Throughout human history, civilizations have been succeeding each other, succumbing to each other, mixing and generating new paradigms and ways of seeing the world for millennia. This is especially true in a country like Spain, an example of cultural crossbreeding and a place of passage for dozens of different communities. Men and women who populated our lands did not completely disappear, they left their mark on the world forever in the form of incredible places that today are proof of our origins and a symbol of a greatness that no longer exists, but is still remembered. Would you like to discover some of the ancient ruins of Spain?
At the top of this selection of Spain’s ancient ruins is the Catalan city of Tarragona, which in ancient times was the sumptuous Tarraco, one of the main Roman cities in Hispania and capital of the province of Tarraconensis. The relevance of this ancient Roman city, now declared a World Heritage Site, is evident in the number of buildings and monuments that it still has today. Among the ruins that remain of Tarraco we can find the amphitheatre, where they held from gladiatorial fights to Christian massacres, with capacity for 15,000 people and beautiful views of the sea. You can also see a theatre, a circus and an aqueduct, known as the “devil’s aqueduct”.
When the conquerors of the Roman Empire came to this area of León they discovered gold, so the place quickly became a priority that they had to defend and exploit. In what is now the natural-historical park of Las Médulas, the Romans extracted the precious mineral from the limestone by violently channelling the water through the interior of the mountain. This practice left for posterity an impressive set of tunnels and remains of mining operations, since 1997 a protected heritage, which spread around the 12,000 hectares that include the park, piercing and forming impressive balconies inside the reddish mountains.
In the province of Cuenca, on a small promontory overlooking the valley, we find the remains of the Roman city of Segóbriga. This is an ancient and important city that could have up to 6,000 inhabitants thanks to its location at a crossroads of Roman roads; on the one hand, the one that linked Toledo with Sigüenza, and on the other, the one that linked Cartagena with Alcalá de Henares. The city prospered despite the fall of the Empire and became an Episcopal see in the Visigothic period. But with the arrival of the Muslims, the powerful and influential religious leaders fled to the north, dragging the population with them and leaving the amphitheatre, theatre and forum as the only witnesses of their presence.
But the Muslims not only caused destruction along the way, they were also the builders of some of the most enchanting places that exist today in Spain, besides bringing us important advances in agriculture or arithmetic. The remains of the Palace of Medina Azahara, a few kilometres away from the city of Córdoba, are proof of this. This is “the brilliant city” ordered to be built by Abderramán III to reaffirm his dignity as a caliph and his superiority over his enemies in North Africa. The popular culture, much more romantic, says that the palace was built to please his favorite beloved: Azahara.
At the height of the Sevillian town of Santiponce is another of Spain’s ancient ruins. Itálica is one of the most important Roman cities that was founded in Andalusia and still is today. For centuries, visitors were amazed by these fantastic ruins, while at the same time suffering from a plundering that lasted until the 20th century. In Itálica you can see the remains of the Roman roads, the sewage system (which is proof of its ancient importance within the Empire), the amphitheatre and the theatre, as well as a wide variety of Roman villas and stately homes, many of which still retain their mosaics and decoration, such as the house of Hexedras or the house of Neptune.
Yes, the capital of Extremadura was once an important city to which the most important Roman centurions retired and this is reflected in the number of monumental attractions that the city has preserved from that period. From the aqueduct of the miracles to the temple of Diana, the modern Mérida integrates in its structure these vestiges of its ancient splendour as Emerita Augusta. A special mention should be made of the archaic Roman Theatre of Mérida, one of the best-preserved ancient ruins in Spain and the venue for the popular Classical Theatre Festival every summer, honouring the same function for which it was created 2,000 years later.