In Roman times, the city had more cultural buildings than Rome. It was the Baetica's capital of the province of Hispania Baetica. Remains of the Roman Temple built by Claudius Marcellus, the Roman Bridge (illustration, right) and other Roman remains can still be seen around the city.
Córdoba was conquered by the Moors in 711, and Moorish influence can still be felt in the city. During the time of Islamic rule, Córdoba was the largest city and embodied the most sophisticated culture and the most developed bureaucracy in Europe. When the Umayyad Caliphs were deposed from their Caliphate in Damascus in 750, the dynasty relocated to Córdoba, ruling an emirate there until 929. When Abd-ar-rahman III submitted a rival claim to the title of Caliph, then held by the Abbasids in Baghdad, he assumed the title Caliph of Cordoba and transformed his kingdom from an emirate or sultanate into a caliphate.
Córdoba reached its peak in the 10th century, under three great rulers: the first Caliph, Abd-ar-rahman III ("al-Nasir," 912–61), his son al-Hakam II (961–76) and the brilliant adventurer Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamir, more familiar as Almansor, "the Victorious," (981–1002). The 10th century Caliphate of Córdoba was the largest, culturally the most sophisticated polity in all Europe. Contemporary chroniclers, all of them Arabic, like the geographer Ibn Hawkal in 948, marveled, "The amount of coins in circulation! The variety of crops grown! The people!" — Córdoba may have had a quarter of a million people — "the textiles! the gardens! the mosques!" — there were more than 1,000 mosques and 600 public baths.
The German Emperor Otto I sent his emissaries to the Caliph; it never occurred to send anyone to the Kingdom of Leon, which lay to the north.
But in the 1020s and 1030s the whole imposing political structure collapsed, fissioned into more than a dozen successor statelets, known to historians as (the reinos de taifas) such as Seville, Badajoz, Toledo, Saragossa, Albarracín, Valencia, Almería and Granada. Heirs to the wealth of the Caliphate, their instability and endemic hostilities among themselves, made them vulnerable to attacks from the Christian north. The history of Córdoba after the mid 11th century shrinks to the story of the city and its immediate hinterland.
The most important monument in the city is the former Mosque (the 3rd largest mosque in the world), known as the Mezquita. After the conquest, the Christians built a cathedral in the middle of this large complex, so it is two temples in one.
Another splendid monument is the city (in ruins) Madinat Al-Zahira. Important monuments are also the Alcazar, where in 1492, Christopher Columbus got permission to travel to the "Indies". The califal baths and its churchs and typical streets of the Jewish quarter Judería.