Córdoba, also called Cordova in English, is a city in Andalusia, southern Spain, and the capital of the province of Córdoba. An Iberian and Roman city in ancient times, in the Middle Ages it became the capital of an Islamic caliphate. The old town contains numerous architectural reminders of when Corduba was the capital of Hispania Ulterior during the Roman Republic and capital of Hispania Baetica during the Roman Empire; and when Qurṭubah (قرطبة) was the capital of the Islamic Caliphate of Córdoba, including most of the Iberian Peninsula.
It has been estimated that in the 10th century Córdoba was the most populous city in the world, and under the rule of Caliph Al Hakam II it had also become a centre for education under its Islamic rulers. Al Hakam II opened many libraries on top of the many medical schools and Universities which existed at this time. Such Universities contributed towards developments in mathematics and astronomy. During these centuries Córdoba had become the intellectual centre of Europe and was also noted for its predominantly Muslim society that was tolerant toward its Christian and Jewish minorities. Today it is a moderately-sized modern city; its population in 2011 was 330,033.
The first trace of human presence in the area are remains of a Neanderthal Man, dating to c. 42,000 to 35,000 BC. In the 8th century BC, during the ancient Tartessos period, a pre-urban settlement existed. The population gradually learned copper and silver metallurgy. The first historical mention of a settlement dates, however, to the Carthaginian expansion across the Guadalquivir, when the general Hamilcar Barca renamed it Kartuba, from Kart-Juba, meaning "the City of Juba", the latter being a Numidian commander who had died in a battle nearby. Córdoba was conquered by the Romans in 206 BC. In 169 the Roman consul Marcus Claudius Marcellus founded a Latin colony alongside the pre-existing Iberian settlement. Between 143 and 141 BC the town was besieged by Viriatus. A Roman Forum is known to have existed in the city in 113 BC.
At the time of Julius Caesar, Córdoba was the capital of the Roman province of Hispania Ulterior Baetica. Great Roman philosophers such as Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger, orators such as Seneca the Elder and poets such as Lucan came from Roman Cordoba. Later, it occupied an important place in the Provincia Hispaniae of the Byzantine Empire (552–572) and under the Visigoths, who conquered it in the late 6th century.
Córdoba was captured in 711 by a Muslim army. Unlike other Iberian towns, no capitulation was signed and the position was taken by storm. Córdoba was in turn governed by direct Muslim rule. The new Muslim commanders established themselves within the city and in 716 it became a provincial capital, subordinate to the Caliphate of Damascus; in Arabic it was known as قرطبة (Qurṭubah).
Different areas were allocated for the services in the Saint Vincent Church shared by Christian and Muslims, until the former Mosque started to be erected on the same spot under Abd-ar-Rahman I. In May 766, it was chosen as the capital of the independent Muslim emirate of al-Andalus, later a Caliphate itself. During the caliphate apogee (1000 AD), Córdoba had a population of roughly 500,000 inhabitants, though estimates range between 350,000 and 1,000,000. In the 10th and 11th centuries, Córdoba was one of the most advanced cities in the world as well as a great cultural, political, financial and economic centre. The Great Mosque of Córdoba dates back to this time; under caliph Al-Hakam II Córdoba had 3,000 mosques, splendid palaces and 300 public baths, and received what was then the largest library in the world, housing from 400,000 to 1,000,000 volumes. The fame of Córdoba penetrated even distant Germany: the Saxon nun Hroswitha, famous in the last half of the 10th century for its Latin poems and dramas, called it the Jewel of the World.
However, following al-Mansur's death, internal struggle for power between different factions led to the pillage and destruction of Medina Azahara and other splendid buildings of Córdoba. The city fell into a steady decline in the next decades and after the fall of the caliphate (1031), Córdoba became the capital of a Republican independent taifa. This short-lived state was conquered by Al-Mu'tamid ibn Abbad, lord of Seville, in 1070. In turn, the latter was overthrown by the Almoravids, who were later replaced by the Almohads.
During the latter's domination the city declined, the role of the capital of Muslim al-Andalus having been given to Seville. On 29 June 1236, after a siege of several months, it was captured by King Ferdinand III of Castile, during the Spanish Reconquista. The city was divided into 14 colaciones, and numerous new church buildings were added. The city declined especially after Renaissance times. In the 18th century it was reduced to just 20,000 inhabitants. The population and economy started to increase only in the early 20th century.
With the most extensive historical heritages in the world declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO (on 17 December 1984), the city also features a number of modern areas, including the districts of Zoco and the railway station district.
The regional government (the Junta de Andalucía) has for some time been studying the creation of a Córdoba Metropolitan Area that would comprise, in addition to the capital itself, the towns of Villafranca de Córdoba, Obejo, La Carlota, Villaharta, Villaviciosa, Almodóvar del Río and Guadalcázar. The combined population of such an area would be around 351,000.
The city is located on the banks of the Guadalquivir river, and its easy access to the mining resources of the Sierra Morena (coal, lead, zinc) satisfies the population’s needs. The city is located in a depression of the valley of the Guadalquivir. In the north is the Sierra Morena, which defines the borders of the municipal area. Córdoba is one of the few cities in the world that has a near-exact antipodal city – Hamilton, New Zealand.
Córdoba has a Subtropical-Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csa). Córdoba has the highest summer average daily temperatures in Europe (averaging 36.2 °C (97 °F) in July) and days with temperature over 40 °C (104 °F) are common in the summer months. August's 24 hour average of 27.2 °C (81 °F) is also among the highest in Europe, despite having relatively cool nightly temperatures.
Winters are mild with isolated frosts. Precipitation is concentrated in the coldest months; this is due to the Atlantic coastal influence. Precipitation is generated by storms from the west that occur most frequently from December through February. This Atlantic characteristic then gives way to a hot summer with significant drought more typical of Mediterranean climates. Annual rain surpasses 500 mm (20 in), although there is a recognized inter-annual irregularity.
Registered maximum temperatures at the Córdoba Airport (located at 6 kilometres (4 miles) of the city) are 46.6 °C (115.9 °F) (23 July 1995) and 46.2 °C (115.2 °F) (1 August 2003). The minimum temperature ever recorded was −8.2 °C (17.2 °F) (28 January 2005).
The cuisine of Cordoba is the result of a long tradition which can be seen in the variety of its dishes, the huge number of restaurants, taverns and bars all over the city and in the prestige which it enjoys on a national level.The different peoples and civilizations which passed through Cordoba also left their mark in the local cuisine. The Romans introduced the use of olive oil, which is widely used and highly-prized in this area, and set the norms for what would later become known as Mediterranean cuisine. The Arab influence, too, can be seen in the use of nuts and dried fruit, vegetables, in the mixture of sweet and sour flavours and finally in cakes and sweets, which were also influenced by Jewish culinary traditions. The arrival of the Christians brought an increased use of meat as well as maintaining the best culinary traditions from the cultures previous to the conquest.