Elche

Elche

Elche / Elx
Altamira Castle and panoramic view of Elche
Altamira Castle and panoramic view of Elche
Flag of Elche
Flag
Coat of arms of Elche
Coat of arms
Elche is located in Spain
Elche
Elche
Location in Spain
Coordinates: 38°16′1″N 0°41′54″W / 38°16′1″N 0°41′54″W / 38.26694; -0.69833UTC+2 (CEST)
Postal code
03200-03299
Dialing code966 - 965
Official language(s)Spanish and Official tourism Website

Elche (/,[2] Spanish: [ˈeltʃe]) or Elx (UK: /,[3] US: ʃ/,[4] Valencian: [ˈɛʎtʃ])[a] is a town located in the comarca of Baix Vinalopó, Spain. According to the 2014 census, Elche has a population of 228,647 inhabitants[5] (called il·licitans in Valencian and ilicitanos in Spanish), ranking as the third most populated city in the Valencian Community (after Valencia and Alicante) and the 20th largest Spanish city.

Part of the municipality is coastal but the main city is some 11 km (6.8 mi) from the Mediterranean Sea. A small creek called Vinalopó flows through the city splitting it in two parts.

Elche is so close to the city of Alicante, that both cities form a de facto conurbation of some 800,000 inhabitants that can very well double during the summer peak-season.

History

La Alcudia is 10 km from the current city's location and the immediate predecessor of current day Elche. This original location was settled by the Greeks and then occupied by Carthaginians and Romans. Greeks Ionian colonists from the Achaean city Helike established their new colony, naming it Helíkē (Greek: Ἑλίκη) around 600 BC. It was a point of resistance against Carthaginian advance in Spain between the First and Second Punic Wars.[6] The Romans called the city Ilici or Illice and granted it the status of colonia; after a brief Byzantine rule, the Goths took over, establishing an episcopal see.

Frontal view of the Lady of Elche.

Elche lost importance during the period of Moorish occupation, when it was moved slightly north to its present location. James II of Aragon took the city from the Moors in the 13th century, during the Reconquista. The city grew throughout the 18th century and became more important during the 19th century with the arrival of the railway and a booming industrial development of what used to be the traditional footwear industry.

Many archaeological remains have been found in Elche, with the stone bust of the Lady of Elche (Dama de Elche/Dama d'Elx in Spanish and Valencian (or Catalan), respectively) being the most important. This may date from the Iberian period (4th century BC). The original is in the National Archaeological Museum of Spain.