The Roman Empire was present in the Iberian Peninsula for seven centuries, from when it entered the Iberian Peninsula in 218 BC, landing in Ampurias until the arrival of the Visigoths in the 5th century AD after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476. During this time the peninsula was nourished by a complete network of roads and numerous cities, of greater or lesser size, of which in many cases sixteen centuries later there are still important archaeological remains.
We all know some other element of that Roman Hispania, and even many of us live on what were once important cities built by the Romans. In many cases we use paths marked by them, such as the Vía de la Plata or the Vía Augusta, and in many others we have so normalized passing by two thousand year old buildings that we hardly even notice them. There are many, many Roman remains in Spain, but so that we do not miss some of the main Roman destinations that we can visit today, we propose ten of the most important remains of that time when Hispania shone with all its splendor .
Mérida, the former Augusta Emérita
If you have to choose a Spanish destination in which the Roman Empire shines in a special way, that is undoubtedly Mérida, in Extremadura. And it is that although many of the remains of what was Augusta Emérita, capital of the province of Lusitania, remain under the current city, its amphitheater, its bridge, its circus, its temples and the houses that have come to light, we They speak of a glorious past. Special mention deserves its theater, spectacularly well preserved and in which for almost 70 years the Mérida International Classical Theater Festivaljust like him National Museum of Roman Artan essential place in Mérida.
The aqueduct of Segovia
Segovia is its aqueduct, there is no doubt about that, and it is not necessary to have been there to know that this is so. It is the symbol of the city, it has been standing since the beginning of the 2nd century AD. C. and its function was to transport water from the Fuenfría stream, 17 km from the city. Its arcade is almost 30 meters high and the granite ashlars are simply superimposed one on top of the other, without any type of mortar. And there it is almost two thousand years later.
Tarragona, the old Tarraco
Tarragona is the heart of the Roman legacy in Catalonia. Roman Tarraco was the capital of the province of Hispania Citerior and in the 2nd century AD it experienced a true apogee that turned it into a rich and prosperous city. Today we can visit part of its Roman wall, the forum, the circus that had capacity for 25,000 spectators and the amphitheater that could accommodate another 14,000. 3.5 km from the city is the Ferreres aqueduct, or Devil’s Bridge, dating back to the 1st century BC. C. and in excellent state of conservation.
Baelo Claudia, in Tarifa (Cadiz)
About 22 km from Tarifa, in the Bolonia cove, are the remains of the maritime city of Baelo Claudia, founded at the end of the 2nd century BC by the Roman Empire. It was an important economic center in the Mediterranean area and today we can still see remains of its streets, the forum, the temples, the curia, the courts, the shops, the houses, an aqueduct or the sewers. In summer its theater hosts the Host Festival with representations during the month of August.
Las Médulas, in El Bierzo (León)
Beware of Las Médulas, because it is the only Roman site that we are going to talk about in which you will not find a building. Las Médulas, located in El Bierzo, in the province of León, was the largest open-pit gold mine in the Roman Empire. Its exploitation was maintained for about 250 years and the landscape was changed forever. Today its reddish mountains can be an interesting destination to learn how the Romans used water to demolish huge amounts of land and thus search for gold in the mud.
Segóbriga, in Saelices (Cuenca)
The Segóbriga Archaeological Park It is one of the most important Roman archaeological sites on the plateau. There is no new city covering the remains of the old Segóbriga, so it is perfect for understanding the layout of Roman cities and their architecture. Its theater is one of its most outstanding monuments, but part of its wall, the baths, the forum, the basilica classroom, different houses and the amphitheatre, in which some 5,500 spectators could sit, are also preserved.
Italica, in Santiponce (Seville)
In Santiponce, 10 minutes from Seville, are the remains of Italica. Not only is its amphitheater, the layout of its streets, its public and private buildings, its rich mosaics or its theater where performances are still held in summer, but it was also the city of Roman emperors. Trajan and Hadrian, two of the three Roman emperors born in Hispania, were born in Italica, and although a large portion of the city can be visited, another large part rests under the current municipality of Santiponce.
Lugo and its wall
The Roman wall of Lugo is the only one in the world that remains intact. For this reason and for its beauty, like so many other Roman monuments, it is considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It was built more than 17 centuries ago, has a perimeter of 2 km and consists of 10 gates. It retains 71 of the 85 towers it used to have and in some sections it reaches 7 meters wide, making it a pleasant walk from where you can get some of the best views of the city. Legend has it that the Romans built it not to protect the city, but the Lucus Augustithe Sacred Forest of Augusto, from where the name of Lugo comes.
The Tower of Hercules, in Coruña
The Tower of Hercules is one of the most characteristic symbols of Coruña, and wherever you see it, it is one of the oldest Roman lighthouses in the world, and it is also still in operation. It was built by the Romans in the 1st century AD. C. and although it was originally lower and wider, the reform that was carried out in the 18th century preserved and also enhanced the Roman remains of the monument. At the entrance to the lighthouse you will see the remains of the original foundations, as well as a Latin inscription indicating the name of the architect, Gaio Sevio Lupo.
The Roman villas of La Tejada and La Olmeda, in Palencia
And finally, after cities and monumental constructions, we want to pay attention to two large rural mansions located in the province of Palencia: La Tejada and La Olmeda. They draw attention for the richness of their mosaics and their numerous rooms, in which the underfloor heating system can be perfectly appreciated, or hypocaustum. To get an idea of its grandeur, nothing better than a couple of facts: the town of La Olmeda has an area of 4,400 m2, with 35 rooms, of which 26 are decorated with 1,450 m2 of preserved mosaics on-site.