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Saguntum, now Sagunt, (Castilian Sagunto) is an ancient city in the fertile district of Camp de Morvedre in the province of Valencia in eastern Spain. It is in a hilly site, twenty miles north of Valencia, close to the Mediterranean coast.
Its Celtiberian settlers walled their settlement in the 5th century BC; a stretch of cyclopean limestone slabs from the former temple of Diana, survives by the church of Santa Maria, but the settlement site is still older. The city traded with Greek and Phoenician coastal colonies, and under their influence, minted its own coins. By (219 BC) Saguntum was a large and commercially prosperous town, which sided with the local Greek colonists and Rome against Carthage, and drew Hannibal's first assault, his siege of Saguntum, the opening move of the Second Punic War. Its months'-long noble resistance, related by the Roman historian Livy comprises its one brief flash of historic glory. Finally in 218 Hannibal took it and passed on into Italy.
Hispania was not meekly pacified and Romanized, as the Iberian career of Quintus Sertorius makes clear. Saguntum minted coins under his protection, and continued to house a mint when, as Roman Saguntum, it was rebuilt and flourished with the rank of municipium. This later prosperity lasted most of the empire through, and is attested by inscriptions and ruins (notably a theatre, demolished by Napoleon's marshal Louis Gabriel Suchet, who also destroyed the Roman tower of Hercules). With the Arian Visigothic kings, Saguntum received its Catholic patron saint, a bishop named Sacerdos ("the priest"), who died peacefully of natural causes about AD 560 In the early 8th century as part of the Caliphate of Cordoba the city reached a new age of splendor, with baths, palaces, mosques and schools for its cosmopolitan population. The city was named Morviedro in Castilian and Morvedre or Molvedre in Valencian, both derived from Latin muri veteres "ancient walls." However, as Valencia grew, Saguntum declined. In 1098 it was briefly reconquered by El Cid, although the definitive reconquest waited until 1238, under Jaime I of Aragon.
Sagunt was badly damaged in warfare, but has retained many Valencian Gothic structures. In the late 19th century, a steel-making industry grew up that supports the modern city, which extends in the coastal plain below the picturesque walled ramparts, the muri veteres, of its citadel, surrounding a Roman forum and restored theater and Moorish and medieval remains, which form a National Monument. The theater at Sagunt, in fact, was the first official National Monument declared in Spain (1896).
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