One of the first peoples known to have settled in the area were the Turdulos, who came around 1500 before Christ. Later, the Phoenicians gave the town the Punic name "Escua", meaning “main head”, and it is they who are believed to have built the walls which made it one of the most difficult settlements to conquer.
In Roman times, Archidona was called "Arx Domina", finally receiving the title "Medina Arxiduna", the forerunner of its present-day name, from the Arabs.
Archidona saw the dawn of one of the most brilliant and enlightened periods in Spanish history with the implantation of the Omeya dynasty in Andalusia. This occurred in March 755, when an Omeyan prince fleeing from Damascus was about to be invested as Emir. The prince in question was Abderraman 1st, the founder of Al-Andalus.
Another significant fact in the town’s history is that it was at the centre of the Muladî and Berber rebellion, better known as the Mozarabe Uprising, led by the Muladî Omar Ben Hafsun in the late 9th and early 10th century.
Peace returned to the area with the arrival of Abd el-Rahman IIIrd, the first Caliph of Córdoba. The influence of Córdoba was to prove decisive in the period when Archidona grew affluent on the back of its commercial, industrial and agricultural activities. Following the political disorder that plagued the Taifa reign, Archidona and Antequera suffered a sharp decline, which even saw the destruction of the former’s ramparts. This period of political instability and decadence in the Kingdom of Granada came to an end in 1462 when the castle was conquered.
The town as we know it today began to take shape in the 16th century. The first major settlement was Villa Baja or the Lower Village, created by the Ureña family following the acquisition of a royal power which decreed that all residents who moved their dwellings to this lower region would still enjoy the privileges of the higher Villa Alta. These colonists installed themselves around the chapels of the new settlement, thus creating Calle Carrera, which has always been the town’s main street. The chapels of Santa Catalina (later to become the Convento de la Victoria), La Columna and El Nazareno date back to these times.
Archidona is typified by its limestone and whitewashed buildings. The main street of Calle Carrera stands at the very centre of the town, but, heading upwards, we come to a chapel which offers breathtaking views of the countryside. The mountain road that we travel to reach it provides a chance to enjoy the moss and fresh air that surround the turrets of the old ramparts. The chapel itself is home to a delightful image of its patron, Nuestra Señora Virgen de Gracia, a simple statue of great humility. But to enjoy the best possible view of the landscape, the visitor should climb a little further along a narrow path as far as the mountain plain, which is half-natural, half-man-made. Nearby is a deep valley with a forest of ancient pines cascading down its sides and a meadow known as Huertas del Rîo, scattered with houses and farms, which is a suburb of the town itself and was once home to San Isidro. In the midst of all this stands the famous Peña de los Enamorados or Lovers’ Rock, a delightful location between Archidona and Antequera.
Below the wealth of hills crowned with olive groves, we can see the railway as it wends its way past. Special mention must be made of Las Grajas, a natural cave which dates back to prehistoric times. The old country house that stands between the two masses of rock is a highly-detailed example of the typical Andalusian village dwelling. Four roads lead out to this spot, those to the west providing the most attractive views of this delightful village tucked away in the foothills of the mountain, clinging to it like a limestone creeper, a peaceful, white forest resting on the side of the terraced slopes.
Closer at hand, in the San Antonio district, three towers can be seen: those of the Convento de las Mînimas, the Colegio Jesús Nazareno and the Iglesia de Santa Ana, each finished off in different style but all sharing the same green and white ceramic colour scheme.
Without doubt, the town’s architectural masterpiece is its square, Plaza Ochavada, built around 1786. This octagonal square was built from the brick and limestone of an old, ramshackle Mozarabe church, which the Archidona architect Antonio Gonzales Sevillano used to construct a delightful interior space comprising a series of arches and faèades whose only link to the exterior is provided by the three alleyways which serve as side entrances to the square.
One of the most peculiar streets is Calle Salazar, a narrow, tidy thoroughfare which leads the visitor to the Convento de Santo Domingo, which overlooks the adjacent farmland. Archidona also has its hills, and none is more persistent than the one that starts from the depths of the Fuente de Antequera and whose first stretch, in spite of being the oldest, is called Calle Nueva (New Street). The slope becomes gentler in the area known as Los Caños de las Monjas (now the centre of the town’s nightlife) and in the Paseo de la Victoria, continuing its relentless course right up to the pass, finishing at El Llano, the site of the new village known as Virgen de Gracia.