I’m in Carmona, a small Andalusian town, between Seville and Cordoba. I’d never heard of it until a friend asked us to celebrate his birthday there. Its hilltop position made it a strongpoint for the Carthaginians.

Then, the Romans came, building two gates, one of which is still impressively intact, although the temple that, in a blaze of cultural self-assertion, once stood on top of it has gone. The other gate was reconstructed after the 1755 earthquake that destroyed Lisbon. Earthquakes or no, Carmona breathes continuity.

Pedro the Cruel may, like King John, have had his little ways, but he turned the castle into a palace and courtiers flocked here. We stayed in the delicious Casa de Carmona, erected by one of them. Our friends have restored a somewhat smaller house-nothing much from the street, although it opens into a courtyard that is amply big enough for a flamenco show.

In the course of renovations, they discovered, beneath the floor, three Roman mosaics. People have lived on this spot for at least two millennia, perhaps many more. I can’t think of a British equivalent.

We built in wood and the Roman way of life collapsed when we were left to ourselves in the 5th century. Carmona wasn’t abandoned and its houses proved to be versatile under different regimes. They remain wonderfully good for a party.

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