History - Benatae

History - Benatae

We do not know when the first settlement in what is now the town of Benatae existed although it must not be ruled out that there was already a settlement from going all the way back to the Stone Age. The Cueva del Águila, in the Cortijo de los Lagartos, could be this initial type of occupation since some microliths such as small pieces of flint that are frequent in the Mesolithic stage have been documented in the area.

The Cerro del Castillo del Cortijo de las Fuentes Hill allows us to observe the existence of Iberian ceramics and the periods of contact with the Roman world, as evidenced by the discovery of Campanian ceramics. The site, which reached up to two hectares and shows signs of having been fortified, was also arranged on the southeast slope of the Sierra de Iruña, although on a plateau halfway up the slope. Surely, as happened in other areas of the upper valley of the Guadalquivir River, this settlement could be the starting point of a new series of farms that from the first century spread on both sides of the Guadalimar River.

During the period of expansion under Roman occupation it is not known if the Castle became the unifying centre or if it was just another agricultural centre. If it was a higher category place, it would surely be a “vicus”, that is, a village, in which certain administrative functions would be carried out. There is no understanding of what Benatae was like under Muslim occupation as no archaeological finds documenting their time in the village have been found.

The name may have an ethnic origin since “bena” may come from the word “beni”, which would indicate that it was a foundation or domain of a tribal group. However, it could also come from “bina”, a term that refers to something built. 

Benatae does not appear mentioned among the populations conquered by Fernando III, which seems logical due to its small size and also its lack of fortifications. It was occupied between 1226 and 1242 at the same time as most of the Sierra de Segura. On an unknown date it was ceded by Fernando III to the Order of Santiago. Although the town is situated between Orcera and Siles, a territory that belonged to the Command of Segura de la Sierra, it actually belonged to the Command of Castile. Orcera did not pass into the hands of the Order until the transfer made by Sancho IV in 1285. For this reason, it is possible that the transfer of Benatae took place due to the transfer of the Major Command to Segura, which was done between 1243 and 1245. 

Benatae was elevated to the status of being a town by Juan II around 1415. This must have been done at the proposal of the master of the Order of Santiago, who was the Infante Don Enrique de Aragón. The exact reasons are not known, but in those years the masters of Santiago raised several towns to villa, among them Siles and Albanchez de Úbeda

From the twentieth century onwards, the demographic increase became evident where in just over a century the population of Benatae had increased by 233%. The economic hardships that the region suffered in general during a good part of the Franco regime are at the root of this change in perspective and demographic orientation. In the economic and productive sphere, the most significant aspect is constituted by his determined agricultural and livestock orientation. Since the middle of the nineteenth century, reports highlight the production of wheat, barley, rye, corn, hemp, wine, oil and silk. 

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