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Tradition says Christianity came early to the city; in the year 287, two potter girls, the sisters Justa and Rufina, now patron saints of the city, were martyred, according to legend, for an incident that arose when they refused to sell their wares for use in a pagan festival.In anger, locals broke all of their dishes and pots, and Justa and Rufina retaliated by smashing an image of the goddess Venus or of Salambo.Seville has been one of the most important cities in Spain since ancient times; the first settlers of the site have been identified with the Tartessian culture.

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The town was called Spal or Ispal by the Tartessians, the indigenous pre-Roman Iberian people of Tartessos (the name given to their kingdom by the Greeks); they controlled the Guadalquivir Valley and were important trading partners of the neighbouring Phoenician trading colonies on the coast, which later passed to the Carthaginians.During the Second Punic War, Roman troops under the command of the general Scipio Africanus achieved a decisive victory in 206 BC over the full Carthaginian levy at Ilipa (now the city of Alcalá del Río), near Ispal, which resulted in the evacuation of Hispania by the Punic commanders and their successors in the southern peninsula.Before returning to Rome, Scipio settled a contingent of veteran soldiers on a hill close to Hispalis, but far enough away to deter belligerents, and thus founded Italica, the first provincial city in which the inhabitants had all the rights of Roman citizenship.However, the cognomen 'Híspalis' is due to its situation, as it is built on pilings above marshy ground, so as not to yield to a sliding and unstable foundation.Although this etymology is not accurate, it is likely that the city was considered untenable as a residence by the Romans for its instability, being built on alluvial soil and frequently threatened by flooding of the Guadalquivir River.

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