A Brief History of Málaga, Spain

The Málaga Lighthouse sits on the harbor of this modern city with ancient origins

Fun facts about this city on Spain’s Costa del Sol that combines cosmopolitan chic with classic cool.

Worth Its Salt

As the adage goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was Málaga. One of the oldest cities in the world, it was inhabited and settled by the Phoenicians around 770 BCE. They gave the modest port city the name Malaka, which was likely derived from malaha, the Phoenician word for salt.

The Phoenicians maintained a prosperous sea trade, and one of their primary exports was salt, obtained from evaporated seawater. Salt was prized for its ability to preserve food as well as seasoning. In fact, in Ancient Rome, soldiers were paid in salt — a salarium, the Latin origin of the word “salary.”

Like a game of hot potato, Málaga was besieged and conquered several times.


Hooked on Phoenics

The Phoenician alphabet is the oldest verified alphabet. Derived from Egyptian hieroglyphics, the 22 letters are simplifications of hieroglyphic symbols. This alphabet eventually evolved into modern Arabic. Eventually the Greeks, who had become familiar with the Phoenician alphabet through trade, added vowels — and that’s what became the foundation of the standardized Latin alphabet we use today.

History Repeating  

Like a game of hot potato, Málaga was besieged and conquered several times. Under the reign of Caesar Augustus, the Romans invaded and renamed the city Malaca.

After the decline and subsequent fall of the Roman Empire, the city was briefly occupied by the Visigoths, who were then defeated by the Moors. It remained under Islamic rule for 800 years as Mālaqa and became an important center of commerce.

The Crown of Castile later overtook the region in 1487, selling virtually the entire Muslim population into slavery, prior to the fall of Granada five years later.

Culture Club

Turbulent history aside, the archeological ruins make the historic city center a cultural open-air museum campus. This heritage earned Málaga a nomination for the European Capital of Culture (which was instead awarded to San Sebastián.) –Duke