A city of Phoenician origin, for centuries Melilla has been an important trading port and defensive bastion in the Mediterranean. The early Old Town contrasts with the rest of the city, which has an important group of Modernist buildings.
Attracted by its strategic position in the Mediterranean, the Phoenicians established themselves on Melilla's current site in the 7th century B. C. Rusadir, as the city was known, became a flourishing trading port. Centuries later, then a Roman colony, it came to be an important communications centre. Melilla reached its most splendid age with the Arabs, as a trading and defensive city. From 1497, it passed into Spanish hands and became an important military establishment.