Italica was founded in 206 BC by the great Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio (the Africanus) to settle his victorious veterans from the Second Punic Wars against Hannibal and the Carthaginians, and close enough to the Guadalquivir to control the area. The name Italica reflected the veterans’ Italian origins.
The “old town” dating from the Republican period lies under the present town of Santiponce.
The nearby native and Roman city of Hispalis (Seville) would always remain a larger city, but Italica became an important centre of Roman culture. Italica was later the birthplace of the Roman emperors Trajan and Hadrian, and thrived especially under the patronage of Hadrian. He expanded the city northwards as the “new city”.
He added temples, including a Trajaneum venerating Trajan, and rebuilt public buildings. Italica’s amphitheatre seated 25,000 spectators, half as many as the Colosseum in Rome and the third largest in the Roman Empire, even though the city’s population at the time is estimated to have been only 8,000, and shows that the local elite demonstrated status that extended far beyond Italica itself through the games and theatrical performances they funded as magistrates and public officials. In the same period was built a new elite quarter with several beautiful (and expensive) houses decorated with splendid mosaics visible today.
However at the end of the 2nd century AD the city began to decline for political and economic reasons, without ever being completed.