Roman City of Baelo Claudia
Its archaeological importance derives from the large number of preserved elements, allowing a complete view of the Roman 'polis'.
This prosperous city was born at the end of the second century BC. The street pattern is rectangular with two main thoroughfares - a horizontal one and a vertical one crossing in the forum - outstanding. Here can be found the curia, the basilica and the buildings that made up the administrative life of the city. On the lower part of the site is the monumental sector, with the theatre in the part with the greatest slope to take advantage of the gradient for building the terracing. It is believed that the homes of the Plebians might have been located in the higher part. The salting factories, for the famous 'garum' that gave Baelo Claudio its nickname, still remain, as does the market, the baths and one of the three aqueducts that supplied water. Declared an Archaeological Site by the Andalusian government in 1989.
Rome divided Spain into two: Hispania Citerior (Nearer Spain) was the eastern part. and Hispania Ulterior (Further Spain) the South and West. Julius Caesar was promoted to Governor of Hispania Ulterior (Spain) in BC 61, but was soon to be embroiled in a Civil War.
The sons of his deceased arch rival Pompey escaped to Spain. Caesar gave chase and defeated the last remnants of opposition in the Battle of Munda in 17 March 45 BC. This was the final battle of Caesar's civil war against the leaders of the Optimates. With the military victory and the deaths of Titus Labienus and Gnaeus Pompeius (eldest son of Pompey), Caesar was politically able to return in triumph to Rome, and then govern as the elected Roman dictator.
The exact location of Munda has long been a matter of debate. Some Spanish historians assert that Munda was the Roman name for modern-day Ronda, where the battle of Munda may have been fought. Other early researchers localized the battle in various other places, e.g. near Monda or Montilla. At the outset of Hispanist Prosper Mérimée's novella Carmen, source of George Bizet's opera, the narrator clearly states that, according to his research, Munda was near Montilla.
Other experts have asserted that the battle was fought just outside Ecija or Osuna, in the province of Seville. This was supported by ancient slingshot bullets that were excavated near La Lantejuela, halfway between Osuna and Écija. The theory is further supported by ancient inscriptions found in Écija and Osuna that honour the town of Astigi (Écija) for standing firmly on Caesar's side during the battle. The Battle of Munda may have taken place on the Cerro de las Balas (hill) and the plains of Llanos del Aguila near the village of La Lantejuela, between the towns of Ecija and Osuna.
While Caesar was still campaigning in Spain, the Senate began bestowing honours on him. Great games and celebrations were held in April to honour Caesar's victory at Munda. Caesar returned to Italy in September 45 BC and was named Dictator, although he was murdered soon after, and later the Roman Empire was founded.
PORTFOLIOThe Decumanus Maximus maintains its original flagstone paving. Along its length were shops, the public market building and the south side of the Forum. There were porticoes on either side. View of the Forum, the vital centre where administrative, political, the judicial and religious activities were taking place. The Forum occupied a rectangular area of 115 x 87 metres. Although the original forum in Baelo dates back to the Augustan period, the nucleus of the forum area that we see today was remodelled between the years 50 and 70 AD (reigns of Claudius and Nero). The Forum is in very good condition and is the only completely excavated forum in Hispania. The Forum had porticoes on the east and west sides, with shops in the east part and administrative buildings in the west. To the south was the basilica and to the north was a monumental fountain and a staircase leading to the Capitolium. The Basilica was one of the most important buildings in Baelo Claudia. It was built between 50 to 70 AD and was located in the main area where the city’s public life took place. The Basilica was built of ashlars and masonry walls which were painted and had stucco applied. A peristyle of twenty columns made up the inside space. It had two floors, the ground floor was of Ionic order and the top floor was of composite. The city of Baelo Claudia erected a colossal statue of Emperor Trajan and placed it in the Basilica on a pedestal clad with marble. The original statue is on display in the Museum of Cádiz. The South Square of the Forum. Behind the plaza are the Basilica, the Forum and the Capitolium. View of the Curia and the Macellum (the market place). The three temples of the Capitoline Triad dedicated to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. The Capitolium was constructed in the 1st century AD over a broad terrace that dominated the Forum. The Capitolium. The Temple of Jupiter which was part of the Capitolium, the three tetrastyle temples dedicated to the Capitoline Triad (Jupiter, Minerva, Juno). The temples were separated by narrow corridors of similar dimensions. There was a share altar in front of the temples. The podium of the Temple of Jupiter with 12 steps at the front and Corinthian columns. The thermal baths dating to the end of 1st century or the beginning of 2nd century AD. There were in use until the end of the 4th century AD. The baths were accessed from the Decumanus Maximus. They included a “caldarium” (hot room), a “tepidarium” (tepid room) and a”frigidarium” (cold room). The industrial area dedicated to the salting of fish and the production of the famous fish sauce, “garum”. The most valued and expensive product made in these factories was a fish sauce known as “garum”. A similar product, of a lower quality, was “liquamen”. These sauces could accompany all types of meals as a dressing or seasoning. It stimulated the appetite and doctors usually recommended it due to its nourishing and curing properties. These are the large basins dug into the ground where the pieces of fish were piled up to be salted. The fish and salt were positioned in successive layers, taking approximately twenty days before the salting process to be completed. The Theatre was constructed on a natural slope in the 1st century AD, around 70 AD. At the end of the 2nd century it was no longer in use. The Theatre. The defensive walls were built during the Augustan period and were repaired and renovated with the same layout during the second half of the 1st century AD. Within the walls were the main entrances to the city. The Necropolis. The remains of the arches of the North aqueduct which supplied water to the buildings located in this area.
Baelo Claudia, Spain - History
The ancient Roman city of Baelo Claudia is located in the inlet of Bologna, in the town of Bologna, about 22 km northwest of the city of Tarifa, in the province of Cádiz (Spain). It is located within the current Natural Park of the Strait. The study of its architectural remains shows its Roman origin at the end of the 2nd century BC. C., already observed from that time a great wealth that turns it into an important economic center within the area of the Mediterranean.
Baelo Claudia is situated on the northern shore of the Strait of Gibraltar. The town was founded in the end of the 2nd century BC as a result of trade with North Africa (it was a major port for Tangier, in Mauretania Tingitana, for example). It is possible that Baelo Claudia had some functions of governmental administration, but tuna fishing, salting, and the production of garum were the primary sources of wealth. The city was eventually successful enough to be granted the title of municipium by Emperor Claudius.
The life of the inhabitants reached its greatest splendor during the 1st century BC and the 2nd century AD. In the middle of the 2nd century, however, the town declined, probably as a result of a major earthquake which wiped out a large part. In addition to such natural disasters, by the 3rd century, the town was beset by hordes of pirates, both Germanic and Barbary. Although it experienced a slight renaissance later in the century, by the 6th century, the town had been abandoned.
Excavations have revealed the most comprehensive remains of a Roman town in the whole of the Iberian Peninsula, with extremely interesting monuments such as the basilica, theatre, market, and the temple of Isis. The spectacular setting in El Estrecho Natural Park allows the visitor to see the coast of Morocco. A modern Visitor Centre showcases many artefacts and has a comprehensive introduction to the site. It also offers parking, shade, toilets, a shop and good views of the sea. Admission is free to citizens of the European Economic Area on production of an ID card.
Temple of Isis
Built in 70 AD
Temple with rectangular floor plan of 29.85 x 17.70 m.
Sacred space dedicated to the goddess Isis.
The temple was dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis, as attested by the two inscriptions found on the temple’s stairway during the excavations. The name of the goddess appears engraved on the plates on the silhouette of the feet in relief of the one who makes the offering.
The public space of the temple is closed by a portico and in the center is the podium with the hall of divinity. At the front of this room are the elements destined for the cult: the altar, the home, the sacred well and the cistern.
The private space of the temple is separated from that of worship and it contains the rooms for the priests’ domestic use, as well as the presentation of the new initiates, where their rituals were performed.
Built in the time of Augustus and repaired and renovated with the same layout in the second half of the first century AD
About 1200 m. of layout that represents the perimeter of the city.
It is believed that it did not have a purely defensive purpose, given that it was a time of peace, for what is considered a wall of prestige. Probably intended to define the “pomoerium” of the city, the sacred urban boundary of it.
In the wall the main accesses to the city are opened. On the northeast side, from the so-called Puerta de Asido, the road that led to this town (now Medina Sidonia) started. Another door opened in the mediation of the east wall, giving access to the Theater Decumanus. A little further down we find the Carteia door in the Decumanus Maximus. On the west side of the wall only the Gades Gate is known, also giving access to the Decumanus Maximus. The south zone of the wall, parallel to the sea, surrounds the salazonero district.
Built between 50 and 70 AD
All three are almost identical: A, 20.23 x 8 m. B, 20.23 x 7, 42 m. C, 20.23 x 8, 03 m.
Temples dedicated to the cult of the Capitoline Triad.
Located on the north side of the Forum, on a platform that presents a vertical drop of five meters with respect to the paved square.
These three temples represent the official religion and also make up the sacred area of Baelo. Its dominant situation is not accidental and symbolizes the submission of administrative and political life to the deity, under whose protection citizen life develops. The temple serves only as a dwelling for the statue of the god or goddess, while the cult is developed mainly outside, especially on the altars existing at the foot of the staircase of the central building. In the official rites a great importance was given to the deified emperors.
Built in the first century AD, around the year 60 AD, it was abandoned at the end of the second century or early s. III AD
67 m of facade length by 15 m. Tall.
The theater was used for the performance of theatrical performances. After its abandonment, in late Roman times it was re-used as a necropolis.
The proliferation of doors and access corridors obeys to the fact that the placement of the spectators in the theater was predetermined. The cavea was divided into three semicircular sectors: the ima cavea – or lower grandstand – was reserved for the ruling classes of the city, with the local magistrates occupying the first seats, next to the orchestra the middle cavea -or intermediate bleachers- was occupied by merchants and public officials, as well as by free citizens of higher status the upper part or summa caveait was reserved for the common people, the common people. If we take into account that each sector was separated from its immediate by means of a small wall we understand the reason for the existence of so many doors.
On the sides of the pulpitum, a decorated space located just in front of the stage, there are two monumental fountains whose sculptural part represents two reclining satyrs, who feed water to the fountains from wineskins under their arms.
Behind the stage there was a great richly decorated wall – scaenae frons -, which served as the background for the theatrical performance and at the same time made a sounding board so that the voice of the actors could be amplified and reach the public.
Although the origin of the Forum of Baelo must be placed in the time of Augustus, the fundamental nucleus of the forensic area that we see today is remodeled between 50 and 70 BC (reigns of Claudius and Nero).
Forensic area: 75 x 50 m. Forum Square: 37 x 30 m.
Essential space for public use, center of civic life in all its facets: political, administrative, judicial or religious.
Middle area of the city, central position between the canvases of the east and west walls. It communicates with the Decumanus Maximus on its southern side.
The forensic area of Baelo Claudia is, perhaps, the one that has come to us in a more complete way and the one that presents the best state of conservation of the entire Peninsula.
In imitation of Rome, the Forum was in all the cities the center of the civic life and the place of encounter and relation. For this reason they were located at the junction of the two main streets of the city or very close to it. In principle, the Forum of Baelo had various functions, among which the commercial one stood out. From the middle of the first century, this role is disappearing in all the cities of the western provinces of the Roman world. The Forum now acquires a more institutional, political and religious sense, moving commercial activity to other areas, which explains the construction of the market or “Macellum” of Baelo Claudia. The atmosphere of the forum in antiquity was more closed than we can see today. It was a space bounded by large buildings on all sides, what propitiated a space with its own entity. The side porches guarded the citizens from the inclemency of the weather.
It was built at the end of the 1st century AD, when the Forum was closed to commercial activity. In the second century AD only the shops that open their doors to the Decumanus Maximus survive. Soon after it was completely abandoned.
Market of supplies of the city. In the second century the interior shops are used as landfill and in late period homes are built.
There are many architectural elements available: the pavement, the drains, the supports, the pilasters, the columns, the capitals, etc., which make it possible to deduce with sufficient accuracy their original condition, as well as to venture the possibility of a future architectural restoration. This action would be of great interest, considering the small number of markets that remain intact in the rest of the Roman world. The building had two levels. The stores were small, since most of the merchandise was exhibited outside of them. The building had doors that closed at night, as well as stores. The aedicule (chapel) existing in the center of the building should be dedicated to a divinity linked to commerce, possibly Mercury.
Urban hot springs
Its construction can be dated to the end of the 1st century – beginning of the 2nd century AD thanks to the inscriptions of the bricks used in its construction. The building was in use until the end of the 4th century AD
32.50 x 13.50 m. Partially excavated between 1969 and 1970. The building as a whole is 38 x 37.8 m.
The baths had a hygienic function, but they were also a space for leisure and social recreation, for relations with other citizens, where they talked, did gymnastics, took baths, etc.
Users, after accessing the thermal space, smeared with oil and massaged in the ” tepidaria ” or warm rooms, prior to access to the ” caldarium “, where they took a hot bath and repress the suffocating heat with labrum water. At the end of their rest, they crossed the warm rooms again and went to the cold bath room in the ” frigidarium “. In this there were two bathtubs, one deeper for the bathroom itself and another in the form of an apse for sprinkling.
These baths of Baelo perfectly conserve the ” hypocaustum “”or heating system, which through the permanent combustion in the furnaces allowed to have hot water and steam Many of the bricks of this construction have a seal that marks their manufacture near the neighboring Tingis (present Tangier), which corroborates a Once again, Baelo’s intense relations with North Africa.
Recently they have discovered larger thermal baths located outside the city but very close to these. They have been defined as Termas Marítimas, being located in an immediate suburb of the city but open to the sea, possibly to serve the important floating population related to port activities and fishing. Both thermal spaces are practically synchronous and were built in a period in which there was a wide development of this type of facilities in the Roman world, representing Baelo Claudia a clear exponent of it.
The layout corresponds to the time of Augustus, being remodeled later in line with the rest of the important works carried out in the second half of the first century AD Its abandonment, very uneven, took place throughout the late Roman period, being able to be conditioned for the tsunami that should have ravaged part of the city in the s. III AD
It has 9 m. of variable width and its total length constitutes the maximum width of the city.
Main street of the city. It opened the main shops of the city, as well as the market (macellum), the shopping plaza and the urban hot springs. This street was the commercial axis of the city.
Separates the middle zone of the city from the southern part defining an east-west axis. The confluence between this road axis and the Cardo Maximo (north-south) defined the forum of the city, the heart of public life. From the axes of the Cardo and Decumanus Maximus the vitrubian urbanism was articulated on the basis of parallel and perpendicular streets.
The Decumanus Maximus, as the main street of Baelo, communicated two of the main gates of the city and was flanked by porticos. From the Decumanus, important buildings such as the urban hot springs, the market (macellum) and the basilica were accessed, as well as connecting with the Forum. It is common to find in Roman pavements rolled car on the slabs although it is not the case of Decumanus de Baelo, which suggests that it was the main street of commerce and relationship of citizens and not the point where traffic rolled.
This road axis has been excavated around 90% of its length, constituting one of the only decumanos of our country preserved entirely.
Its layout fossilizes the coastal route that linked Gades (Cádiz) and Carteia (San Roque), the main cities that were the backbone of the Cadiz coast during antiquity and that represented two of the most outstanding enclaves of the area of the Strait in Roman times.
East Gate, also called Carte de Carteia.
The door is built around 10 BC, in the reign of Augustus. Its use is maintained until the end of the fourth century AD
Central access: 3.15 m between the towers rectangular bastions: 6.50 x 4.50 m
Entrance of the city from the road that arrives from Carteia, giving access to the Decumanus Maximus.
In the Puerta de Carteia sector, one can clearly observe the evolution of the wall surrounding Baelo Claudia. It was built in the first century AD in two phases: the first, in the time of Emperor Augustus and the second, under Claudio. The reduced thickness of his canvases confirms that, in full Roman peace, the main objective of the wall was not security against non-existent enemies, but served as a delimitation of the citizen area, which was the sacred space protected by the gods, called “pomoerium” ”
The Carteia Gate was excavated in 1919 by Pierre Paris, after which it was abandoned for eighty years. In 2013, its excavation has been completed by the Archaeological Ensemble and thewith collaboration from the University of Cádiz.
It is built between 50 and 70 AD, to cease its use in the s. III AD when the building collapsed.
Public building primarily intended for the administration of justice. It is also a place of imperial worship, business space and meeting of citizens.
It occupies all the south side of the Forum, which opens on one front, while on the other gives access to a small square that opens to the Decumanus Maximus.
The Basilica was the most monumental building of the forum, and was essentially intended for judicial activity, although the duoviros, supreme magistrates of Baelo Claudia, would have very limited powers of justice since the major causes would depend on the magistrates of the province.
In addition to the celebration of trials, the basilica probably had multiple uses. Vitrubio speaks of the basilica as a place where commercial transactions take place, under the protection of Roman law, but it also served as a meeting place for the refuge of meteorological agents.
Presiding over the basilica we can identify the colossal statue of Trajan with the magistrate’s robes, and the cornucopia of abundance. The presence of this image and the finding of several pedestals of other sculptures, possibly of members of the imperial family, make us think of the practice of the imperial cult within the Basilica.
It was built in the middle of the 1st century, closing the forensic area, possibly on a previous basilica when the forum was remodeled. Its definitive collapse came in the s. III, associated with a great earthquake. The drums of columns were located, in the excavations, glued to each other, which has allowed part of the colonnade to be restored after the excavations.
Cistern and aqueducts
Northern aqueduct and cistern: August time, possibly. Punta Paloma Aqueduct: half of the first century AD Aqueduct of Sierra de Plata: first half of the second century AD
Cistern north: 30 x 6 m. Aqueducts: Punta Paloma, 8 Km. Sierra de Plata, 1.2 Km. North, 4 Km.
Channeling from springs and elements of storage and distribution within the city.
There was a complete supply of drinking water by means of three aqueducts, highlighting the eastern, which starts from Punta Paloma, eight kilometers away, and from which there are still remains of the arcades that served to save the various streams that crossed in its layout. One of these remains of arcades is still visible very close to the eastern wall of the wall.
From the north aqueduct circular wells are conserved, as well as several stretches with remains of the canal that led to the water storage terminal cistern, in the upper part of the urban area. This had to supply water to the buildings in that area. It was partially excavated in 2000 and 2001.
Incinerations: from the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD Inhumations: from III AD to IV AD
It occupies a sector of 2 has
Southeast area of the Archaeological Ensemble, on the road that led to Carteia. Extramural.
The city of Baelo Claudia has three necropolis. Two of them located at the exit of the east and west gates of the city, marking the road another, located to the northeast, is between the eastern aqueduct and the current access road to Bologna. The latter is the latest.
The main characteristic of the necropolis of Baelo is the incorporation of betils, which are cylindrical or frustoconical pieces with or without a base, carved in limestone, or simple quartzite pebbles that try to represent a human torso. These betils are placed outside the funerary monument and face the sea, as it happens within the collective monuments with the place for the deposit of urns. Betilos have a ritual significance perhaps related to the marine deities that can also act as protective geniuses, as a symbol of future life. They may also be related to some Greco-Roman divinity (Saturn or Bacchus) or Punic (Baal).
In Baelo we find elements that associate its necropolises with other similar ones of the North of Africa, like the turriform burials, of Punic or Libyan inspiration, that remained very valid during the Roman era.
Households. Domus of the Solar Quadrant and Domus of the West
Centuries I – III AD
Domus of the Solar Quadrant: 28 x 20 m. Domus del Oeste: 25 x 20 m.
Probably, these houses were associated with the business of the salting industry, as the address of the owners of the factories or commercial spaces associated with their management.
South area of Baelo, within the industrial district. Both houses have access from the porticoed street traditionally known as “Cardo de las Columns” and are located facing one another generating a practically symmetrical composition.
From these houses come the best samples of pictorial art of Baelo Claudia, since almost all the rooms were originally stuccoed and decorated with paintings that reproduced, mainly, geometric or floral motifs. They were excavated between 1917 and 1921, although they have been re-excavated later, as the beach sand had reburied them.
One of these houses, the most oriental or “Solar Quadrant”, receives its current name for the discovery of a unique piece that was located inside and that is a sundial made of marble with great technical and artistic quality. In the Roman city museum you can see a copy of this piece, since the original is on display in the National Archaeological Museum (Madrid).
With regard to the other house, the Casa del Oeste, as a curiosity we must point out that, at an indeterminate moment, part of the back rooms was segregated to extend the salazonera factory located at its back, so that it could house the new circular pools or trunks that, since then, have been integrated into the largest factory in the city.
As a singularity, lastly, we can point out that during the 50s a bunker related to the coastal defense of the Strait was built on part of these houses, which was dismantled definitively in the 80s. From this defensive construction there is no more evidence that the head of a machine gun nest that is integrated under the outer footbridge that runs along the perimeter of the Roman city next to the beach.
The construction, use and abandonment of most of the factories excavated in Baelo can be dated at least between the 4th century AD, although it has been witnessed in the area of the beach the presence of older salting factories, which can be traced back to the s. II BC, as is the case of the one found in Punta Camarinal. Most of these industrial complexes were built during the Augustan period or during the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, and a process of abandonment was generally observed in the mid or late 20th century. II AD that affected some of these factories. Along the s. IV has been confirmed the recovery of the salazonera activity, lasting clearly until at least the following century.
Between 80 and 200 m2, with a productive capacity that reached 90 m3 in some cases.
Industrial zone dedicated mainly to the salting of fish and the production of the famous “garum” fish sauce.
They are located in the southern neighborhood of the city, intramuros, in the area closest to the beach.
The consumption needs of essential foodstuffs of the population of the great cities of the Roman Empire and the difficulty that these reached them in an acceptable state of conservation make the salting industries proliferate on the coast of Cadiz. The natural conditions of the area are exceptional for fishing, as it is a place of passage for the annual migration of tuna between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
The capture of the tuna in almadraba and its subsequent conservation constituted a flourishing industry and was the fundamental cause of the birth and prosperity of Baelo Claudia herself. Once the fish arrived at the factory, the fins, head, intestines and roe, as well as blood, were removed. The fish was cut and lacerated so that the salt penetrated well. Later, it was piled up in large tanks or pools, excavated at ground level, to be salted. Successively layers of fish and salt were spread in equal proportion, leaving it between one and three months on average before ending the salting. The salted fish were placed in sealed amphoras with a disk of clay, then deposited in the warehouses waiting to be moved.
The most appreciated and expensive product that was made in these factories was a sauce known as “garum” or “liquamen”. In the Greek comedies the Hispanic “garum” is already mentioned, being a highly valued product in the Mediterranean market. There was a wide range of products behind these generic definitions, as we know that some of these sauces used as a base small fish species such as sardine or anchovy, while others reused the viscera and blood of tuna, as is the case of salsa ” haimation”The garum accompanied all kinds of foods, as a dressing or seasoning, acting as seasoning and flavor enhancer, due to its characteristics it is known to have appetite stimulating properties and it has been testified that doctors or doctors used to recommend it. for its alimentary and healing faculties.
The current site
The archaeological site is next to a tourist area, so it is beginning to exploit its potential cultural tourism. The site is easily accessed and visits are free, except for foreigners who must pay a fee to visit it.
The Junta de Andalucía has built a new Visitor Reception Center (of which the architect is Guillermo Vázquez Consuegra) and has carried out a Landscape Action Project in the Ensenada de Bolonia (written and executed by the Andalusian Institute of Historical Heritage between 2010 and 2013). Likewise the University of Cádiz conducts studies of the site, giving rise to new discoveries, as the only copy of the Doryphoros of Polykleitos in Hispania.
Tarifa and Bolonia (Roman ruins – Baelo Claudia)
From Casares we headed back to Castillo Duquesa to pick up the little car, and from there it was off towards Tarifa for a few days.
We had decided on Camping Valdevequeros from the ACSI book, which wasn’t our favourite site! However, it was opposite the most beautiful beach – Valdevequeros – which reminded us very much of Portugese beaches.
So we spent a very pleasant afternoon on this beach – I even went in paddling (the water was cold but I got in up to my belly!) We found an area where many campers were parked up – unfortunately we couldn’t take advantage as we had a problem with the gas that Calv didn’t fix until we got to our next site).
We also found out about Baelo Claudia, an extensive site of Roman remains just a few miles away that is free to visit and has lots to see – we spent a good couple of hours here.
Along the road where Baelo Claudia is there are several areas where campers are parked up – we didn’t really fancy any of these areas though. But we did drive on up past the roman remains until we couldn’t go any further on the rutted road (we were heading into a military area…)
We also went into Tarifa on the Saturday. Once we had parked just past the port we took a footpath down towards the beach (this isn’t such a nice beach!) where we explored a few abandoned houses – there were many that looked abandoned but on closer inspection they were several that were clearly lived in, as well as a couple that seemed to house several dogs – that liked barking!
Once back up on the road we headed into the old town. The town was very busy on a Saturday afternoon, with the tapas bars full and lively. When we wound our way round to the castle we found that we had just missed the chance to visit as it was closing to new visitors. It was all pleasant enough, but certainly didn’t grab us as several other places have. Still, worth a visit.
The remains of the thermal baths are well preserved with the separate rooms and arches clearly visible. Water to the baths would have been carried via one of the aqueducts and heated in ovens.
Baelo Claudia: Roman ruins in Southern Spain/>Baelo Claudia is located on the coast just southeast of Tarifa, in the small town of Bolonia. We were able to locate the city easily with our GPS, and then there were several signs leading to the historical site. It was about one and a half hours from base. There is free parking onsite, and admission to the site is also free for EU residents. We simply showed our EU drivers' license as identification, and saved the 5 Euro fee adults typically would pay. Be advised that this coast is always windy (the wind surfing capital of the world!) so even on warm days bring a jacket or sweatshirt.
I enjoyed seeing the variety of artifacts in the museum (which is basically 2 large rooms on 1 floor) ranging from a tall marble column, a headless goddess statue, several Roman coins, and this picture, which is actual Roman plumbing. Roman engineering amazes me, particularly their ability to control and direct running water in ancient times. So I was again pleasantly surprised when our first view of the ruins upon exiting the museum was.
This, an intact section of the aquaduct, which once stretched about 5 km, and brought fresh water to this coastal city. Apparently there were originally 3 aqueducts. Even though it was on the outskirts of the Roman Empire, Baelo Claudia was laid out exactly the same way as any other Roman town, and had all the amenities you would find in a town the same size in Italy during that time. The entire city was surrounded by a wall, parts of which have been reconstructed to stand about 5 feet tall.
You enter the site through the original West Gate of the city, and walk on some of the original cobblestone streets. In other areas, wide modern gravel avenues make the ruins easy to explore. The visitor path is clearly marked, and there are informational signs in English and Spanish at all the major parts of the town. And if the ruins themselves aren't impressive enough, there is a gorgeous ocean view to enjoy. The ruins are literally right next to the beach. On a clear day, you can actually see the coast of Africa (Morocco) across these waters! In fact, Baelo Claudia was an important town because it was one of the harbors used to launch ships to trade with Africa.
The town was also famous for its tuna salting and a fermented fish paste called garum which was exported throughout the Empire. This picture shows Sophie checking out the fish salting area. Located right next to the harbor, it is where each day's catch would have been salted and preserved. The square holes are salting vats. This area is still famous today for its' tuna population, and apparently tuna was the main diet in Roman times as well. In fact, it is the Romans that invented the process of catching tuna in the almdraba nets, and apparently that is still the same style of netting that is used in the region today. So this was once a bustling harbor, and the 'industrial' portion of the city.
This wall, next to the harbor and the fish salting area, was probably the highest rebuilt wall on the site. The free-standing columns of the Basilica have all been rebuilt, as you can see below, but most of the stone walls were very low, or you were looking at foundations and trying to imagine what buildings, houses, and shops must have stood on top. I liked the doorway and windows that were in this wall, because there weren't any other windows on the site.
The central focus of the site is, of course, the pillars of the Basilica and the open Forum behind them. The Basilica and Forum are located at the center of town, at the intersection of the 2 main streets. This is true for all Roman towns, becuase they were all laid out exactly the same way. The word 'Basilica' does not mean any kind of church. Instead, it was a political center of law and government. The statue in the center is Emperor Trajan. The city of Baelo Claudia got its name from Emperor Claudius, who ruled from 10 BC- 53 AD, and granted the city the distinction of municipium (a title affecting the way local inhabitants became Roman citizens). But Emperor Trajan followed Claudius, from 54- 117 AD, so it is his statue that was in the city at its peak of growth. But Baelo Claudia was destroyed by an earthquake in the 2nd century AD, and abandoned by the 6th century.
The entire Basilica area is easy to visualize, because almost all the columns have been restored. It was a long, open hall, with the staue of the Enperor as the focal point at one end. The streets around the Basilica were the market area (which is mostly rubble now).
The theater was fun, because you were actually allowed to walk through one of the original 8 entrances and stand on a platform looking over the whole structure. The kids are looking across the orchestra pit to the stage area. From this inside view, you could see how the natural acoustics would amplify a spoken or musical performance. Most of the other ruins are understandably blocked off by fences a few feet away, so the kids enjoyed climbing up old steps and getting up close and personal.
This is one of the original 8 entrances to the theater. Most of the rocks on the site were hauled from a nearby mountain, but some of them we recognized as harvested coral. All the rocks were carefully cut and placed with Roman attention to detail. So much to be impressed with and marvel at!
We spent a few hours total at Baelo Claudia, then went to one of the beach restaurants next to the site for a lunch of grilled fish with gorgeous beach views. It was a wonderful day trip, and I highly recommend it! You could spend the afternoon on the beach which is just a few steps from the ruins. We took the scenic route home, through Tarifa, and along the beach where you can look at the cliff with the Trafalgar monument. If you still have time and energy, the old town of Vejer de la Frontera is on top of the cliff, and is somewhat famous for its' town walls dating from Moorish times, and a Cathedral and Castle. Maybe more about that next time! For now, we will keep on enjoying the beaches and history here!
Conjunto Arqueológico de Baelo Claudia
The Archaeological Site of Baelo Claudia was declared a National Historic Monument. This Roman city-factory is surprising due to its excellent condition. It was important at the time due to its canned and brine foods and was the origin of the garum sauce exported to empire.
In the 3rd century AD there was an earthquake where a small village managed to survive until the beginning of 7th century, when it was finally abandoned. Since then, Baelo Claudia has been uninhabited.
When, in 1917, the first excavations began in the Bolonia area, researchers found the remains of a prosperous city, built according to classical Roman tradition a perfectly planned and rational urban project.
With the Archaeological Site of Baelo Claudia, the province of Cádiz preserves one of the finest known examples of a Roman town. Some buildings are from the Augustus era, although most were built under the rein of Claudius. Apparently, the historic centre, where the forum and all the administrative organisation buildings are located, was built at the same time , following a perpendicular axis along the coastline.
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These are the current opening times for the whole year: Tuesday to Sunday, 9am-3pm. Public holidays and Mondays before public holidays: 9am to 3pm. Closed on Mondays. Open all public holidays, including local ones. Closed: 1 and 6 January, 24, 25 and 31 December. Visitor access will be allowed up to 30 minutes before the final closing time of the centre.
The Archaeological Site and National Historical Monument of Baelo Claudia is located 22 kilometres (14 mi) outside of Tarifa, near the village of Bolonia, in southern Spain, where it lies on the shores of the Strait of Gibraltar. The site was settled 2000 years ago and occupied until it was hit by earthquakes and abandoned in the 6 th century.
It was an important place to the Romans as it was the origin of their much-loved ‘garum’ sauce, (now called ‘colatura di alici’ in modern Italy) which was exported to the empire from Baelo Claudia and this is where the town derived its wealth. “Garum and other similar fish-based sauces mass produced in factories by the Romans, and sprinkled on anything savoury. They usually made several versions: a dark-coloured table condiment that was high in protein, a cooking sauce similar to Thai and Vietnamese fish sauces (sometimes called liquamen by historians, though often grouped together with garum), and a milder version called muria…” (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/aug/26/garum-sauce-colatura-di-alici-italy-fish)..
To me, Garum doesn’t sound very nice, It was made by crushing and fermenting, in brine, the intestines of fish such as tuna, eel, anchovies, and mackerel. Because the production of garum created such an unpleasant smell, its fermentation was relegated to the outskirts of cities. But according to the Romans, it was good enough to go to a lot of trouble to produce and is known as the ketchup of the Roman world.
In 1917, the first excavations began in the Bolonia area, researchers found the remains of a prosperous city, built according to classical Roman tradition a perfectly planned and rational urban project.
Four excavations carried out by the French-Spanish scholar Pierre Paris excavated much of the basic structure of the city, while George Bonsor carried out further digs in the eastern necropolis.
However it is not until 1966 when the geophysical surveys led by professor Pellicer were carried out that the importance of the city is established.
In the same year, Casa de Velázquez French institution of Hispanic Studies began a systematic archaeological research that continued until the end of the 1980s and have resulted in one of the most complete archaeological sites peninsula Roman times.
Even if you’re not interested in the amazing archaeological discoveries at Baelo Claudia, the museum which houses the finds from the digs is worth a visit in itself. It looks like a huge Frank Lloyd Wright building dumped on the edge of the Straits. It has huge open spaces with great views of the beach at Bolonia.
The beach, for many is the highlight of any visit to Baelo Claudia. It is one of the classic golden beaches of the Costa de la Luz. Its huge sand dune crashes handsomely into the turquoise waters while many wind surfers follow the famous winds found all along these coastlines all the way to Cadiz.