The magnificence of the ancient Roman city is evident, two thousand years later, throughout the urban layout. There is no lack of remains from that period to be seen in Mérida. The unforgettable mark of Rome can be seen even in the route of its streets.
Roman Theatre of Mérida
At the Eastern area there is the Roman Theatre of Mérida, finished by Marcus Agrippa. The son-in-law of Caesar Augustus managed to finish the work in 15 b.C. It is important to point out that the present stage front, the most interesting architectural element, is due to a reform of year 105. From its construction and up to the mid-4th century b.C. it could hold up to 6000 spectators. After the fall of the Roman Empire and with the stigmatization of the theatre promoted by Christianity, the enclosure fell into neglect. For example, the ashlar stones of the stands were used in other constructions. The hollow, on the other hand, would become covered. Once the 18th century was reached, it was used as a bullfighting ring, while in the 20th century it began to be restored. Nowadays, it is once again used as a setting for the Classic Theatre festivals.
Roman Theatre of Mérida
Amphitheatre of Mérida
The adjacent Amphitheatre of Mérida, with an elliptical layout and large dimensions, was built somewhat later (8 B.C.). Its capacity could reach 14.000 spectators. It is made of masonry and concrete, though a great part of its cover with granite ashlars is missing. It is possible to visit the place where gladiators waited (spoliaria) or the cubicles for beasts (carceres) used at shows.
Within the enclosure that protects the theatre and the amphitheatre, there is also the so-called Amphitheatre House. The Tower of Water House stands out, with a carefully designed geometric mosaic on the floor. At the same time, the house of the amphitheatre itself (1st-4th centuries) is a remarkable element to see in Mérida. It has the magnificent Grape Harvest Mosaic and the Fish Mosaic. The archaeological park is still under study and has an enclosure where the surrounding excavations can take place.
National Museum of Roman Art
The National Museum of Roman Art, housed in a building by the architect Rafael Moneo, stands on a site of Roman ruins. On the ground floor, pieces such as the tombstone of Proserpina, the veiled head of the Genius of the Colony or the mosaic referring to the god Bacchus are on display. Also, perfectly set, different types of burials are arranged. There is also a space dedicated to evoking life in the Forum, through sculptures, remains of buildings and small objects found in the ancient Augusta Emerita.
On the other hand, the first floor is intended to exhibit the collections of ceramics, bone, glass, numismatics and gold and silverware. The second floor explains the different sides of the social life of the city, with schemes about the city and the nearby villae or estates. In addition, there is a space on the Christian Mérida, from the third century A.D. The whole is thus a great enclave to see in Mérida for those who love Rome.
Walking from the theatre and amphitheatre enclosure towards the north, there are the remains of Mérida’s Roman Circus. This huge entertainment center of the city since the first century A.D. was home to 30,000 spectators. Its elongated structure consisted of two parallel major sides and two minor ones that wrapped the arena. The arena was in turn divided into two parts by a spine that was turned seven times by the chariots. Despite its state of preservation, it is the best Spanish example of its kind. Beside the circus there are three pillars of the old Aqueduct of San Lázaro.