood devastated several neighbourhoods of the city, causing the deaths of 21 people and devastating the property of hundreds. The catastrophe was caused by the Atlantic extratropical trough crossing the Iberian Peninsula and inundating the Rivilla and Calamon brooks, which are usually dry. The neighbourhood of Cerro de Reyes, near the confluence of both streams, received the brunt of the damage caused by the flood.