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Merida was founded in 25 BC by Augustus Caesar as a place where his soldiers could retire to. It was called Emerita Augusta and became the capital of the province of Lusitania. The city preserves more ancient Roman structures than any other city in Spain. The city is by the banks of the Guadiana River.
It was Roman until the 5th century, being the 9th most important city in the Roman empire in the 4th century. The Romans built a very large number of grandiose buildings, such as the Roman Theater, the Roman Amphitheater, and the Circus. It was a very important city for north-south communications in the Roman Empire of Spain. It was connected to the provinces of Betica and Tarragona. Christianity took early root in this city in the beginning of the 4th century.
The city was invaded after the Romans by the barbarians. The Alans came in the early 5th century. Later came the Sueves. It passed on to the Visigoths from the 5th to the 7th centuries and was one of their most important cities.
In 713 the Moors invaded Merida. The Moors were here from the 8th to the 13th centuries. After that the Christians conquered it in 1230, when the forces of Alfonso IX arrived. The Order of Santiago established itself in the city shortly thereafter.
The UNESCO declared Merida a World Heritage Site in 1993 to recognize its extensive legacy, for its Archaeological Ensemble.