We are searching data for your request:
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.
Tarraco, Roman heritage
On this route we propose a robe and put you catch a horse chariot to get into Tarragona and get carried away by the Roman legacy is preserved. Some Roman remains have survived the passage of the years and in 2000 UNESCO declared World Heritage Site.
But after the Romans, many other cultures still should go through this land, Visigoths, Muslims, Jews . They have made their mark in the form of language, culture, monuments, traits that currently are perfectly integrated into the day-to-day Tarragona, and we invite you to discover.
Map of Tarraco
About 95 km's south of Barcelona, also on the coast, lies the pleasant city of Tarragona. After leaving our car in a parking garage, we tried to find our way to the Roman remains without a map. This wasn't easy, as the city is spread out along the coastline. Fortunately the woman at the train station who had sold out all of her maps pointed us in the right direction: most of the sights are in the north, in the upper town. We walked up there, in the midday heat.
The Tourist Information in this part of town holds very Spanish opening hours (closed between 1 and 5 p.m. or so), so we just had to follow our own instincts. The enormous city walls can't be overlooked though. From there we roamed the narrow streets of the charming old town. Most of the Roman remains are only fragments. The amphitheatre is quite complete, but I've seen better ones. It was closed too, for unclear reasons. Not part of the WHS but worth a mention: the cathedral of Tarragona, also in the upper town, is just great.
On our way back to Barcelona (via the A7 toll road) we had a glimpse of the Roman aquaduct. If you're in the mood, there's a small parking lot on both sides of the road from where you can have a good look and take pictures. We'd had enough however after another satisfying day. Advise for future travellers to Tarragona: bring your own map and take your time!
Model of Roman Tarraco
The model of Roman Tarraco shows the city in the 2nd century, at the height of its glory. It was made to a scale of 1:500 and is 18 cubic metres—making it the second largest model of the Roman world in Europe, topped only by the one in Rome. Construction took more than three years and 7,800 hours of work.
The model goes into detail to recreate the city as it once was. It includes the protective walls, the large buildings constructed on terraces, the great temple of Roman worship and its enclosure, the provincial Fòrum square, and the circus.
Great care was also taken for the upper terrace, or worship area, which was an enormous square surrounded with an arched porch. The Temple of Augustus is likely to have been in the middle of the square. Other details include the second terrace, on a lower level, with a garden area and a path of slab stones that joined the worship place to the circus. This central spot was surrounded with an arched porch, the back wall of which was decorated with fixed pilasters, and was raised three metres above the square.
The Fòrum was the city centre, and was set on a small hill near the sea, approximately in the area surrounding Gasòmetre street. Beneath the complex, there is a sharp drop which became the natural barrier between the city and the harbour. The Roman theatre was built in the central area, using the slope to their benefit. The front of the harbour was at a much lower level. There were no significant changes to this structure until the 3rd century, as shown on the scale model.
Prehistory and Second Punic War
The urban area was settled in pre-Roman times by Iberians who had trade contacts with the Greeks and Phoenicians who settled on the coast . Iberian settlements were particularly in the nearby Ebro Valley in the urban area of Tarragona there have been settlement finds since the 5th century BC. Remnants of settlements and fragments of Attic ceramics were found particularly in the Carrer de Caputxins near the Roman theater . Although there was no protective harbor in the lower and closer to the Mediterranean Sea , the mouth of the Francolí (Tulcis) river formed a small bay. There was probably a smaller settlement nearby.
Sources about the tribal affiliation of the Iberians who settled here contradict each other: Titus Livius mentions an oppidum parvum ("small settlement") called Cissis , Polybios names a polis called Kissa (Κίσσα). Soon after Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus landed in Empúries (Emporion) in 218 BC. Tarraco is mentioned for the first time in the Second Punic War . Livy writes that the Romans conquered a Punic supply depot for Hannibal's troops near Cissis and sacked the city ( Battle of Cissa ). A short time later the Romans were defeated "not far from Tarraco" (haud procul Tarracone) .
It remains unclear whether Cissis and Tarraco are identical. This is exacerbated by a coin found in Empúries, which bears the Iberian inscription Tarakon-salir ( salir probably means "silver"). This coin, minted in an unknown location based on Emporian models, is generally dated around 250 BC. Dated before the arrival of the Romans in any case. The name Kesse appears on a number of coins of Iberian origin from the 1st and 2nd centuries BC. These were minted according to Roman weight standards. They came to light mainly in Tarraco, which suggests that they were minted there too. Kesse is comfortable with Cissis equate, probably the capital of the of Pliny mentioned Cissetani . There is no evidence of an Etruscan origin of the name previously assumed by Adolf Schulten .
In 217 BC The Roman reinforcement went ashore under Publius Cornelius Scipio in Tarraco. Tarraco was winter quarters in 211 and 210, when Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus gathered the tribes of Spain there for the conventus . The population was largely loyal to the Romans during the war. Livy calls them “allies and friends of the Roman people” (socii et amici populi Romani) , the fishermen of Tarraco (piscatores Tarraconenses) helped with their boats during the siege of Carthago Nova .
The close connection of the earliest Roman history of Tarragona to the family of the Scipions was already expressed by Pliny when he stated that Tarraco was a work of the Scipions (Tarraco Scipionum opus) like Carthage was one of the Punians.
Tarraco in the time of the Roman Republic
In the wars against the Celtiberians in the following two centuries, Tarraco seems to have largely retained the role of supply base and winter storage that it occupied during the Second Punic War. It is therefore generally assumed that there will be a military presence during this period without a troop camp being located. It may have been in the higher part of the old town, as indicated by parts of the preserved city wall. 197 BC The conquered areas, still narrow strips on the coast of Spain, were divided into the two new provinces Hispania citerior and Hispania ulterior . Although Strabo reports that the governors resided in both Carthago nova and Tarraco, there are numerous indications that Tarraco was primarily used as a governor's seat during the republican era.
The legal status of Tarraco is not fully clarified possibly Tarraco was organized during the republic as a conventus civium Romanorum (gathering of Roman citizens of the province) with two magistri (civil "rulers") at the head. Gaius Porcius Cato , consul of the year 114 BC BC, chose Tarraco as his place of exile in 108. Since an exile officially meant leaving the Roman state, that would mean that Tarraco was a free or at most an allied city at that time.
After the Sertorius Uprising was over , the Tarraconians put an inscription in honor of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus . According to Strabo, one of the last skirmishes had taken place not far from Tarraco. When Caesar 49 BC BC defeated the supporters of Pompeius near Ilerda ( Lleida ), the Tarraconians sent an embassy of homage and supported his army with food. The Pompey inscription now had to be rededicated. Without further ado, the stone was turned and an inscription to a follower of Caesar named Publius Mucius Scaevola was placed on the new front. It is not known when Tarraco was declared a Roman citizen colony . On the one hand, Caesar's victory over the Pompeians was in 45 BC. Chr. At Munda as a triggering moment, on the other hand his adoptive son and successor Augustus Tarraco could have awarded this status. Current research is cautious about the period around 36 BC. Pleads. After his victory at Munda, Caesar gave the city the status and title of beneficium (benefit, merit, distinction).
In 27 BC BC Emperor Augustus went to Spain to supervise the campaigns in Cantabria . Due to his poor health, however, he preferred to stay in Tarraco, where he took up his 8th and 9th consulate. An altar was probably dedicated to him in Tarraco during his presence. An anecdote by the rhetorician Quintilian relates to him : “The inhabitants of Tarraco told Augustus that a palm tree had grown on the altar dedicated to him. 'It seems,' he replied, 'that it is not used very often.' ”Furthermore, he later had the old via Herculea expanded to become Via Augusta . A milestone found in the Plaza del Toros mentions the street between 12 and 6 BC. It led in the northeast via Barcino to Tropaeum Pompei and in the southwest via Dertosa towards Saguntum and Valentia .
The Spanish provinces were reorganized during Augustus' presence. Hispania ulterior was divided into the two new provinces Baetica and Lusitania . Tarraco became the permanent capital of Hispania citerior under Augustus at the latest , for which the name Hispania Tarraconensis prevailed during the imperial period .
The city flourished under Augustus. The writer Pomponius Mela describes it in the 1st century as follows: "Tarraco is the richest port city on this coast" (Tarraco urbs est in his oris maritimarum opulentissima) . Tarraco minted its own coins under Augustus and Tiberius with depictions of the imperial cult and the inscription CVT, CVTT or CVTTAR.
After his death in AD 14, Augustus was formally declared a god. In 15 AD a temple was probably dedicated to him in the eastern part of the city or near the Colony Forum. This event is mentioned in the annales of Tacitus .
The city in the high imperial era
In 68 AD Galba was proclaimed emperor in Carthago Nova . He had resided in Tarraco for eight years. After the four-emperor year 69 Vespasian began a reorganization of the disrupted state finances. According to Pliny, one of the means was to give all of Spain Latin citizenship. As a result, the Spanish territories, which had long been divided into urban areas and territories with a tribal organization, were transformed into areas organized around the urban centers, i.e. colonies or municipalities . This made it easier to collect duties and taxes. Urban elites increasingly began to represent themselves by supporting building programs and erecting memorials. The brisk construction activity, caused by the reorganization of the province, can be well summarized in Tarraco in the 2nd century. In all probability, the amphitheater was built during this time, as well as the temple district and the provincial forum in the upper part of the city. Most of the statues were erected there between about AD 70 and 180.
Under Emperor Trajan , Senator Lucius Licinius Sura is documented as the patron of the city . It is mentioned on the inscription of the Arc de Berà , which although built in there secondary, is likely to come from the surrounding area. Sura itself came from the Tarraconensis and reached the highest state offices. Hadrian visited the city in the winter of 122/123 AD and held a state parliament ( conventus ) for all of Spain here. He also had the Augustus temple renewed.
By the end of the second century, Tarraco was clearly experiencing economic difficulties. Only a few honorary statues were erected in the city, probably because their funding had become too expensive. Apparently, since the Severan period, pedestals have also been increasingly reused as gravestones, for example. During this time the defeat of the opposing emperor Clodius Albinus falls Among his followers was the governor of Tarraconensis, Lucius Novius Rufus. The following criminal court of Septimius Severus also hit the leading men of the province and the city. Almost at the same time, the inscriptions dedicated to the concilium provinciae disappear . From now on, inscriptions dedicated to the governor by his military personnel are increasingly appearing. From now on it was less the influential merchants who sat in the ordo decurionum than the patroni of late antiquity, great landlords and high officials. Severus had the Augustus temple renewed, Elagabal the amphitheater, as an inscription find shows.
In 259, during the Valerian persecution of Christians, the bishop Fructuosus and his two deacons Augurius and Eulogius were executed in the amphitheater of Tarraco . With the martyrdom witnessed by Prudentius , the news begins about a Christian community in Tarraco. Archaeological information can only be obtained at the end of the 3rd century through burials in the area of the necropolis on the east bank of the Tulcis. Christian buildings in Tarraco have only been handed down in literary terms at the beginning of the 5th century.
With an invasion of the Franks around the year 260 AD, a turning point in the history of Tarraco is tangible, which resulted in an early transition of the city to late antique structures. In addition to written sources, there is little archaeological evidence such as the destruction of the villa rustica in Altafulla , east of Tarraco on via Augusta . A treasure trove was hidden, which is dated between the years 259 and 262 AD. With the exception of the small port area, urban living quarters in the lower parts of the city began to become deserted. The colony's forum was abandoned in the 4th century. The development came to an end in the 4th and 5th centuries, when the upper part of the town and the provincial forum were built over with state and church representative buildings as well as civil residential quarters. Municipal waste was deposited in the former stairways to the upper districts, which shows that the urban population continued to import goods via long-distance trade, especially from North Africa. A turning point can be seen in Tarraco's epigraphic material during this period. Even for the pedestals of imperial statues, earlier monuments were reused in the following period. There are also more frequent inscriptions that indicate the restoration of buildings.
As a result of the reforms of the imperial administration under Diocletian , the entire Iberian Peninsula was combined into one diocese , which was divided into six provinces. Tarraco remained the provincial capital, if only of a significantly reduced province. The buildings that were possibly destroyed during the Franconian invasion were only gradually rebuilt or replaced by new ones. Diocletian and Maximian had a porticus Iovae (" Jupiter - Portikus ", possibly part of a basilica ) built between 286 and 293 .
Since the middle of the 3rd century the city was the seat of a bishopric and later remained under Visigothic rule. The names of many later bishops are known from acts of the council. At the beginning of the 5th century, Tarraco was affected by an invasion of the Alans , Vandals and Suebi in the course of the migration of peoples after the Rhine crossing in 406 what damage he did to the city is unclear. In the years 468/472 the latest emperor's inscription was set in Tarraco for the emperors Leo and Anthemius .
In 476, after the fall of Rome and the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Tarraco was occupied rather than conquered by the Visigoths under their King Euric . Apparently the city was taken without any major cuts to its citizens In any case, there are no indications of destruction and there was no change in the name material. The Visigoths took over the urban structures and made up a thin upper class. The finds in the Christian cemetery confirm this epigraphic observation, as they are almost exclusively Roman graves. The Visigoth kings had their golden Trient minted in Tarragona until 713. With the decision of the Visigoths to make Toledo their capital and to pay taxes to Barcino , the city lost its political and fiscal importance, but remained an important ecclesiastical center as the seat of a metropolitan . The end of the conditions inherited from antiquity came with the arrival of the Moors around 716 al-Hurr conquered the city. According to the Arab chronicler Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Musa ar-Razi ("Rasis", 889-955) the city was destroyed. The damage was limited, however, because Arab geographers later reported that Roman buildings had been preserved.
Due to the medieval and modern overbuilding of Tarraco, most of the archaeological observations are fragmentary sections and niches in which the ancient substance could be preserved. Large-scale examinations are almost impossible. In the second half of the 20th century, the Madrid branch of the German Archaeological Institute was involved in numerous research projects in Tarragona. The local Taller Escola d 'Arqueologia is primarily responsible for more recent research .
In addition to an above-average number of mentions by ancient writers due to its importance as the provincial capital, Tarraco's history is documented like that of no other Iberian cities through inscriptions over a period of 800 years. Almost 1500 specimens found provide an invaluable source of administrative, military, economic, social, population, cultural and religious history, not only for the city of Tarraco, but for the entire province and the Iberian Peninsula below Roman empire. In 1966, José M. Recasens published the first volume La ciutat de Tarragona . In 1978 Géza Alföldy followed with a detailed article in Paulys Realencyclopadie der Classischen Antiquity . Both representations, with their evaluation of the archaeological, epigraphic and numismatic material corresponding to the state of research at the time, are still fundamental representations of the history of Tarraco. Alföldy also published the inventory of Roman inscriptions and prepared a study on the closed group of consecrations of the provincial priests.
Strabo reports about Tarraco that it was the most populous city in Hispania citerior . Of the 60 hectares of the built-up and walled urban area, however, only 30 to 40 hectares served as housing developments. The population is estimated at twenty to thirty thousand. About 1150 inhabitants are known by name through the inscriptions, of which about 1050 came from the first three centuries of the imperial era. As with many cities founded during the imperial era, the Galeria is considered a tribal of the inhabitants . In three inscriptions, citizens with this tribus are expressly mentioned as Tarraconenses , another 20 inscriptions found in Tarragona also indicate this tribus .
Tarraco, the Great Roman City of Hispania
Nowadays we know it as Tarragona, but in the 3rd century B.C. it was the great Tarraco. This ancient Roman city became one of the most important cities of Hispania during the Roman Empire. Its magnificence amazes many people to this day. The archaeological site of Tarraco was declared a World Heritage site in 2000. It is also the oldest Roman settlement in the Iberian Peninsula.
The ancient city of Tarraco deserves a route for its most emblematic points. A trip to the past that includes the Roman Forum, the Circus and the Amphitheater with its sea views. A walk along the Roman wall of Tarragona will transport us through the more than two thousand years of history with which the city has. The ancient Tarraco, founded by the Romans, retains much of its splendor. If we look closely, we can still find some inscriptions in Latin and Phoenician in the stones at the houses.
The archaeological complex that Tarraco has left us is made up of great ruins in very good condition. An essential stop is the Roman wall aka the “Muralla Romana,” a military fence that surrounds the old town. Although it used to reached 4 kilometers long, we’ve maintained slightly more than 1 kilometer. It has become one of the most characteristic symbols of Tarragona.
As if we were an inhabitant of Tarraco drinking in its grandeur, the old center of the city envelops us with its magic. We can not fail to see the Cathedral of Tarragona, in early Gothic style. It is located in the highest part of the city.
We then reach the center of activity in Tarraco, the Roman Forum, which housed the administrative, cultural and religious buildings of the city.
The ruins of the Roman circus make us imagine the many horse races that they cheered on from the stands. It was built at the end of the 1st century A.D., and it is located in the city center. It is believed that this helped it become one of the best preserved in the world, and it provides an opportunity to learn more about the history of Rome. Under the ground, we have the underground vaults of the Roman Circus, which support the stands, perfect for discovering Tarraco from the inside.
The last stop on this route through the great Roman city of Tarraco ends at the Roman amphitheater, another building where the spectacles of the time took place. Built on a funerary area, there were gladiator and animal fights, athletic exhibits, hunting… To protect the spectators from the sun, a huge tent was sometimes put over the amphitheater. Located by the sea, this route ends with beautiful views of the coast of Tarragona.
Ancient Tarragona’s Tarraco
I really liked the city as soon as I arrived, despite being late at night. I wasn’t expecting a night tour of the city, yet here I was guided by Iulian, a Romanian compatriot, my host for the 2 nights I spent here.
He lived in Tarragona for quite some years now so he got me deeper into the secrets of Tarraco, the ancient Roman city. We’ve started with the old centre by going up and down on the cobbled streets, giving me bit by bit more information over its past. Our night tour ended up with the harbour in the opposite side of the town so by the time we got back it was already 2 AM.
The following day I started all over again with the city centre so I could also visit it properly. Now as I like walking and discovering the cities not necessary by maps, I walked quite randomly so I don’t necessary recommend you to take my route if you’re not the discoverer type.
Let me tell you a bit about its history so you can understand better its importance of the local history. Tarraco, the ancient Tarragona, is the first Roman settlement in The Iberian Peninsula. Due to its strategic location it soon became the capital of the Roman province of Hispania Citerior. With more than 2000 years of history ends up controlling vast territories of the Northern and Southern Spain from Galicia to the North-West to Murcia to the South-East. Pretty much all the city is protected as everywhere you turn you can see traces of Roman activity. The Roman city walls, a forum, a circus, a theatre, an amphitheatre, a basilica or an aqueduct are just few of the examples of the things you can visit here.
Let’s walk a bit through the city now. My first stop was at Balcon del Mediterraneo, just at the end of the Rambla Nova. Positioned on a high level of 40 m above the sea, it offers a view over the sea and nearby costal landscapes.
I continue my path through a little garden and descend to the amphitheatre. Like any other Roman amphitheatre, this one as well took advantage of the surroundings and was built in the slope to offer great acoustics. It is quite preserved and many of its chambers are visible. With a capacity of 14.000 spectators was hosting gladiator fights was clearly one of the main attractions of the population.
Climbing back up I am to enter the old city and just like any other ancient and then later medieval town, it has rather low buildings of 1-2 floors with occasionally stores or bars at the ground floor, on the narrow streets.
Archaeological Ensemble of Tarraco
Tarragona was once a famous Roman town and its remains can be found in the city today. The archaeological ensemble is probably the oldest Roman settlement on the Iberian Peninsula and one of the largest sites preserved in Spain.
Tarraco served as a major mercantile city and it is also an outstanding example of Roman architecture - you can still see the Roman circus and the amphitheater dating back to the 2nd century BC.
Casa Canals, Casa Castellarnau:
April 19 - Sep 30:
Tue - Sun: 10 am - 3 pm
April 19 - Sep 30:
Tue - Sat: 9 am - 9 pm
Sun, holidays: 9 am - 3 pm
Jan 1 - Mar 29, Oct 1 - Dec 31:
Tue - Sat - 9 am - 7 pm
Sun, holidays: 10 am - 3 pm
Colonial Forum, Provincial Forum, Amphitheatre, The Walls:
April 19 - Sep 30:
Tue - Sun: 10 am - 9 pm
Sun, holidays: 10 am - 3 pm
April 19 - Sep 30:
Tue - Sat: 9 am - 8 pm
Sun, holidays: 9 am - 3 pm
Jan 1 - Mar 29, Oct 1 - Dec 31:
Tue - Sat - 10 am - 4 pm
Sun, holidays: 10 am - 3 pm
April 19 - Sep 30:
Tue - Fri: 8 am - 9 pm
Sat: 9 pm - 2 pm, 5 pm - 8 pm
Sun, holidays: 9 am - 3 pm
Jan 1 - Mar 29, Oct 1 - Dec 31:
Mon - Fri: - 9 am - 7 pm
Holidays: 10 am - 3 pm
Students (over 16) and seniors: €1.60
Children (under 16): free
Foreword by Gerard Huissen
The Roman port city of Tarraco, modern Tarragona, was originally founded and inhabited by the Iberians. In the 2nd century BC, during the Second Punic War, the city came into the hands of the Romans and was given the name Colonia Iulia Urbs Triumphalis Tarraco, abbreviated Tarraco. It became the capital of the former province of Hispania Tarraconensis, which encompassed much of today's Spain.
In mid-2019, Patricia Terrado Ortuño published a voluminous investigation (362 pages) in Spanish about the port city that was so important to the Romans. Well, I suspect that many of you do not read Spanish and therefor, despite my lack of knowledge of the Spanish language, I promised to make an attempt to write an English extract understandable to our readers.
Patricia has given a very interesting and comprehensive handbook to the world in which she not only described all knowledge and sources of that knowledge of Roman Tarragona but also about concepts such as ports, shipping and trade from that time (2nd century BC - 3rd century AD Chr.) as well as other relevant matters.
The book as a whole is too in-depth for one article and I will therefore undoubtedly, at a later date, distil a second article from this complete manual on Tarraco. If you are able to read the Spanish book of Patricia, here you can download the original pdf: El Puerto de Tarraco and época Romana.
by Patricia Terrado Ortuño
Figure 1: Engraving by the Flemish painter Van den Wyngaerde
The history of the city of Tarragona is the history of the port. The current port of Tarragona is determined by the relief of the city that was traditionally located on an oppidium (fortified hill), with at its foot the mouth of the meandering River Francolí that flows into the Mediterranean Sea.
Figure 2:The Francoli river.
The Romans called the city Tarraco and after the fall of the West Roman Empire the city came into the hands of the Visigoths who called it Terracona. With the arrival of the Arabs in the year 713, it was gradually abandoned, after which the ruins remained the living place for only a handfull of inhabitants for four centuries.
After four centuries without dredging and maintenance, the abandoned harbour basin was largely silted up by the periodic supply of sediment from the Francolí river.
To see in what condition the port was at that time we have to look at the oldest preserved painting of the Renaissance city of Tarragona, made in 1563 by the Flemish painter Van den Wyngaerde (see fig. 1). The engraving shows the former harbour basin seized by fields, orchards, windmills and fishermen's cottages.
The birth of a port
Figure 3: Tarraco in geographic relationship with Rome and Carthage Nova
To get to know the origins of the port of Tarragona, we first have to look at the geographic situation and especially analyse the geomorphology of this part of the coast of Tarragona. Only then we can try to determine the exact characteristics in ancient times. When we do, we see that there were no significant circumstances or natural elements that could attract the attention of the old seafarers to anchor there, or to create a place to moor. No natural bay with deep waters, protected from the prevailing wind through the adjacent hills, as found, for example, by the Carthaginian general Hasdrubal in the mid-third century BC on the coast of the current province of Murcia, next to the mining mountains from Portman. The nautical importance of a route between the southeast of the peninsula and the African coast in order to benefit from the exploitation of the neighbouring silver mines justified between 230 and 228 BC. the creation of a new Punic colony. This city was given the proud name of Quart Hadasch, called Carthage Nova by the Romans, and is now known as Cartagena.
Figure 4:Tarraco in the Empire (photo: Haselburg-müller / wikipedia)
But that the circumstances of the bay of Tarragona were not great for a port does not mean that there was no port. A hill on the coast with the mouth of a river at its foot provided at least partial protection, and this already was quite something for a coastal area.
The Greek author Eratosthenes of Cyrene 1 wrote in his big opus "Geographica" 2 about Catalonia, where on the coast a naustrasmos (anchorage) was, named Tarrákon. The question is how someone from Alexandria who had never been to the west of the Mediterranean was aware of this? Probably because the Greek skippers from the sixth century BC. sailed the Mediterranean Sea and passed on the various locations (including improvements) to each other again and again.
In the first century BC. the Greek geographer, diplomat and traveler Artemidorus of Ephesius 3 visited the Iberian-Roman city of Tarraco and claimed that a port worthy of the name was missing.
Thanks to archaeological research we can explain these two statements and at the same time understand what the Second Punic War at the end of the third century BC. has meant for the historic port of Tarragona.
The second Punic war
Until the second Punic war there was only a small, probably Phoenician, mound village at this location. Archaeological research in the lower layers of Tarragona has mapped the stratigraphy and structure of this settlement from the 5th century BC.
Sailors from various parts of the Mediterranean brought their loads of wine, oil, salted fish, ceramics, textiles and jewelry to the Iberians in exchange for grain, slaves and . galleons.
Figure 5: Kese As (120-20 BC)
These sailors were perhaps the first to anchor here and they gave the settlement the Greek name Tarrákon. Later on the Romans turned it into Tarraco. The original population called the place Kese, a name that can still be found in the earliest minted coins from Tarraco (see Figure 5).
Tarragona may not have had a safe bay, but it was favorable to both the sea routes with Italy and, via the Ligurian coast, with the islands. That is why the Romans chose, in 218 BC, Tarraco as their main port of departure on the east coast of Iberia to resist the great Carthage Nova ruled by the Barkas family (Bárquidas). When Hannibal Barkas crossed the Alps during the Second Punic War and Rome had to incur defeat after defeat, the Roman commander Gnaius Cornelius Scipio Calvus moved to the Iberian Peninsula to fight against the Carthaginian army units still there in order to separate Hannibal from the supplies from its home port. Finally the Romans won the war at the battle of Cissa (Kese) and settled permanently in Tarraco.
Figure 5: Roman trireme on a mosaic
In the following years, large fleets of cargo ships accompanied by quadriremen and quinqueremen 4 came from across the sea, and proved that the route to Tarraco was now popular and Tarraco itself offered an anchorage that was considered safe. Livius explicitly states that the great consular army of Publius Scipio in 217 BC. arrived at Portus Tarraconis (the port of Tarraco) where his brother Gnaius Cornelius Scipio Calvus had won the battle of Cissa the year before. The same Livius says that in the winter of 209, after the conquest of Carthage Nova, the Roman fleet overwintered in Tarraco, because the ships were no longer needed for the battle. According to the Latin nautical terminology, "Portus" means the place where ships spend the winter "(see the chapter ‘What is actually a port’ ). Therefore we may speak here of an authentic port.
Polybios 5 wrote: “. the Romans assembled their ships in Tarraco and the owners of the harbour, their allies, built docks, warehouses, streets, houses and public buildings to protect them.” In a warlike context such as then in Tarraco, the wintering center has clearly been transformed into a port headquarters. Portus Tarraconis was born.
Figure 7: Tarraco, Colonia Iulia Urbs Triomphalis
Also with the advent of peace and the new Roman Province in 197 BC. Tarraco would retain the character of a naval port, in particular for the gradual occupation of the Ebro and Duero valleys. The city flourished and grew under these circumstances and had its own currency.
Also during the great civil war in the 1st century BC. the city would play a major role. After the battle of Ilerda 6 and the pacification of Baética (southern part of Spain), Julius Caesar organized a large provincial meeting in Tarraco in 49 BC.
In 27 BC Augustus had to return to Tarraco when he got seriously ill during his campaign against the Astures 7 . He then lived in the city for two years, making Tarraco a second Rome with official embassies, political meetings etc. This was all possible because the port of Tarraco was the end of the main Mediterranean route between Rome and the Northern half of the Iberian Peninsula. Unfortunately there are no written sources that tell us anything more about the port. Archaeological research can maybe clarify the facilities of the port of Tarraco.
Figure 8: The harbour of Tarraco with the Roman pier.
Research after the harbor
Despite the salinization of the port over the years, the archaeologist Hernandez Sanahuja (1810-1891), born in Tarragona, was still able to see the remains of some of the large pillars in opus caementicium 8 that were part of the Roman pier in the mid-19th century. These remnants were blown up a few years later because they should be a danger to ships that wanted to moor there. No piers anymore. Now we must deal with the geophysical research of the past 30 years and data from the scarce literary sources that we have.
As for Tarraco, there are few sources that refer to the routes to and from the city. The oldest source we have comes from Pliny, which states the travel time from Rome: et citeriorem hispaniam quarto (dies) 9 (. and four days to Hispania Citerior 10 ).
Figure 9: Vicarella cups
From the edictum de pretiis rerum venalium (edict on the prices of merchandise) by the emperor Diocletian from 301 AD. we know that the journey from the Orient to Hispania Tarraconensis costed 20 denarii, from Africa 8 denarii and from Rome (Ostia) 10 denarii. We can no longer consult the Peuteringer map 11 for the country routes, because the part with Hispania has unfortunately been lost. However we do have another source, the so-called Vicarello cups. These silver drinking cups from the 1st century AD, found in a Roman bathhouse in Vicarello near Lake Bracciano (see our article "WATER"), represent the land route from Gades to Rome with all places, villas and distances.
A port did not always stand on its own. Often there were separate anchorages, small berths and mooring places around the harbour where ships could divert depending on the circumstances (see also Narbon). Tarraco, as the provincial capital, would have been the center of the first Iberian port system that stretched along the east coast of Spain from Roses in the north to Cartagena in the south, also including the Balearic Islands. One of those places would have been, for example, the Carbunclos, an anchor area just a few meters from the harbour bay. This is said to have been used in the late Republican and Imperial times and is rich in archaeological finds uncovered by underwater archaeology. Today, unfortunately, the place is hidden from view by the marina. The location would have served as a waiting place for ships before entering the port.
Figure 10: Coastal towns in the Tarraco area
In addition, the large coastal towns in the Tarraco area also played an important role, such as Calipolis or Els Munts, places that, like Salouris, had a good harbour basin that offered sufficient protection to the ships.
It was also possible to anchor in Creixell, a place that was used together with Tarraco for the distribution of wine. Underwater archeology has provided much evidence for this, including recently (2017) a mortar.
Remarkable is also the existence of piers in southern Catalonia at L ’Amettla de Mar and L’ Ampolla.
The history of the port.
The history of the actual port of Tarraco is unruly due to the constant changes due to wars and conflicts, to urban development and renovation and to geological changes. Reconstructing the harbour as it looked in Roman times is difficult because we have no direct references to the coastline, harbour structures or descriptions of the location.
The Tarraco enclave was located about 70 km north of the Ebro river and 200 km south of Emporiae (Ampurias) 12 . Tarraco was also connected to the Lleida plain (west of Emporiae) so that the city took-in a strategic place for the Romans to consolidate their power in Spain and to establish a trade network.
Figure 11: Tarraco - geographic situation in Roman times
Tarraco lay on a hill, about 80 meters above sea level, from which one descended slowly towards the harbour area via a system of terraces. This hill stretched out to the sea and formed two coves. The first, the eastern one (now the Playa del Miracle) was closed off from the second bay by a promontory (east cape) that descended to the current Plaza dels Caros (this promontory had to disappear with the renovation of the modern harbour).
The western cove was closed by a natural interruption, the mouth of the Francolí (or Tulcis) river. This last cove was chosen in 218 BC. by the Romans as a landing-place. After the disembarkation, a military headquarters was established on the hill next to the old settlement.
Figure 12: Denarius of Galba minted in Tarraco in 68/69 after. Ch. 15
The orientation of the Roman camp was NE - SW and covered an area of approximately 1,750 m by 550 m 13 . According to the latest data, the port of Tarraco itself would have had an area of between 15 and 17 hectares and the dock would have a depth of between 9 and 11 meters 14 . These properties made the port suitable for large ships to unload their goods at the docks, although most small and large ships would use the port for transit.
The wind was also an important element for the ships. By northern wind, the harbor was well protected by the cape. Only the east wind, which could be strong in the summer, could become a problem.
Another advantage of this location was the presence of fresh water from the Tulcis river, although the fast-flowing water from the river also contributed to the silting up of the port.
Due to the changed coastline and the silting up of the country, as happened at Ostia and Portus for example, the old Roman port lies currently on the mainland.
Figure 13:Excavations in Tarragona (photo Tarragona Archaeological Museum)
The city on the old oppidium was probably founded between the sixth and fifth centuries BC. Earthenware finds at the foot of the hill show that the indigenous population traded very early with Greek and Phoenician skippers.
After the Roman occupation in the third century BC. the settlement lived for a few years next to the Roman army camp, until the Romans built a new city and the settlement disappeared completely. Already within the 2nd century BC. the area became a residential area with a completely different structure and many new buildings. The presence of a pre-Roman population continued to exist in Tarraco, but just as before the Roman invasion, the increasingly important port is controlled from high-altitude Tarraco.
What is a port?
An important source for studying ports are the testimonies of geographers and historians about seas, ports and islands. With the help of, for example, the writings of Ptolemeus 16 , Strabo 17 or Eratosthenes 18 , we know the characteristics of these ports, their location and even anecdotes linked to historical or mythological events.
Because many writers use the same word for different types of ports, the problem with the term "Portus" is still current. Although the Greek world was very rich in terms to define some kind of port, such as limén, ormós or ankyrobolion, the Roman world has only two: statio and portus. We owe this to Mauro Servius (fourth century AD) who gave a definition of each concept in his work Vergilii Aeneidem commemtarii:
Statio est ubi ad tempus stant naves, portus ubi hiemant 19 . (A statio is where the ships are anchored for a while, a portus where they hibernate.)
In general, the various historical texts about Tarraco are quite contradictory. Rufo Festo Avieno 20 wrote in the fourth century AD. about Tarraco:
Figure 14: Europe according to Strabo
inde Tarraco oppidum et Barcilonum amoena sedes ditium. nam pandit illic tuta portus brachia, uvetque semper dulcibus tellus aquis. (Then the Tarraco citadel and the beautiful location of the rich Barcilonas 21 , because a port unfolds there with safe arms and a land that is always irrigated by fresh water.)
Also from the hand of Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) we know the Tarragona orography as described in his Naturalis Historia 22 :
[…] Cessetania region, Flumen Subi, Colonia Tarracon, Scipionum opus sicut Carthago Phoenorum. (The Cessetania region, the Subi river (= Tulcis), the Tarracon colony, founded by Scipio like Carthage by the Puniciers.)
Strabo 23 (63 BC -19 AD) had never been to Hispania, but described in the first century BC in his work Geography perfect the coasts of Iberia, thanks to the information he borrowed from other authors such as Pytheas 24 , Homer, Asklepiades de Myrlea 25 and many others. Strabo writes: “The first city is Tarracon, which does not have a port but is located in a bay and is sufficiently equipped with other benefits” 26 .
The writer Eratosthenes wrote earlier, as we saw, that a city called Tarrakon was also a statio navum (the Latin equivalent of the Greek naustathmos, an anchorage) while Artemidoro said the place was not even suitable for anchoring.
Polybius wrote: “The Romans pulled their ships onto the land, and after gathering in Tarrákon those who had survived the defeats, they created a naval base with a view to protect their allies who had taken positions before the Romans' crossing”. This would indicate that there was indeed talk of a Portus.
Figure 15: Later edition of the AB urbe Condita
Finally, we find testimony from the Roman historian Titus Livius (59 BC - 17 AD) who says the following in his work Ab urbe condita 27 :
Ea classis ingens agmine onerariarum procul visa cum magna Laetitia civium sociorumque portum Tarraconis ex alto tenuit 28 . (To see this fleet, with its huge column of transports, arriving at a distance and the arrival itself in Tarraco brought great joy to the city dwellers and their allies.) This text must be seen in the context of the arrival of the Roman armies led by Scipio during the course of the Second Punic War (218 -201 BC).
We are talking about 30 warships and 8000 soldiers coming from Massalia (Marseille) and reaching Tarraco in the year 210 BC.
The big question is what kind of port it is Livius describes? The actually military and later commercial port with its infrastructures are probably built a few years later, together with the Roman city. Upon arrival of the fleet, the "port" must have been a small open river port with limited draft where hardly was accommodation for 30 ships. It was perhaps possible to have the ships anchored in the eastern bay.
According to various texts, the port of Tarraco is described as Portus, therefore capable of accommodating ships during the 'mare clausum' (closed sea - see article: wintershipping) and should therefore be equipped with structures for the wintering of ships, a built-up area as opposed to a statio navium, an anchorage place where ships anchored only temporarily.
Other sources mentioning the port come from authors who speak about the characteristics of the city of Tarraco itself, such as Silius Italicus 29 :
[…] tunc hospita Tarraco Baccho, considunt portu. Secu-rae gurgite clauso stant puppes, positusque labor terrorque profundi. (. and Tarraco, so hospitable in Bacchus (where good wine was served) with its good harbour. The ships are tied to a safe shelter from the currents and where they could forget the fatigue and shock of the great sea). The text gurgite glauso is also translated as "Breakwater". The reference that the ships are bound by the shelter of the current is a fairly clear sign of the existence of a dyke, a dock or other harbour structure.
In conclusion, we can assume that the sources mention the existence of a port since the arrival of the Romans to the Iberian Peninsula. The location of Tarraco was the deciding factor in choosing the city as the capital and therefore an adjacent port had to be build. It is not possible to deduce from the available source material exactly when that port was built and what kind of port it was, given the abundance of conflicting sources.
The city is mentioned as a protective place with sufficient space, protected against storms, with fresh water to supply the boats, with space for a market linked to maritime activities. According to the sources, this location is logical because of the excellent circumstances.
Historiography and historical cartography
These sources are a valuable witness to the Roman port of Tarraco, because remains that have now disappeared are still wholly or partially shown on the city maps from the various periods.
Figure 16: Stone extraction for the construction of the new harbour (1872)
A large part of the area where the Roman port was located, in particular the Eastern Cape, was used as a construction quarry for the construction of the modern port, which led to the destruction of valuable historical material. For example, the Spanish writer Luis del Arco wrote in the early twentieth century in his art and monument guide of Tarragona: “Already in the mid-nineteenth century, Tarragona experienced a long commercial and industrial boom, making it necessary to expand and renew the harbour. For this they had to break down part of the hill, from the Rambla de San Carlos to the sea, and then from the ground rose, like a new Pompeii, the old and lush Tarraco. The centuries had buried all Roman remains. And when removing the ground to make way for the foundations of modern buildings, many statues, reliefs, friezes, tombstones, mosaics, amphoras, thousands of coins and objects of all kinds appeared and this entire world of archaeological material was thrown into the sea to fill the port “ 30 .
We know little about the state of the Roman port during the Middle Ages. There is no indication whatsoever that supports the existence of a port. Today it is believed that the medieval harbour was an anchor area to the south of La calle Sant Miquel.
From the twelfth century the Roman harbour basin was used as an orchard and gardens because the bay was largely silted up.
From the thirteenth century there are various documented proofs of the use of the port of Tarragona: entrances and exits for ships, goods lists etc. Facts showing that the port was still in use, although we do not know in what circumstances, but it would certainly not have been very good. 31
The first maps were made in the sixteenth century. The oldest testimony of the port, apart from classical sources, is that of a lawyer from Tarragona, Lluis Pons d’Icart (1518/1520 - 1587). For the first time we hear something about the presence of remains of a Roman pier in the city. Together with the engraving by Anton van der Wyngaerde (see Figure 1), this is the most important source of research into what was left of the Roman port in the sixteenth century and, in particular, about the location of the harbour. He speaks of a portu fabricato (an artificial harbour). Lluis then says that the harbour can be easily recognized by the remains, including those of a temple of Neptune 32 laying in an orchard that was initially filled with sea water.
There is also a reference to the "port columns". These columns probably formed part of a large building, perhaps of the Roman theater. Pons d'Icart: "Many claim to have seen the columns in the orchard or vineyard. The sea was deep and the walls of the city were lower than the columns that were Corinthian and very well carved. It was not fifty years ago, as I learned from my father, my father-in-law and other old people who showed me the place where they saw ruins of large buildings. Where is unknown, but they said the land took up space." 33
Here we must again look at the engraving of Anton van Wyngaerde.
Figure 17: Part of the engraving of Anton van Wyngaerde
On the left we see the Roman pier (molo) that had to be replaced at the end of the 15th century. According to Pons d'Icart, the breakwater was said to be built of stone and mortar and the cement for the foundation was in the sea water with a certain type of stones on top. The pier would start on the rocks at the foot of the hill and end with a light beacon (lighthouse or lantern) called ‘Farellón. The stones on the pier were probably meant to be thrown into the water in order to break the waves.
Figure 18: Map of January 24, 1642 (port area)
These boulders could also be interpreted as a structure of arches of masonry connected by pillars, through which water could flow into the harbour, which in turn corresponds to the remains of the pier that we see on the maps. Pons d'Icart also claims that the pier has often been restored because he himself has found various medals from various emperors who mention this 34 . On a map from 1642 (now in the General Archive of Simancas) we see the Roman pier in the middle of the sea and close to the coast drawn as a barrier, dominant above the level of the water. Probably not showing the physical dimensions but as a symbol that the pier is still there. As for the harbour itself, there is a big difference between the Wyngaerde map and this map. The engraving of Wijngaerde shows the Roman pier next to an extension of land that has taken over part of the former harbour dock.
Figure 19: Map from 1600
An anonymous document from around 1600 35 shows the main points of the site as well as the profile of the coastline. The lower part of the city, with isolated structures and orchards, is not filled-in here. Only the road that connected the upper part of the city with the harbour. We still see the Roman harbour with a remnant of the Roman pier.
Figure 20: Map from 1797
Also in the eighteenth century we still see the remains of the Roman pier on various maps, which is partly used as a quarry for new harbour extensions. On a map from 1797 36 we see one of the most beautiful views of the harbour area. What is particularly striking is that the Roman pier seems perfectly drawn and corresponds to the descriptions of various engineers as they lay in the sea like large concrete blocks.
According to the historian Morera, who, among other things, wrote a book in 1894 about the monuments of Tarraco which also describes where the Roman port should have been, these remains of the pier were removed from the water in 1834 because they would hinder the fishermen 37 . Morera writes about the pier: "The Romans needed protection in the western creek to protect themselves from the southern storms, which led them to build a concrete hard dike. The dike was not entirely solid, but the base on the rock was equipped with small drainage arches, so that the water could circulate freely and the waves were still broken.”
As we said at the start of the article, we do not know exactly what kind of port we are dealing in Tarraco. That is why the terminology for the pier is interchangeable: promenade, dike, breakwater or jetty pier.
In the 19th century the Spanish historian and archaeologist, Buenaventura Hernández Sanahuja describes the port in his work "History of the Port of Tarragona from its origins to the present day (1859)". He writes about the breakwater:
“… That the water hit the rock in the past is proven by the fact that during the construction of a house at the crossroads of the calles de S. Magin and Sta. Tecla, nº1 fragments of a breakwater with firm bronze eyes intended to capture ships were found. In addition, there were noticeable remnants of a constructed dyke with stairs leading to the bottom of the cellars or underground warehouses, one of which ran towards the sea with a sloping surface to facilitate launching of the built ships." 38
Figure 21: Extraction of stone blocks from quarry. (From Sanahuja book)
At number 10: Roman buildings and reservoir appear
The location he indicated is far from logical and it is therefore very doubtful whether the found remains were part of a breakwater. 39
Sanahuja also gives details about another breakwater:
“The break-water looked far from our dams, that is: it was not a road but it consisted of a long series of aligned pillars made of hydraulic concrete in large aligned wooden boxes on top of each other at certain distances, until they appeared above the water. From one pillar to the other were arches of brickwork that together formed a bridge. With this work of art they have succeeded in keeping the port clean of washed-up sand. Each pillar had its own skeg on the outside to break the waves. On top of the buildings that stood as warehouses on the sea bridge were barriers up to the height of the masts of the ships so that they were protected from the furious storms and could lie safely and comfortably in the harbour.” 40
This description corresponds to the remains of the Roman pier that we saw on the various engravings. If the description is true, then we can compare the breakwater with, for example, the one in Lepcis Magna in Libya where there was also a dock with warehouses, a temple and a lighthouse on the breakwater, although there is no evidence of this in Tarraco.
Figure 22: Pozzuoli and the remainder of the pier painted by Sir William Hamilton
The supposed building structure with pillars (opus pilarum) was used and described extensively in Roman times. We see it for example in Pozzuoli and on frescoes. The decaying pillars that, in the case of Tarragona, have been submerged for centuries, were thus, according to many traditions, a source of danger for incoming boats.
Another controversial construction that many historians regularly wrote about would have stood at the mouth of the Francoli River. There are no physical data or indications for this on any map, although they are common on artist impressions of the port (see figure 8). Sanahuja also had a hypothesis about this building. He wrote that until 1892 people believed that there was also a western Roman pier. It also ran from the bottom of the hill of Tarragona into the sea to separate the water of the river from the water of the other breakwater. 41 Although no evidence was found, such a second pier would have been logical. Partly against the supply of sediment from the often turbulent river.
We do not know if there was a lighthouse in Tarraco because archaeological evidence is also missing here. The historiography on the other hand fully refers to a place known as "el Farelló". According to some historians, this would have been a lighthouse about three meters high at the end of the Roman pier 42 . It would also be quite possible that there was no lighthouse but only a warning light, for example an amphora with burning oil. Partly due to an incorrect translation of the Catalan word farelló, which means "rock". A farellón would be a rock that lies on the surface of the water and is therefore not immediately visible. In that case it would call more for a light beacon to warn ships than for a complete lighthouse.
Figure 23: Cargo from wreck off the coast of Catalonia (Catalan News)
During the sixties, seventies and eighties of the last century much underwater research was done under the coast of Tarragona.
Figure 24: Lead anchor stock found at Torredembarra
The artifacts found were cataloged in 2007 and contain many anchors, amphoras and pottery, parts of anchors, lead rods and even a sarcophagus.
However, complete wrecks from Roman times are missing at this location. Yet mapping the variety of anchors found, the different sizes, weights and decorative elements is an enrichment of knowledge of this area. They illustrate the anchorage areas near Tarraco and the routes of the merchant ships. They show, for example, how an important pier was used in the area during the Republican and Imperial times and that, before you entered the harbour, there was apparently an anchorage point.
Figure 25: Decorated anchor stock from Creixell
Other areas with a lot of maritime activity are Creixell and L’Ampolla (see Figure 10). At the latter, large stocks of anchors with an inscription from the manufacturer were found. The locations mentioned do not necessarily have to be harbours. In many cases they were merely boat houses that would have served as a refuge before arrival at the port of destination.
The old town of Tarragona was equipped with a "cova urbana", a 3 km underground system of galleries, caves and springs and an underground lake of 5000 m2, suitable for drinking water. These were already known in the 19th century but rediscovered in 1996. There was also a "cuniculus" (underground aqueduct) from Roman times, 13 meters below the Roman city and also two aboveground aqueducts with water from the Francoli and Gaià rivers.
Figure 26: Cova Urbana 43
Warehouses and harbour routes
The first horrea (218 BC-30 BC) were mainly for the storage of Iberian grain for Rome and consisted of around 20 wooden structures in the middle part of the city. The majority of the preserved horrea from the heyday of the empire are located in the suburb of the western harbour. These were large rectangular structures with trade offices along wide harbour roads.
Figure 27: Horreum on the plot 22A
The horreum on the plot known as 22a consists of three parts of 18.40 x 6 meters and an estimated total area of 110 m2, built along the waterfront. The basement of the warehouse was made in opus caementicium. The adobe 44 walls were reinforced with ashlar 45 and had large doors. There was a pebble floor in the three rooms prepared for a paved surface that has not been preserved. It is also claimed that this was an insulating floor against groundwater with a tabulatum (wooden plank floor) placed on it to allow ventilation so that products such as grain had a longer lifespan.
Later, the warehouses were probably given a monumental entrance with a colonnade. The Tarraco horrea from the heyday of the empire can be compared to the horrea in Lepcis Magna, the porticus Aemilia in Rome or the warehouse of Hortensisus and Galba in Ostia.
At the beginning of the second century we see that in the described warehouse the western compartment is provided with a white pavement, while the eastern section receives walls at different levels. Many parts of warehouses are then converted into residential houses. In the third century whole parts are no longer used and from the end of the 3rd and 4th centuries only a few tombs can be found.
Figure28: Remains of the Roman theatre of Tarragona (Turismedia) Figure 29: Plan of the theatre
Recent excavations in the Roman theatre have revealed a number of spaces prior to the construction of the theatre that were probably used as storage spaces or taverns and were part of the harbour structures from the 2nd - 1st century BC.
The theatre itself was built in the first half of the first century AD. in the area that used to be the trade zone connected to the port. Only a few parts have been preserved, partly due to the many adjustments and changes over the years. There are still remnants of the eastern part of the foundation of the stage, the first steps of the spectator stand, the foundation of the front stage made of concrete as well as a number of rectangular and semicircular exedrae (semicircular spaces). In the back was a double row of openings where the curtain hung.
During the construction of a porticus postscaenam (space behind the stage with a colonnade) a large water feature was placed on the left with a space used as a nympheum consisting of a wall with columns around a large pond with fountains on the outside. There were marble craters on pedestals on either side of the nympheum from which water flowed down towards the nympheum and collapsed three meters below into a pool of water.
For the construction of the theatre a piece of the citywall and the harbour construction probably had to be demolished, creating a perfect view of the sea.
The Roman bathhouse
The public thermal baths were built at the end of the second century or the beginning of the third century AD. on the foundations of old warehouses. According to an inscription, this would have been the Thermae Montanae 46 .
Figure 30: Plan of te Roman bathhouse
The public building was built according to the then prevailing standards of Roman society and became, as it were, the new epicenter of the port area. The building was rich in painting and sculpture. The latrines made use of the old horrea from the century before.
The building was cruciform. On the long axis were successively a natatio (swimming pool), a frigidarium (cold water bath), possibly a tepidarium (lukewarm intermediate bath) and a caldarium (hot water bath). There were other spaces on the west and east sides, of which only those on the west side have been preserved. The complex was accessible from the north and possibly from one of the sides. Just like the theatre and the amphitheatre, the baths remained in function until the 5th century AD.
The sales areas. Markets and the Forum
Figure 31: Excavation site forum of Tarraco (see map)
The lower part of the city developed from a sandy water area into a harbour neighbourhood with all the necessary facilities. The forum of the city also played a central role in this.
The forum of Tarraco was dug up between 1926 and 1929 and later, in 2002/3, a new investigation followed.
Figure 32: Plan of the forum of Tarraco
The construction began in the late Republican era with a square and a temple dedicated to the Trias- Capitolinus (Jupiter, Juno and Minerva). The stage of this Capitol temple was later raised to a temenos (sacred space) with columns. The orientation was in a way that from the temple you could see the ships coming from the sea.
At the time of August the Basilica Iuridicalis (court of justice) was built including a floor with a colonnade. Under Tiberius a central colonnade of two floors high was added and the forum was expanded with a forum adiectum (added forum) prior to the basilica with its open square with a colonnade built above a cryptoporticus.
Near the forum, an amphitheatre was built at the end of the1st century / beginning of the 2nd century AD. The amphitheatre was mainly used for gladiator and animal games. It had a capacity of 15,000 spectators and an area of 130 x 102 meters 47 . Apparently Panem et circensis (bread and games) played also an important role in Roman Tarragona of that time.
Figure33: The amphitheater of Tarragona (photo: Wikipedia- Cintxa)
A city like Tarraco, which, according to the sources, played such an important role, especially during the second Punic War and the Roman conquest of Spain as a naval port, where a Roman fortress was converted into a thriving city, where, in addition to the locals, many Roman families settled there must have been almost certainly a thriving commercial harbour, although there are no signs of the actual harbour. Also epigraphic references from skippers, ships or wrecks are missing. However, many archaeological finds have been made under water pointing to a large maritime trade. If we take the many notes and engravings from the past 400 years seriously, there must also have been a pier/ breakwater as we know from Pozzuoli. Also the remains of the many horrea indicate a port with facilities as you might expect in a harbour that, after my believe, may carry the name Portus. A port that, according to the latest available data, occupied an area between 15 and 17 hectares with a harbour basin that had a depth of between 9 and 11 meters, allowing both large and small ships to dock here and to unload or take in their cargo.
Archaeological Ensemble of Tárraco
The Roman remains of Tárraco are of exceptional importance in the development of Roman urban planning and design and served as the model for provincial capitals elsewhere in the Roman world. Tárraco provides eloquent testimony to a significant stage in the history of the Mediterranean lands in antiquity.
There was possibly a trading settlement here, founded by Ionian Greeks, in the early 1st millennium BC. However by the end of the 5th century BC the indigenous Iberians had created a settlement, called Kesse. It was seized and fortified by the Roman proconsul Scipio Africanus in 218 BC during the Second Punic War. The town of Tárraco is the first and oldest Roman settlement on the Iberian Peninsula, and it became the capital of the Province of Hispania Citerior, during the reign of Augustus. As such it was suitably endowed with imposing public buildings, as a demonstration of Roman power. It was visited by several Roman emperors, among them Augustus and Hadrian, and was the site of many councils bringing together officials. The unique Roman plan of the town is exceptional, as it adapted to the configuration of the land by means of a series of artificial terraces, which are to be seen around the provincial forum as well as in the residential quarter. The town is rich in important buried architectural and archaeological remains, among them buildings that are completely preserved, as in the case of the group of vaults in the Calle Méndez Núñez.
The defensive system of walls of Tárraco is one of the earliest examples of Roman military engineering on the Iberian Peninsula and the most important symbols of the town, defining its form from antiquity until the 19th century. They illustrate the construction technique known as opus siliceum that was characteristic of Italy and was used in Etruria and Latium. Some sections of wall - with internal and external decoration, cyclopean gates, and defensive bastions such as the Minerva, Capiscol, and Archbishop's Towers -are in a good state of conservation. This large group of buildings determined the layout of the existing old town, where most of the architectural elements survive. It was a large complex spread over three terraces used for high-level political purposes and to bring the communities of Hispania Citerior into the Roman Empire, as shown by the iconography of sculptural and decorative finds. The architectural details and the use of imported materials are taken as evidence of its architects and craftsmen having been brought in from Rome. The work of these Italian specialists is also to be seen in the three Roman structures used for public performances. A number of quarries are known around the town from which stone was extracted to build the Roman structures. There are also several luxurious villas, including the Centcelles villa-mausoleum, a modest villa rustica built in the 2nd century AD and later enlarged, and the Dels Munts Villa, a large and luxurious establishment.
The Roman town was sited on a hill, with the seat of the provincial government, at its crest and on two terraces created below. Among the principal buildings are the ramparts built by Scipio the imperial cult enclosure the Provincial Forum, a colonnaded open space the circus, built from Roman concrete (opus caementicium ) the Colonial Forum at the centre of the town the theatre, erected on the site of large cisterns and a harbour market the amphitheatre, built during the reign of Trajan or Hadrian for some 14,000 spectators the Visigothic basilica dedicated to the martyrs Fructuosus, Augurius and Eulogius the Romanesque church with a traditional Latin cross form (most of the lower parts of this structure survive, and the decoration that has been studied indicates Cistercian connections) the palaeo-Christian cemetery associated with the cult of the three martyrs, over whose tomb a basilica was built (the Palaeo-Christian Museum on the site houses much of the material resulting from excavations) the aqueduct, built from opus quadratum consisting of two courses of arches the Tower of the Scipios (its attribution to the Scipios is very doubtful)l and the Triumphal Arch of Berá, considered to be a territorial marker, indicating the boundary of the territory of Tárraco.