Archaeological finds in the vicinity of Velez-Malaga indicate the presence of man since prehistoric times. However, very few details are known about this bit of Velez-Malaga history.
The fact is, many stories about the town's ancient past is a mixture of fact and fiction. We shall therefore start only from the time when formal settlement took place. At least, this part of Velez-Malaga history is known with much certainty.
The oldest known formal settlers in the area were the Phoenicians and Romans. They started arriving at around 800 BC. Discovery of a warehouse filled with Etruscan, Greek, and Phoenician artifacts at the foot of the Toscanos hill as well as other archaeological finds in the surrounding regions that included some smelting ovens, metal slags, burial sites, and a fortress, proved the existence of a relatively large and industrious settlement during those times.
Bult while there was indeed already considerable activity then, it was only upon the arrival of the Moors in the 10th century when the place now known as Velez-Malaga was founded and subsequently, particularly in the 13th to 14th century, experienced a long period of prosperity.
The city's population grew so large under Moorish rule that many were eventually forced to build their homes outside the heavily fortified city walls. The walled-city itself became one of the most important medinas of the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada. Rural population centres, known as alquerias, sprouted and gave birth to present-day Benajarafe, Benamocarra, Almayate, and others.
Muslim rule ended in 1487 when Ferdinand the Catholic and his troops marched into the territory. The Moors offered very little resistance and many of them were eventually expelled from the region; their properties distributed to Christian colonists. In the 16th-17th century, the Christians focused on transforming the region's architecture through the construction of churches, convents, and other religious buildings.
The most notable event in the 18th century was the Battle of Velez-Malaga, the biggest naval battle during the War of the Spanish Succession, which pitted two large fleets: the French and Spaniards on one side and the English and Dutch on the other. Interestingly, no ship was sunk although both sides suffered large casualties.
In the 19th century, the dreaded Yellow Fever spread throughout the region, claiming about 60% of the entire population.
Today, Velez-Malaga serves as the capital of the Axarquia district.