L'herència romana de Tarragona
09 Jun 2012 0 comments Òscar Marín

The roman heritage of Tarragona

I arrive in Tarragona by the ancient Roman road called Via Augusta.  It’s late spring and the city shows itself as a bright, refreshing and elegant place despite its ancient origins.  More than two thousand years ago, Tarragona was the capital of a Roman province, which covered half of the Iberian Peninsula.

I drop the luggage at the Astari Hotel and I head towards the amphitheater, taking the Via Augusta, as did many Romans when entering the old Tarraco.  The amphitheater was where the gladiators fought for their lives.  Nowadays, the locals reenact that gruesome experience during a festival celebrated in mid-May, but without the blood or the killing, obviously.  It’s easy to feel transported back to the old Roman Empire.  Stands full of cheering fans, rejoicing to be part of a very particular form of entertainment.  If you visit the amphitheater any other month, when there isn’t any reenactment, you can still hear a murmur that resembles a cheering crowd.  It’s the waves crashing on the near by Miracle Beach.  Very poetic, indeed.  There are other things to do to learn about the city’s Roman past.  You can attend workshops, guided tours, and conferences, for example.

The amphiteather

Another cool place to visit is the circus.  You can get there rather quick because it is within walking distance from the amphitheater. Here is where the Romans held big spectacles like chariot races.  I guess it’d be like today’s Formula 1 or Nascar racing. The circus was monumental, like a stadium, and it could fit nearly 30.000 people.  You can visit today what’s left of it. Most of its structure is hidden under the buildings surrounding the Plaça de la Font (Font square), but you can see partial outside walls still standing.  In Tarragona, most of the ruins, unfortunately, are buried under the streets and buildings of the city. Man erased the Roman heritage one construction at a time. Still, history is very present.

A walk through the Part Alta, which is how they call the ‘old town’ will let you discover pieces of stone that belonged to the Foro provincial, the biggest square of the whole Roman Empire, according to historians. Also, some remains of the Augustus temple were discovered inside the cathedral. Not to far you can see part of the steps leading into that temple. You just have to go into a sporting goods store on Carrer Major (Major Street). Odd, but it is worth visiting. However, not all ruins are lost. Much of the Roman treasures found in the city and vicinity, can be visited in the Museu Nacional Arqueológic (National Archaeological Museum).  Here you will get to understand, thanks to guided tours of weekend workshops, what the children played at that time, or what plants were used for medicinal purposes and how, or even what kind of theatrical masks and puppets entertained audiences.  These things and more, will shed some light into the origins of the Romanization of the Iberian Peninsula.

The roman rampart

Make sure that after you have learned some secrets of everyday life in Tarraco you check out the city wall. It is the oldest and best-preserved ruin of what once was the Roman city. Built with blocks brought from the quarry of Mèdol, will allow you to check first hand the magnitude of these cyclopean stones. Don’t miss the ‘torre de Minerva’ (tower of Minerva) where you can see the oldest Roman relief of the Iberian Peninsula and the Centre d’Interpretació de les Fortificacions. Here they have an exhibition, which analyzes the evolution of the city’s defensive strategies throughout the ages. When you reach the Cos de Guardia, you know you are in the right vantage point to see the plain that stretches all the way to the mountains of Prades. In the end you will realize why this city was declared a World Heritage site in 2000.

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