Italica was founded in 206 BC by the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus in order to settle Roman soldiers wounded in the Battle of Ilipa, where the Carthaginian army was defeated during the Second Punic War. It was the first city founded in Roman Hispania and outside of Italian territory. The name Italica bound the colonia to their Italian origins. It was the birthplace of the Roman Emperors Marcus Ulpius Nerva Trajanus Augustus (September 18, 53) and Publius Aelius Trajanus Hadrianus (January 24, 76).
The city reached its greatest period of splendor in the late 1st Century and during the 2nd Century during the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian. Both Emperors were particularly generous to their hometown, expanding and revitalizing its economy. The amphitheater was the third largest in the Roman Empire, seating 25,000 spectators. The city's Roman population at the time is estimated to have been only 8,000.
The modern town of Santiponce overlies the "old city" of Republican times founded by Scipio and the pre-Roman Iberian city.