When we think of Roman Architecture, we think of Italy and Rome, where significant structures still exist that forge the link between the past and present, the Colosseum, Pantheon, The Column of Marcus Aurelius, and The Appian Way, just to name a few. However the Roman Empire covered an immense geographical area, such that many significant lesser know, but equally impressive structures can be found in other countries. Spain is one such place. Ruled by Rome for a number of centuries, Spain was a source on great wealth for the Empire and produced some of it’s immortalized leaders and emperors (Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius). It is here that we find the Via the Plata (silver route), an ancient pilgrim journey,which is part of the El Camino de Santiago, that two thousand years ago served as the main thoroughfare for the transport of mineral wealth (silver) from the far north of Spain to Seville, from where it was shipped to Rome.
Appropriately, Seville will serve as the starting point for our walk, as we retrace the steps north that many Roman once took and now modern pilgrims take, on the road to Santiago de Compostela. In a small lively square in Seville, know as the Alameda de Hercules, you will find two ancient columns.
Atop the columns sit carved statues of Julius Cesar and Hercules, who, according to legend, are the two founding fathers of Seville. Dating from the 2nd century, these to columns are the oldest monuments in Seville. In many respects, the Alameda, has the air of a Roman Circus, a neighbourhood with many bars and terraces where you can enjoy coffee, evening tapas and beer, or late night drinks. The area has a certain bohemian air, where every Sunday morning, an open market is held that ironically sells antiques and second-hand goods on the promenade.
Moving north and not far from Seville can be found the small village of Santiponce. Here lie the ruins go the ancient Roman city of Italica. Founded in 206 BC by the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, and was the birthplace of the Emperor Trajan. It grew to become the third largest city in the Roman Empire, with a population that exceeded 8,000.
Beginning in 1781 Italica became a major archaeological site and is under continuous excavation. Here are photo’s of a few artifacts hat have been discover thus far. A section of one of many Roman roads that have been uncovered that await the same rejuvenation.
Here thousands of years ago Roman legions were stationed in this area to protect Roman interests and the western frontiers of the Roman Empire.
As well a number of home have been uncovered, many with rooms which have beautiful mosaic floors still intact, some of which have undergone remedial work. However, given they are 2000 years old, they are still intricately beautiful in their art and workmanship. Most famous are the floor from the Diose y Astros which literally translated means “Gods and Starts”
The Amphitheatre, which is still in need of significant restoration, is estimated to have held 25,000 spectators.
It is not hard to imagine gladiators, standing and waiting in the passage way waiting for their call to enter the ring.
We are looking forward to visiting more Roman Ruins as we head north, toward Meride and Salamanca.
Guest Post by W.E.Foreman