Around 1400, Antwerp was still a relatively small city, with less than 10,000 inhabitants. By 1500, the city had about 50,000 inhabitants, reaching 100,000 around 1560. Under Emperor Charles V, Antwerp was the most important trading city in Europe north of the Alps. Hand in hand with increasing prosperity went an unprecedented cultural flowering. Painting in particular took off in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
The turmoil of the revolt against Spain caused great damage to the city. In 1576, the city was looted by mutinous Spanish mercenaries, who murdered 7,000 citizens in the Spanish Furie. In 1585, Antwerp was conquered by the Spanish stadholder Alexander Farnese and caused a migration flow from Antwerp to the north (about half the population left for Middelburg and Holland). Antwerp's flowering in trade, arts and sciences shifted and was further developed in the northern Netherlands.
Today, the city has over 530,000 inhabitants, making it the largest city in Flanders. The city lies on the river Scheldt, on which lies the vast port area with international freight traffic. It is the second largest port in Europe after Rotterdam. Of great economic importance is the petrochemical activity near Antwerp. The city is also a world centre for trade in diamonds and gold.
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