Know the largest Roman ruins in Andalusia!
The most important Roman cities in Spain. Visiting Italica, Acinipo and Baelo Claudia.
2 November 2022
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Italica in Sevilla
Not many people who travel to Seville know about Italica, the first Roman city in Spain, founded in 206 BC. Italica was the birthplace of the emperors Trajan and Hadrian as well as a birthplace of a large number of Roman senators. Italica played a strategically important role, as it was located close to routes leading to mineral deposits.
The current visit area of the complex includes the remains of so-called Nova Vrbs, which would correspond to the expansion of the city carried out by order of Hadrian, leaving the remains of the ancient city of Italica under the current city of Santiponce. This expansion would fit in an area filled with imposing public buildings such as the Traianeum – a temple dedicated to Emperor Trajan, the houses of Italica’s richest aristocrats and some of the city’s most important civic associations.
Domus exedra. This building may have been a collegium residence, a school, or a meeting place of an association whose members were united by a professional identity or a god cult. In its ideally equipped rooms, such events as gymnastic exercises, bathing, listening to music or celebrations could be held.
House of Neptune
House of Neptune. The mosaic of this mansion depicts the god Neptune and his retinue of sea creatures. Neptune is represented with a trident driving a chariot drawn by a hippocampus. Around him, centaurs, rams, bulls, and other land animals became sea creatures, whose hindlimbs were replaced by fish tails. They coexist in the water depths with dolphins, fish, mollusks and crustaceans.
House of birds
House of birds. The house was named after the mosaic, which has been perfectly preserved to this day. This house was one of the mansions intended exclusively for the noble people of Italica. It had a privileged location, was distinguished by the quality of construction and luxury materials, as well as an expanded living space.
Planetarium house. Another mansion that belonged to the local nobility. The house got its name because of the mosaic, which consists of a circle surrounded by seven medallions. Each medallion represents the planets that give names to the days of the week. There are following elements around the center circle – Venus (Friday): Selena or the moon – Monday; Mars is Tuesday, Mercury is Wednesday, Jupiter is Thursday, Saturn is Saturday, Helios or the Sun is Sunday.
The thermal complex was used by the inhabitants of Italica for massages, bathing and exercising, as well as a meeting place of friends and business partners, a place to listen to fashionable poets.
One of the most atmospheric places in Italica is undoubtedly the amphitheater. The reconstruction of Italica in the video below helps us appreciate the scale of this place. It’s hard to imagine how bloody this beautiful place was. “Bloody” performances were held in the arena: gladiator fights, staging “to death” of historical episodes of wars, hunting and battles between animals of different species. The amphitheater of Italica was one of the largest in the Roman world and could accommodate up to 25.000 people.
The arena has two main entrances: the triumphal gate – from the east, destined for processions of martial artists, and the “libitinarius” – in the west, designed for those who fell in clashes. There was a hole for animals in the center of the arena, designed to keep animal cages that were lifted to the arena during performances.
To appreciate the full scale of Italica as it could has been, watch the video below.
Bonus: you can also visit the Roman Theater next to the Italica complex. It can be seen directly from the street.
Acinipo in Ronda
The human presence began in Acinipo around 3000 BC, although it is not known much about this period. In the IX century BC contact with the Phoenicians who settled on the coast of Malaga was established, which marked the beginning of the Iron Age. Later, the site was abandoned and became re-inhabited in the V century BC, turning into a walled Iberian city.
The arrival of the Romans in 206 BC made great changes in Acinipo, such as minting of money and construction of large public buildings. The city flourished until the II century AD. Later, Acinipo began to decline, over time it was abandoned and replaced by Ronda as the main center of the mountain range. In Moorish times the old theater was turned into a watchtower.
Acinipo has been known as “Old Ronda” since the XVI century. The first archeological works began only in 1967. Although new excavations were carried out not so long ago, much of the city remains yet to be discovered.
Baelo Claudia in Tarifa
Baelo Claudia was a Roman city founded around the 2nd century BC. The city was the most important economic center of the Mediterranean area. There was the largest trading port in Baelo, which traded with Africa.
The Romans chose this location to found the city for a reason, as its ocean waters were the richest source of fish. The main sources of income were fishing and the fish salt industry. The city specialized in salting fish and the production of garum, a fermented fish sauce.
While walking around this beautiful place, it is hard to believe that the Romans left this place of their own free will. The decline of Baelo Claudia began with a tsunami caused by the earthquake. The situation got worse in the III century with the crisis and the raids of Mauritanian pirates. The city was completely abandoned by the 7th century.
Tuna fishing and salting has become a prosperous industry in Baelo Claudia. Plenty of salting plants have been found within the Atlantic coast that date back to the Phoenician era. Industry reached its peak during Roman times.
The fish salting factory was divided into two departments: fish was cleaned and butchered in the first one, and it was salted in special tanks in the second part of the factory. This factory was active from the 2nd century BC to the 3rd century AD.
The basilica in the Roman era was the building of the local administration of justice and the largest building of Baelo Claudia. The main hall was decorated with a statue of Emperor Trajan. The basilica was destroyed by an earthquake in the 3rd century AD.
The theater was an essential part of the culture of the Romans. The theater of Baelo Claudia was built in the 1st century AD and was open to the public until the 3rd century. The theater was built by integrating perfectly into the natural environment, using a hill to lay out tribuns.