1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Murcia (province)

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MURCIA, a maritime province of south-eastern Spain, bounded on the E. by Alicante, S.E. and S. by the Mediterranean Sea, W. by Almeria and Granada and N. by Albacete. Pop. (1900), 577,987; area, 4453 sq. m. The extent of coast is about 75 m.; from Cape Palos westwards to Villaricos Point (where Almeria begins) it is fringed by hills reaching their greatest elevation immediately east of Cartagena; northwards from Cape Palos to the Alicante boundary a low sandy tongue encloses the shallow lagoon called Mar Menor. Eastward from the Mar Menor and northward from Cartagena stretches the plain known as El Campo de Cartagena, but the surface of the rest of the province is diversified by ranges of hills, belonging to the same system as the Sierra Nevada, which connect the mountains of Almeria and Granada with those of Alicante. The general direction of these ranges is from south-west to north-east; they reach their highest point (5150 ft.) on the Sierra de Espuña, between the Mula and Sangonera valleys. They are rich in iron, copper, argentiferous lead, alum, sulphur, and saltpetre. Mineral springs occur at Mula, Archena (hot sulphur), and Alhama (hot chalybeate). The greater part of the province drains into the Mediterranean, chiefly by the Segura, which enters it in the north-west below Hellin in Albacete, and leaves it a little above Orihuela in Alicante; within the province it receives on the left the Arroyo del Jua, and on the right the Caravaca, Quipar, Mula, and Sangonera. The smaller streams of Nogalte and Albujon fall directly into the Mediterranean and the Mar Menor respectively. The climate is hot and dry, and agriculture is largely dependent on irrigation, which, where practicable, has been carried on since the time of the Moors. Wheat, barley, maize, hemp, oil, and wine (the latter somewhat rough in quality) are produced; fruit, especially the orange, is abundant along the course of the Segura; mulberries for sericulture are extensively grown around the capital; and the number of bees kept is exceptionally large. Esparto grass is gathered on the sandy tracts. The live stock consists chiefly of asses, mules, goats and pigs; horses, cattle and sheep being relatively few. Apart from agriculture, the principal industry is mining, which has its centre near Cartagena. Large quantities of lead and esparto, as well as of zinc, iron and copper ores, and sulphur, are exported. The province is traversed by a railway which connects Murcia with Albacete and Valencia; from Alcantarilla there is a branch to Lorca and Baza. Near the capital and other large towns there are good roads, but the means of communication are defective in the remoter districts. This deficiency has somewhat retarded the development of mining, and, although it has been partly overcome by the construction of light railways, many rich deposits of ore remain unworked. The chief towns are Murcia, the capital, Cartagena, Lorca, La Unión, Mazarrén, Yecla, Jumilla, Águilas, Caravaca, Totana, Cieza, Mula, Moratalla, and Cehegín. Other towns with more than 7000 inhabitants are Alliama, Bullas, Fuente Álamo, Molina and Torre Pacheco.

The province of Murcia was the first Spanish possession of the Carthaginians, by whom Nova Carthago was founded. The Romans included it in Hispania Tarraconensis. Under the Moors the province was known as Todmír, which included, according to Edrisi, the cities Murcia, Orihuela, Cartagena, Lorca, Mula and Chinchilla. The kingdom of Murcia, which came into independent existence after the fall of Omayyads (see Caliphate) included the present Albacete as Well as Murcia. It became subject to the crown of Castile in the 13th century. Until 1833 the province of Murcia also included Albacete.