The city of Emerita Augusta was founded by the Roman Emperor Augustus in 25 BC as a colony for veterans of the legions V Alaudae and X Gemina, who had been fighting in the Cantabrian Wars.
In Merida, a walled city since its founding, buildings for public gatherings like the Roman Theatre, the adjoining Amphitheatre and the Circus, played a central role while temples, hot springs, and reservoirs dotted the urban landscape and blended seamlessly into the surrounding residential buildings and public squares.
The extraordinary Roman Bridge spanning the River Guadiana, one of the longest bridges built by the Romans, was of strategic importance for trade and communications.
Merida holds the vestiges of its glorious past. Capital of the Roman province of Lusitania, and, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Visigoth capital of Hispania in the VI century.
The city passed into Muslim hands in the VIII century (the large Moorish fortress of Alcazaba dates back to the IX century) and in 1230 it was conquered by Alfonso IX of León and has been Christian ever since.
Merida played a relatively minor role in the new Kingdom of Spain.
Kings and nobles passing through the city on their way to and from Portugal, would bring goods and news but also of the dire consequences of the wars with Portugal and Napoleon.
In the XIX century a new invention, the locomotive, allowed Merida to return to play a prominent role in Spanish history.
In 1983 it was designated capital of Extremadura and in 1993 it was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco, a recognition which attests to its importance as a cultural attraction and driver of economic growth.