Ronda - A Brief History

"Make earth a house and humanity, a man. So whoever comes will always be welcome"

Ibn Saraf, s. XI

Early settlers of Ronda

Ronda is known to be one of the oldest towns in Spain, with remains from prehistoric settlements of the Neolithic period evident in the cave paintings of the nearby 'Cueva de la Pileta'. The Celts were the first settlers of Ronda in the 6th Century B.C., giving the town its original name of Arunda. The now-ruins of the nearby Acinipo (land of the wines) was later founded by the Phoenicians. In the Second Century B.C. the Romans came to Ronda and were engaged in bloody wars with the Carthaginians.

After the defeat of the Carthaginians in the Second Punic War, the Romanisation of Acinipo in particular led to a period in which it was developed into a major municipality and had such importance that coins could be minted there. Ronda itself had been a fortified post for the Romans during the Second Punic War and it too developed as a municipality. Periods of peace, unrest and invasion followed for both towns with the eventual decline of the Roman Empire leading to the pillaging and destruction of both towns. Acinipo was eventually abandoned by the 6th century while Ronda however would be entering a period of great prosperity with the arrival of the Moors.

Moorish Era

The first invasions of Spain began in 711 when the Moors captured Gibraltar. The castle of Ronda was conquered by the Moors and Ronda became a city that was in control of an entire region. Ronda developed greatly under its new rulers and Roman and Visigoth buildings were replaced by Muslim mosques and buildings. During its development, Ronda became the Taifa of Ronda, an independent kingdom, and it was during this time when the city flourished and was developed greatly.

Many important buildings were built, such as the Arab Baths, Mondragón Palace, while the city walls were developed and fortified over the centuries. Art and philosophy also flourished under this new era. In the 13th century, the Christians were engaged in the Reconquest of the south of Spain. During this time, Ronda had a position of great strategic importance due to its proximity to the territories conquered by the Castilians. The Christian army surrounded the city in 1485 and the water mine was occupied, leaving the city without a water supply. Ronda was finally reconquered in 1485 when the city surrendered after a brief siege.

15th - 17th centuries

After the conquest of Ronda in 1485, the lands were distributed amongst the knights and noblemen that had taken part in the Conquest.Mosques were converted into churches and the town was divided into 5 parishes based on the names of their respective churches. In the 15th century, higher taxes were imposed on goods entering Ronda. As a result of this, suppliers decided to stay outside of the city gates, forming markets that would become the origins of the districts of Mercadillo and San Francisco. San Francisco became an agricultural quarter, while Mercadillo became a service area, which developed so much to the point that it would occupy the entire northern area of the Tajo.

The explusion of the Moors from Ronda occurred in 1570 after an alleged uprising and after this Ronda was a completely Christian town. The coat of arms of Ronda was created in the 16th century and has remained this way ever since. The 16th and 17th centuries were important times of development in which Ronda was given its structure as we know it today. The main part of Ronda, the Madinat, became known as “La Ciudad”. The new districts of San Francisco and Mercadillo were symbols of new development and a new society. Churches, hospitals and convents were built in the town while shops inns and taverns were built in the Mercadillo district.

The Puente Viejo (Old bridge) was built in the early 17th century, and is the oldest and smallest of the 3 bridges that cross the Guadalevín river of Ronda. In the 17th century, Ronda further expanded, moving further north of the gorge into the new town (El Mercadillo).

18th - 19th centuries

The 18th century in Ronda was important for various building projects. During this time the Puente Nuevo (New Bridge), Plaza de Toros (Bullring) and the aqueduct of La Hidalga were all built. The construction of the Puente Nuevo allowed for the expansion of the city and the development of new streets. The Plaza España was built, which was the location of a new market.

In the early 19th century, the French occupation resulted in Ronda suffering a great deal. There was hunger and misery among the citizens and much policitcal instability as a result of the occupation. The French also destroyed many important buildings when they retreated from the town such as the Castle, along with aqueducts, walls and paths. This was also a period in which the legend of bandits (bandoleros) was formed, which inspired a great number of novels by the romantic writers of the time. The bandits were said to have originated with the guerilla fighters that fought against the French in the early 18th century, and later became bands of highwaymen and badits that robbed people travelling through the region.

Ronda became a favourite destination during the 19th century for romantic travellers (viajeros romanticos), who would visit Ronda as part of the Grand Tour of Europe that was popular with young upper-class people at the time.

20th Century

Ronda was in a difficult situation economically at the beginning of the 20th century. This was as a result of the bad agricultural situation in Andalusia and a drought that the people suffered in 1905. Ronda was the site of much fighting during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), and a famous scene in Ernest Hemingway’s novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is said to have been inspired by an actual event in which Fascist sympathisers were thrown from the cliff into the gorge by Republican partisans. The truth of this incident is heavily disputed, however.

In 1939 the first Andalusian assembly was led by Blas Infante and the Andalusian flag, slogan and symbol were all decided upon during this meeting. During this century Ronda experienced times of emigration in which many people relocated to the larger cities in search of work and a better life. In more recent decades, with the establishment of democracy after the death of Franco, Ronda has grown economically through the years and has enjoyed periods of great prosperity and development.

Ronda Today

Today Ronda has a population of roughly 35,000 people and is the central town in the region of the Serranía de Ronda. It now is one of the towns and villages that is included in the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park. Ronda receives tourists from all over the world and enjoys a reputation as one of the most beautiful and charming towns to visit in Andalusia.