Roman Amphitheatre of Italica (Spain)

Roman Amphitheatre of Italica (Spain)

History of Roman Spain

The Romans first came to Spain in 206 BC when they invaded the Iberian Peninsula from the south. They fought the Iberians and defeated them at Alcalá del Rio, which is near today’s Seville. On this site the town of Itálica was founded and Spain fell under Roman occupation for the next 700 years. In the north, however, the Celts and Basques continued to fight the Romans and didn’t fall until 19 BC. In all it took the Romans two centuries to gain complete control of Spain.

Roman Mérida

The country was divided into two parts, initially. These were Hispania Citerior in the East and Hispania Ulterior in the South and West. There are many towns and historic sites that you can visit in Spain that show the impact that the Romans had, and still have, on the country.

Roman Itálica

Itálica is an archaeological site close to Seville, in Andalucía. It is one of the largest Roman sites in Spain. In fact work is still continuing today and may never be completed as it covers such a vast area, including the ruins of one of the biggest amphitheatres in Roman Europe. The town was the birthplace of many famous Romans including the emperor Hadrian. Carmona, also close to Seville, contains an amphitheatre and a necropolis as well as impressive archways and mosaics. The necropolis actually holds the remains of over a thousand Roman families that lived around 2,000 years ago. One tomb is the size of a nobleman’s villa.

Roman Córdoba

Another town in Andalucía that was founded by the Romans is the port of Córdoba. It was the furthest point that the Romans could navigate up the Guadalquivir River and became extremely important for exporting olive oil, wine and other goods back to Rome. The bridge over the river, “El Puente Romano”, is one of the few remaining structures that was built by the Romans. Baelo Claudia, near Cadiz, is another coastal town worth visiting. There is a Roman settlement just north of the present village. It was an important link between Spain and Africa and fish salting was its major industry. Other Roman sites in Andalucía include the villa at Rio Verde which has outstanding mosaic floors, the Roman baths at Manilva that were allegedly used by Julius Caesar and Asido Caesarino at Medina Sidonia which has some of the earliest examples of Roman plumbing.

Roman Mérida

In the west of Spain is the city of Mérida which is the capital of Extremadura. This was the capital of the Lusitania region, founded in 25 BC and was linked with Seville by road. It has a huge wealth of Roman monuments including the Trajan archway, Roman bridge over the Guadiana river, remains of a forum, the Temple of Diana, the Circus Maximus, the Milagro aqueduct, the Mitreo villa, the Embalse de Proserpina and Cornalvo reservoirs. In fact there are so many preserved Roman remains here that the town has been declared a World Heritage site.

Roman Toledo

In Central Spain, to the south of Madrid, you will find Toledo which was originally the capital of Spain. It is built on a hilltop, overlooking the plains. The main fortress, the Alcazar, is on the original site of the Roman fortress. The Alcantara Bridge and the many remains of Roman walls signify how important the city was in Roman times. There are also the remains of a Roman circus which was the largest of its time and was remarkably close in style to the Circus Maximus in Rome. Northeast of Madrid,near the town of Soria you’ll find Roman ruins at Numancia. This town was the capital of the Celtiberian people and proved remarkably resistant to Roman rule, only falling after Scipio starved the population into submission.

Roman Segovia

To the north of Madrid is Segovia. By far its most impressive Roman monument is the aqueduct. It is actually used as the emblem of the city. It dates back from the 1st or 2nd century and is held together by the weight of the blocks and gravity. There is no mortar whatsoever. It is 728 metres long with 167 arches. At its highest point, it reaches almost 29 metres. Throughout central Spain you will find evidence of the Roman occupation. Also, there are examples of the traditionally straight Roman roads and the bridges that they had to build over the numerous small rivers to continue the path of the road.

Roman Tarragona

To the north east of Spain is Catalonia, with its capital, Barcelona. However, it is the city of Tarragona that was one of the most important Roman cities during the 3rd century BC. It was a military and political centre and the capital of the largest province in Roman Spain at the time. Because of its mild climate and coastal location it was actually one of the Roman’s first resort towns in Spain. There is a wealth of amphitheatres and aqueducts among other remnants of the Roman occupation. Further north on the coast of Catalonia is Empúries where there are fine remains of a Roman town which was built on a Greek colony.

Spain has a wealth of historic sites that you can visit to see evidence of the Roman occupation. The above is just a small sample of what you can see on your visit to Spain.


This weekend, I got to take two day trips outside of Seville! On Saturday, my friends and I spent most of the day in Cádiz, a beach town that’s about an hour and a half south from Seville. This morning (Sunday), we went half an hour north to Santiponce to see the Roman ruins of Itálica. It was a fun time, and a good opportunity to learn about Spanish history!

Thanks again, Google Maps! Santiponce and Cádiz are denoted by pins.

Cádiz is one of the oldest cities in Europe, and the oldest continuously-inhabited city in Spain. It has an interesting geography: it sits on a narrow-sliced peninsula, so it really feels like an island when you’re there! It’s a popular destination for people from Seville because of its beaches, and it has a long history.

Beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean! The city was considered to be at the “end of the earth” by ancient Greeks.

When we first arrived in Cádiz, we took a historical tour of all the major monuments and sights. We began with the Plaza de España at the Monumento a las Cortes (the Monument to the Courts). The main portion of this city square is taken up by the Monument to the Constitution of 1812. The first Spanish constitution was established in 1812 in Cádiz, and the monument is intended to honor the human rights protected by the constitution.

The monument includes an eternal flame and a list of the rights protected by the constitution.

As you may recall from my post where I talked about visiting the General Archive of the Indies, for many years, Seville was the primary location for New World trade and business because of its convenient location along the Guadalquivir River. However, starting in the 18th century, ships became too large to fit down the river, so the trade location was moved to Cádiz. As a commercial center, Cádiz became a very wealthy, prosperous town.

The Roman amphitheater of Cádiz (currently undergoing renovations.)

In 1980, it was discovered that an enormous Roman amphitheater is partially buried underneath a neighborhood of Cádiz. Normally tourists are allowed to go see the top portion of the amphitheater, but it’s currently being renovated and restored. It’s estimated to be one of the largest Roman amphitheaters in this portion of the former Roman empire.

The Cathedral! I think every Spanish town has at least one that’s incredibly huge and impressive!

We took a tour of the Cádiz Cathedral, as well as its crypt! What was interesting is that there was a netting suspended near the ceiling throughout the cathedral. This is intended to catch any falling rocks or debris that may come loose as the cathedral ages. I’ve seen this kind of system at several other places in Spain, so it must be a common practice with older buildings.

The dome of the cathedral, with netting and debris visible underneath!

We also visited the central marketplace where lots of seafood and produce are sold. This was certainly different from any grocery store I’ve ever seen!

They had swordfish, sea urchins, shellfish, and more!

After our tour was over, my friends and I ate lunch on the beach (La Playa de la Caleta)! When we go on day trips, our host families make bocadillos (sack lunches) for us! We enjoyed some time relaxing in the sun and looking for shells and sea glass! It was nice out, but too cold to go swimming. (Maybe another time!)

We spent a lot of the afternoon walking out to the Castillo de San Sebastián, a former military fort and the location of one of Cádiz’s modern lighthouses. There were great views of the ocean and tide pools, and a nice sea breeze!

Walking to the Castillo! Tidepools and a great view of Cádiz! Castillo de San Sebastián The castle is the westernmost point of Cádiz, so we got as close to the USA as we could for the day, haha.

We ended the day by going to a small café and then just wandering and exploring the city. It was a fun day trip and a great place to visit outside of Seville. Here are some more of my favorite pictures and fun facts from the day:

A lot of houses in Cádiz have towers with lookout points. They were designed to allow people to look out and check on their ships in the harbor. The building with the golden-colored dome is a mosque, and its dome has a reflective material on the surface so it can act as a natural lighthouse! The famous “Halle Berry bikini scene” from 2002 James Bond film Die Another Day was shot at Paya de la Caleta in Cádiz! Link: Here. Colored lines are painted on the ground all throughout Cádiz. They mark walking routes for tourists to follow to see the sights! I wish more cities had these! Happy to be at a beach! We love Cádiz!

Now, on to the second trip I took this weekend: Santiponce and las Ruinas de Itálica!

What was once the main interior courtyard of a Roman household.

Itálica was founded in 206 BC. The Roman emperors Trajan and Hadrian were born there, and it was eventually established as a Roman colony after its initial foundation as a military settlement during the Second Punic War. The town had a population of around 8,000, but began to fade away in the 3rd century when the Guadalquivir riverbed shifted, leaving Itálica dry and isolated. For many years, no modern cities were built over the former town, leaving Itálica well-preserved. Excavation began in 1781 and continues to this day. Much of the ruins are still untouched, as apparently the excavation process is incredibly expensive.

A mural depicting what Itálica once looked like. The ruins that we visited included the amphitheater towards the top of the photograph, as well as surrounding buildings and structures. The rest of the town as pictured here is now buried underneath Santiponce.

Our trip started with a visit to Cotidiana Vitae, a museum in Santiponce dedicated to Roman daily life. There was a rather lengthy tour at the museum that included recreations of the interior of a Roman house and stores, as well as some cheesy CGI videos. It was informative, but actually seeing the ruins themselves was the main attraction.

The entrance to the amphitheater ruins.

I was most impressed by the ruins of the amphitheater. It could once seat 25,000 people, and was the third-largest amphitheater in the Roman Empire.

One wall section of the amphitheater. The amphitheater floor was covered with wood for gladiator events, or filled with water for naumachiae (the reenacting of naval battles.) Animals were kept below the arena before events. Roman ruin photoshoot!

After the amphitheater we moved on to some of the town. What I thought was fascinating was how well-preserved some mosaics and columns were!

The top of a column! A mosaic depicting the gods for each day of the week. Close-up of a mosaic with images of different kinds of birds! Every household had an altar to honor specific Roman gods and protect the family. Ancient cobbled roads! After spending so much time around the city, it was nice to be in the country! This was much more spread out than the narrow streets of Seville! Exploring some Roman ruins!

It’s been fun, but tiring weekend! This week is the final week of my intensive Spanish grammar class! My final exam will be on Friday morning, and then all of us in the Advanced Liberal Arts program will be going away for a “Linguistic Immersion Weekend” in Sierra del Huéznar (about an hour north of Seville.) I have some other meetings and possible activities planned, so it should be fun! It’s so hard to believe I’ve only been in Spain for about two weeks!!


The Cardo Maximus. Photo © Carole Raddato. This peristylium of the House of the Exedra. This peristylium is rectangular. It has an oval fountain at its central axis. Portico perimetral supporting does not need columns, as is usual. Instead of them there were big pillars with a plan with a shape of cross. Photo © Carole Raddato. Warm thermal baths in the House of the Neptune. Photo © Carole Raddato.

The House of Neptune with Geometric and figurative mosaics. The domus was named after a mosaic with all kinds of aquatic animals. Photo © Carole Raddato. The Neptune Mosaic in the House of Neptune. Neptune, the god of the sea with his trident. The mosaic is surrounded by a wide edge that is decorated with Nilotic scenes where one can see crocodiles, a hippopotamus, a palm tree, and several pygmies fighting ibises. Photo © Carole Raddato. The Labyrinth Mosaic in the House of Neptune. Photo © Carole Raddato.

The House of the Birds, a large residence endowed with a good quantity of mosaics of high quality. One of them, the Bird Mosaic, gave its name to the house and consists of a central panel surrounded by 35 small squares representing different species of birds. Photo © Carole Raddato. The Bird Mosaic consisting of a central panel surrounded by 35 small squares representing different species of birds. Photo © Carole Raddato. Detail of the Bird Mosaic consisting of a central panel surrounded by 35 small squares representing different species of birds. Photo © Carole Raddato. Detail of the Bird Mosaic consisting of a central panel surrounded by 35 small squares representing different species of birds. Photo © Carole Raddato. The House of the Birds. Photo © Carole Raddato. Open patio with a fountain in the House of the Birds. Photo © Carole Raddato. Mosaic detail with head of Medusa in the House of the Birds. Photo © Carole Raddato. The House of Hylas. The centre panel (emblema) of the mosaic depicts Hercules and his companion and lover Hylas which is on display in the Archaeological Museum of Seville. Photo © Carole Raddato. The House of the Planetarium, so called because of the mosaic that paved one of its rooms. Photo © Carole Raddato.

Mosaic floors in the House of the Planetarium. Photo © Carole Raddato. Mosaic with busts of the planetary deities in the House of the Planetarium. who gave their names to the days of the week. In the center is Venus (Friday). Anticlockwise from bottom center are Jupiter (Thursday), Saturn (Saturday), Helios or Sol (Sunday), Luna or Selene (Monday), Mars (Tuesday), and Mercury (Wednesday). Photo © Carole Raddato.

The foundations of the Temple of Trajan (Traianeum). The temple precinct consisted of a quadriporticus around an octastyle Corinthian podium temple and altar. Photo © Carole Raddato. The foundations of the Temple of Trajan (Traianeum). The temple precinct consisted of a quadriporticus around an octastyle Corinthian podium temple and altar. Photo © Carole Raddato.

The Hadrianic Baths located in the midwestern part of the Nova Urbs. Photo © Carole Raddato. The Hadrianic Baths display construction techniques dating to the time of Hadrian and lead pipes that bear stamps of Hadrian. Photo © Carole Raddato. The amphitheater was one of the largest in the Empire, 160 by 197 m. It was built of large blocks of hewn stone and brick faced with marble and could accommodate some 25,000 spectators. Photo © Carole Raddato. Much of the cavea of the amphitheatre is preserved with its corridors and vomitoria still usable, and the underground service passages of the arena are in perfect condition. Photo © Carole Raddato. The well preserved corridors of the amphitheatre. Photo © Carole Raddato. Votive plaque with engraved footprints at the entrance of the Roman amphitheatre. Photo © Carole Raddato.

Article originally posted on Following Hadrian Photography reposted with permission.

Roman Theatre of Sagunto

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Until it was restored in 1994, this first century Roman theatre in Spain was a magnificent ruin visible on the hillside from a long distance. Though the restoration has made it functional once again, it has covered up much of this historic structure.

The theatre was originally built on a hillside, making use of the natural topography. It sits just below the much later Sagunto Castle, which dominates the landscape and is adjacent to a medieval Jewish cemetery.

It has a typical semi-circular theatre shape, with many of the terraces having been covered with new, smooth stone flags. A large, dominating rectangular structure now covers the stage area. The ends of the terraces have been left unrestored and through these it is possible to get an impression of what the site was like before the restoration and even how it looked before much of the stonework was destroyed during the Peninsula Wars.

The restoration has clearly been done to make the theatre comfortable for audiences to watch performances and for performances to be presented effectively but this has possibly detracted from its value as a historical site and certainly detracted from the distant views. The upside of this restoration comes when one attends a performance. The opportunity to watch a performance in a 1,900-year-old theatre is really something.

Roman Amphitheatre of Italica (Spain) - History

Italica north of modern-day Santiponce, 9 km northwest of Seville in southern Spain, was an Italic settlement founded by the Roman general Scipio in the province of Hispania Baetica. It was the birthplace of Roman Emperors Trajan, Hadrian (likely), and Theodosius (possibly). It flourished under the reign of Hadrian, becoming an elaborate urban centre and obtaining the highest status of Roman city. The modern town of Santiponce overlies the pre-Roman Iberian settlement and part of the well-preserved Roman city.

The Roman city was founded in 206 BC., in an indigenous habitat of Turdetania that dates back at least to the fourth century BC. Within its term there are deposits and indications of its very previous occupation, among them Argaric and Greek. During the republican stage it was an important city, and much more in the imperial era, even though it was never a provincial capital or a legal convent. In spite of the general belief that it was abandoned towards the fourth century, the truth is that only the Adriatic extension was abandoned, the city retreating towards something more of its primitive extension, under the current helmet of Santiponce, where a life of certain continued prestige in the Lower Empire and the Visigoth era. The remains of this era are numerous, and it is known that its walls were restored by Leovigildo in 583, In the framework of his struggles against Hermenegildo. Another good example of this survival and prestige, at least until the end of the 7th century, is the presence of Italian bishops in several Christian councils, being the last one in which one of them is documented, one Cuniuldo, the XVI of Toledo, in the year 693. Itálica arrived still alive to the Muslim era, when several Arab authors mention it with the name of ” Talikah / Taliqa ” and there are some known characters with the nisba “al-Talikí” (also, although less, archaeological remains have appeared). It is in the twelfth century when it must have been really abandoned, becoming a depopulated, called by Christians ” Campos de Tal (i) ca”and also” Sevilla la Vieja “.

Italica was the first Roman city founded in Hispania and also outside Italian territory. At the end of the second Punic war in Hispania, Publio Cornelio Escipión el Africano settled the wounded soldiers in a pre-existing Turdetan city – whose original name is unknown – in the upper Aljarafe area, on the west bank of the Baetis River, located halfway I walk between the Turdetan cities of Hispalis (Seville) and Ilipa (Alcalá del Río, SE), and probably port. The text of Apiano de Alejandría where this is related, It allows to deduce that the origin of these soldiers was fundamentally of the italic peninsula, that is, of italic auxiliary units, and hence the name chosen by Scipio.

Roman history
The nearby native and Roman city of Hispalis (Seville) was and would remain a larger city, but Italica was founded in 206 BC by the great Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio (later given the nickname Africanus) to settle his victorious veterans from the Second Punic Wars against Hannibal and the Carthaginians, and close enough to the Guadalquivir to control the area. The city was built upon a native Iberian town of the Turdetani dating back at least to the 4th c. BC. The name Italica reflected the veterans’ Italian origins, i.e from auxiliary Italic units.

The vetus urbs (original or “old” city) developed into a prosperous city and was built on a Hippodamian street plan with public buildings and a forum at the centre, linked to a busy river port. At some point members of the Roman tribes Gens Ulpia and Aelia had moved to Italica, as these tribes were the respective families of the Roman emperors Trajan and Hadrian who were later born here.

Italica thrived especially under the patronage of Hadrian, like many other cities in the empire under his influence at this time, but it was especially favoured as his birthplace. He expanded the city northwards as the nova urbs (new city) and, upon its request, elevated it to the status of colonia as Colonia Aelia Augusta Italica even though Hadrian expressed his surprise as it already enjoyed the rights of “Municipium”. He also added temples, including the enormous and unique Trajaneum in the centre of the city to venerate his predecessor and adopted father, and rebuilt public buildings.

The city started to dwindle as early as the 3rd century a shift of the Guadalquivir River bed, probably due to siltation, a widespread problem in antiquity that followed removal of the forest cover, left Italica’s river port high and dry whilst Hispalis continued to grow nearby.

The city may have been the birthplace of the emperor Theodosius I.

Italica was important enough in late Antiquity to have a bishop of its own, and had a garrison during the Visigothic age. The walls were restored by Leovigildo in 583 AD during his struggles against Hermenegildo.

It is during the government of Adriano when the city itself requests the emperor, and against his advice, as Aulo Gelio tells it, to change its advantageous Roman municipal statute to that of a Roman colony, heavier but more prestigious, since they were simulacra Romae or “mirrors of Rome” and as an ideal part or extension of Urbs itself. Following this concession it was renamed Colonia Aelia Augusta Italica, in honor of Adriano, titles that are often abbreviated as CAAI

Modern history
Modern historiography, from Ocampo and Morales in the 16th century, was always aware of the importance of the city, as well as the birth in it of three emperors: Trajan, Adriano and Teodosio I the Great, sung by Rodrigo Caro in his famous Song, which would still have to add the eldest son of this, Arcadio.The ruins were visited, admired and desolated, by many foreign travelers, who left in writing, and sometimes drawn, their impressions. All its prestige, history and fame were not enough, however, to save it from being subject to continued plundering, and a permanent quarry of materials from the Arab era, even in the enlightened era.

In 1740 the City Council of Seville ordered the demolition of the walls of the amphitheater to build a dam in the Guadalquivir, and in 1796 areas of the primitive vetus urbs were still flown to build the new Camino Real de Extremadura.

The first legal norm of protection of the deposit took place on February 9, 1810, under the Napoleonic occupation, ordering to return its old name of Italica, and allocating an annual budget for regular excavations, which, however, did not materialize until 1839-1840, and due to the efforts of a simple and unknown official. In 1873 the pillages were still vandalism.

Although perhaps already begun under Trajan, it is proven literary and epigraphically the participation of Adriano in the great urban expansion to the north – also hypodymic, like its predecessor – which was baptized in 1960 by Garcia and Bellido as Nova urbs or “city new “, which only had a really splendid existence during the second century, at the end of which, and without ever being completed, began its decline, for certainly political-economic reasons. This is the part of the city that currently constitutes the Archaeological Ensemble of Italica, unparalleled because of its huge mansions paved with mosaics, or its great, though very shattered, amphitheater, quarter of the Empire for its capacity. The “old city” or Vetus urbs is located under the urban area of the current town of Santiponce (founded in 1601, after successive floods of the river, closer to which it was located primitively), since this part of the city is the one that most continuity had, reaching the times of the Muslim occupation when it took place, in the tenth century, its definitive depopulation and abandonment. Very few known Roman remains of her, the main ones of which are the theater and the so-called “lesser hot springs” or “Trajan’s”.

By Royal Order of 13 of December of 1912 Italica was declared a National Monument, but after other minor rules, has not been to the Decree # 7/ 2001, of 9 January, the Government of Andalusia, when they have defined clearly the archaeological zone of Italica and the areas of its effective protection. Its ruins are today a main tourist attraction 7 km north of Seville and its protection is being resumed with the latest scientific techniques.

Rediscovery and excavations
In recent centuries, the ruins became the subject of visits, admiration and despair by many foreign travellers who wrote about and sometimes illustrated their impressions. Italica’s prestige, history and fame were not enough, however, to save it from being the subject of continued looting, and a permanent quarry for materials from Ancient times to modern ones. In 1740 the city of Seville ordered demolition of the walls of the amphitheatre to build a dam on the Guadalquivir, and in 1796 the urbs vetus was used to build the new Camino Real of Extremadura. The first law of protection for the site took effect in 1810 under the Napoleonic occupation, reinstating its old name of Italica, and allocating an annual budget for regular excavation.

One of the first excavators was the British textile merchant and Seville resident Nathan Wetherell, who uncovered nearly 20 Roman inscriptions in the vicinity of Italica in the 1820s that were later donated to the British Museum. Regular excavation, however, did not materialise until 1839-1840. By Royal Order of 1912 Italica was declared a National Monument, but it was not until 2001 that the archaeological site of Italica and the areas of protection were clearly defined.

The site
As no modern city covered many of Italica’s buildings, the result is an unusually well-preserved Roman city with cobbled Roman streets and mosaic floors still in situ. Many rich finds can also be seen in the Seville Archaeological Museum, with its famous marble colossus of Trajan.

The archaeological site of Italica encompasses mainly the urbs nova with its many fine buildings from the Hadrianic period. The original urbs vetus (old town) lies under the present town of Santiponce.

Extensive excavation and renovation of the site has been done recently and is continuing.

The small baths and the Theatre are some of the oldest visible remains, both built before Hadrian.

Italica’s amphitheatre was the third largest in the Roman Empire at the time, being slightly larger than the Tours Amphitheatre in France. It seated 25,000 spectators, about half as many as the Colosseum in Rome. The size is surprising given that the city’s population at the time is estimated to have been only 8,000, and shows that the local elite demonstrated status that extended far beyond Italica itself through the games and theatrical performances they funded as magistrates and public officials.

From the same period is the elite quarter with several beautiful (and expensive) houses decorated with splendid mosaics visible today, particularly the:

House of the Exedra
House of the Neptune Mosaic
House of the Birds Mosaic
House of the Planetarium Mosaic
House of Hylas
House of the Rhodian Patio.

The walls
It is possible that the Ibero-Roman nucleus had a fence defining its perimeter, but the first historical news of the walls are from the middle of the 1st century BC Augustus worked on them, Adriano expanded them and Leovigildo restored them in 583. The maximum perimeter, in the second century AD, was more than 3,000 m., with an average thickness of 1.5m.

In Roman times the entire city was bounded by a walled perimeter. It generally had a defensive character, but also played a symbolic and religious role, since the influence of the gods and their temples reached it. There are visible remains in two points of the Archaeological Ensemble: a tower of times of Augustus, in the theater area, adjacent to the stands and an adriana period canvas at the northern end of the city, next to the amphitheater.

Technical description
The tower of the theater area, from the time of Augustus (27 BC-14 AD), is built with a rig that combines concrete with vertical strips of masonry The concrete foundation is preserved from the Adriano period (117-138 AD).

The walls of Italica, which came to cover an area of more than 50 hectares, were built in various phases that correspond to the extensions and reductions operated on the surface occupied by the city. A geophysical survey developed between 1991 and 1993 located a wall canvas that ran after the elevation where the temple presumably dedicated to Trajan sits. It is pending archaeological dating, but it is thought that it could be a late-Roman section erected after the hypothetical reduction of the urban plot, or the performance of King Leovigildo, which restores the Italian walls in the year 583, at the time of the confrontation with His son Hermenegildo.

The amphitheater
With a capacity of 25,000 spectators, it was one of the empire’s largest amphitheaters with three levels of stands. Under the level of the old wooden floor of the amphitheater there is a service pit for the different spectacles of gladiators and wild beasts.

The grandstand, cavea was divided into three sections, the ima, media and summa cavea, separated by annular corridors called praecinctiones. The first, the ima cavea, had 6 tiers, with 8 access doors, and was reserved for a ruling class. The second, the half cavea, was intended for the humblest population, had 12 tiers and 14 access doors. The summa cavea, covered by an awning, was reserved only to house children and women.

The amphitheater also had several rooms dedicated to the cult of Nemesis and Dea Caelestis.

The theater
The theater is the oldest known civil work in Italica, after the probable remains of the curia found in 1984. It is located in the so-called Cerro de San Antonio, west of the town center of Santiponce, taking advantage of the natural slope on the Baetis. It was built between the 1st and 1st centuries AD. C., and its use, surely already sporadic, lasted until at least the fifth century, more or less as in the rest of Hispania, possibly being the main cause of its abandonment, rather than its condemnation for religious reasons (which on the part Christian was so incessant as unfruitful.), The gradual disappearance or disinterest of local elites who used to pay for them the truth is that it was disused and part of its land was filled and converted into warehouses and pens, landfills and even instead of occasional burials, already in medieval times. He was finally filled and blinded by various floods of the Guadalquivir.

The approximate location of the building was known since the 18th century, and the origin of some sculptures was known there. Part of its stands were partially discovered by the 1940s in the corral of one of the houses on the hill, but it was not massively excavated until the period 1970-1973, with subsequent minor campaigns to free the porch. After several phases of restoration, initiated in the 80s, it is currently used for the celebration of the Italica Theater Festival.

The Traianeum
The Traianeum was a large, imposing temple in honour of the Emperor Trajan, built by his adopted son and successor, Hadrian. It occupies a central double insula at the highest point of nova urbs. It measures 108 x 80 m and is surrounded by a large porticoed square with alternating rectangular and semicircular exedra around its exterior housing sculptures. The temple precinct was decorated with over a hundred columns of expensive Cipollino marble from Euboea, and various fountains.

Although no reliable evidence has appeared, it has been assumed since its excavation, towards the years 1979-1980, that the baptized as “Traianeum” is a temple dedicated to Emperor Trajan erected by his nephew-grandson and successor, Adriano. It is located in a plaza de la nova urbs, surrounded by a porticoed square.

The Roman Baths
Italica had at least two public thermal complexes, one in the old city and one in the new city, both with hot water (caldarium), temperate (tepidarium) and cold (frigidarium), sudatorio (laconicum) and perhaps palaestrae poolsof exercise, as was the custom, that fully satisfied the hygienic customs of the Roman population. The hot springs of the old city are popularly known as “Minor” or “Trajan’s”, and are accessible within the town. The hot springs of the new city are the so-called “Mayores” or “de la Reina Mora”, occupying the extension of a complete block it seems that they were left unfinished, and they are still partly without digging It is one of the most exploited areas of Nova Urbs.

The hot springs
They were a leisure center that housed, along with other services, public toilets. They date from the time of Adriano, towards the first half of the second century. It is a large building approximately occupies an area of 32,000 square meters. They are found in Nova Urbs, occupying the extension of a complete apple, still partly without digging. The structure of the distribution of swimming pools and furnaces is still preserved. The hot springs were accessed through a stairway that gave way to the lobby. Behind this is the T-shaped pool, with white marble walls and floors. Then you access the rest of the bathroom rooms and around it are the service rooms and the dependencies. In addition to the hot springs themselves, with the three rooms (caldarium, tepidarium and frigidarium),

The lesser hot springs
They are located in the old town of Santiponce, more specifically on Trajan Street, and their dating is before Adriano. These remains have been given numerous interpretations. They have been dated in the time of Trajan (98-117) by the construction methods used and in Adriano’s time its structure was reinforced. The surface occupies an area of about 1,500 square meters, in an area urbanized by Trajan with public buildings.

The vestiges that are observed correspond to the central and rear area of the baths, being able to recognize two rooms of hot temperature (caldarium), a temperate one (tepidarium) and another one for cold baths (frigidarium) and for the practice of exercises. The excavated site does not fully cover the entire area of the hot springs, as it extends below the surrounding houses, especially the main gate.

The aqueducts
Traditionally, the existence of the remains of a single aqueduct that brought water to Italica from Tejada la Nueva (near Escacena del Campo (Huelva), about 36.5 km west of the city, was known in the literature. had heard of some visible remains, and reference a large cisterns and near the city, which were seen and described by Jerome scholar Fray Fernando Ceballos, but whose location was given up for lost. some work of the Hydrographic Confederation of the Guadalquivir in January 1974 gave some of the remains and calculated the slope direct the only aqueduct still believed.

Aqueduct of the 1st century AD C.
The aqueduct of 37 km total length was first built in the 1st c. AD and extended under Hadrian to add a more distant source for supplying the expanded city. It fed a huge cistern at the edge of the city which remains intact. Some of the piers of the arches are still visible near the city.

The first aqueduct, dates from the beginning of the 1st century AD and brought water from at least ten springs along the river Guadiamar (the old Maenoba), the main one, that of the Basil Garden, supplying only the then existing vetus urbs or old city. A good part of this aqueduct, up to the Conti gorge, runs underground, but at some points (the best one passing through the farm “La Pizana”, at the end of Gerena), the gallery through which it ran the water is visible in about 40 m., presenting a height of 1.70-1.80 m and around 80–90 cm wide. The specusor channel was covered with a barrel vault. The main characteristics of this oldest aqueduct, according to the author, are the massive use of concrete, circular louvres, and its general lack of brick cladding, except for the arches in some small bridges.

Aqueduct of Hadrian (2nd century AD)
When the construction of the so-called Nova Urbs, with its large houses, hot springs and the huge amphitheater, the need to expand the water supply was evident. The problem was solved in an ingenious way, building a long extension that collected water from another good spring area, further away, in the farmhouse of Peñalosa de Tejada la Nueva (end of Escacena del Campo, Huelva), near the Roman Ituci, where the Great Fountain, Small Fountain, of the Mora Mora are still preserved and several others, annexing the new canalization to that of the primitive aqueduct at the height of the aforementioned Conti gorge. Shortly before arriving in Italica, the Adriatic conduction separated again, arriving at the own cisterns, of three ships (the views in the 18th century by Zevallos), already near the amphitheater.

The Adriatic aqueduct was a concrete construction, but with the particularity of being entirely clad in brick, a luxury detail that does not present any other aqueduct of the peninsula, and very few in the Empire. Its specus or channel is smaller, always with hydraulic cord and elevated on a substructure to keep the level constant it must be covered in the open sections with tegulae or with stone plates of Tarifa. Its luminaries, unlike those of the old one, are square and also covered with brick, denoting its coetaneity with the Nova urbsand its sewer system. It had long stretches of arches to save streams and troughs, mostly disappeared today, although a spectacular stretch is still preserved at the crossing of the Guadiamar River.

After a stage of great abandonment, and of the well-known ecological catastrophe of 1998, the public interest and that of the administrations have come together to save and revalue what remains of such an expensive hydraulic work, whose remains are now part of the protected ” Green Corridor of Guadiamar “, and of the Route of the Historic Landscapes of Olivares. so, although it lost is huge, it is possible that the future of what remains to be seen with greater optimism, and even that may be more debris still covered, or be better studied sections known.

The houses
In the splendor of the Itálica de Adriano, houses of important and rich local families were built in the city, some of which would undoubtedly be senatorial that, in addition to following the traditional scheme of the Roman house, with an interior courtyard of which then they would derive the courtyards of the Andalusian houses, they had the predominant Hellenistic aesthetic of the time.

Among the houses of Italica, the following stand out:

Casa de la Exedra: The characteristics of this building do not clarify the specific function it had. It has been classified as housing – Domus -, since it partly has the characteristics of these, but its grandeur – it occupies a whole module of 4,000 m2 – and the appearance of undetermined elements means that it is also identified as a “semi-public” building, possibly a private school where their owners also lived. On the sides of the entrance there are seven taverns, public shops, which flank the door. There are also two others on the right side and one on the back. In its interior design we can see that after the vestibulum of the entrance, the jaws gives way to the building’s distribution patio. This peristilumIt is rectangular with a curvilinear and elongated fountain or pool located on its central axis. For the perimeter portico support there are no columns as is traditional and there are large pillars of cruciform plan. Most likely they are to support a greater weight than usual in a private home, so it is assumed that it could support one or more upper floors.

These pillars would not be adintelados, if not they would be joined by arches forming an archway in each of the floors. On either side are distributed numerous rooms – cubiculum- which make up the whole domus itself. One of them has access to the outside through the right facade. At the bottom of the peristilium is accessed by stairs to the area of the hot springs distributed by inner courtyard. Two of the bathrooms are covered by vaults of a quarter sphere. On one of its sides, the left as you enter, there is a large rectangular and elongated arena – almost the entire length of the building – that ends in a large exedra covered with a quarter-sphere vault. This area is connected to the outside with a corridor perpendicular to the direction of the entrance to the right side. Therefore, we can determine four large areas within this building: the tabernae, the hot springs, the domus and the exedra with its lecture. Mosaicof opus sectile: Geometric mosaic of rectangular shape organized in fifteen frames framed with gray marble and with central motif, which represents, well, circular figures, or a combination of shapes that results in a starry motif. It can be schematic figurations of astral models.
Neptune House: We frame this building in the semi-public category because, despite not having been completely excavated, what has been observed so far suggests a unique construction that occupies the entire block of about 6,000 square meters. The little that has been documented of the building hardly says anything about its spatial distribution, if we exclude data from the western sector, dedicated to a beautiful hot spring area. A Tepidarium and a Caldarium have been excavated in this area, which conserve the brick pillars of the Hypocaustum, and a sector of the cold area, or Frigidarium, decorated with the mosaic that gives name to the property and that is counted among the main ones of the city. The presence of the thermal area, documented rooms towards the center of the building with elaborate mosaics and, already on the north flank, a cistern of considerable proportions, reinforce the hypothesis that this great building performed functions analogous to that of the Exedra, located in the next block.

The main mosaic of the house represents the god Neptune and his courtship of sea creatures. In black and white except for the figure of the god, polychrome, he represents the trident driving a car pulled by two hippocampus Around it, centaurs, ram, bull and other land animals have been transformed into inhabitants of the sea by replacing their hindquarters with fish tails, they live in the aquatic depths with dolphins, fish, molluscs and crustaceans. It is thought to correspond to the frigidarium of the thermal area. Another mosaic represents a city murada with towers, possibly the capital of the kingdom of Minos, since inside there is a maze that, distributed in four quadrants, girdles a central emblem where the Athenian hero Theseus, winner of the Minotaur, was represented in his day. A final mosaic is made up of a series of paintings with elements linked to the god Bacchus, the Greek Dionysus: dancing mans, satyrs, centaurs, tigers fighting against evil. This god and the hero Theseus representing in the other mosaic have a common history, since one concludes what the other has initiated.

House of the Patio Rhodium: In this east-facing building that has not been fully excavated, the organization of the space is achieved thanks to several consecutive open spaces around which the different rooms are arranged. The main one in this house is a rhodium-type patio, that is, with one of the four galleries higher than the rest and the transit between levels solved by the use of steps. As is common in this sector of Italica, the main pavements were mosaics of careful invoice. Unfortunately, the long exposure to the elements and the action of man has determined its loss or the deterioration of its state of conservation. Beyond the area defined by the mosaics, you can see a series of pools associated with a small pool, which you may think we are facing the remains of a laundry.

Another luxurious house of Itálica that is excavated only in part, which leaves unknowns of its distribution. Specifically, the entrance to the house is under discussion, on the eastern side through a large hall or more improbably through the southern facade. The main peristilium was chaired by a square fountain and had one of its corridors at a height higher than the remaining ones – rhodium court. It communicated with a triclinium, in the lower height, which is tiled with the mosaic that represents allegories of the four seasons and in front, with another larger triclinium, the main one, with a mosaic of tigers and flanked by two courtyards. From these patios you can access other units, also tiled with mosaics. Specifically, the entrance to the house is under discussion, on the eastern side through a large hall or more improbably through the southern facade. The main peristilium was chaired by a square fountain and had one of its corridors at a height higher than the remaining ones – rhodium court. It communicated with a triclinium, in the lower height, which is tiled with the mosaic that represents allegories of the four seasons and in front, with another larger triclinium, the main one, with a mosaic of tigers and flanked by two courtyards.

Hylas House: Another luxurious Italica house that is excavated only in part, which leaves unknowns of its distribution. Specifically, the entrance to the house is under discussion, on the eastern side through a large hall or more improbably through the southern facade. The main peristilium was chaired by a square fountain and had one of its corridors at a height higher than the remaining ones – rhodium court. It communicated with a triclinium, in the lower height, which is tiled with the mosaic that represents allegories of the four seasons and in front, with another larger triclinium, the main one, with a mosaic of tigers and flanked by two courtyards. From these patios you can access other units, also tiled with mosaics. The northernmost courtyard communicates by a staircase with an anteroom, which in turn serves as a passage to the room with the mosaic of “Hilas”, which gives its name to the house. It depicts the abduction of Hilas by the Nymphs, chaired by Hercules. Currently this central motif is in the Provincial Archaeological Museum of Seville, leaving only the surrounding geometric decorations.

House of the Birds: Its organization is typical of the Roman domus: A porticoed peristyle surrounded by the other rooms. It is a stately residence, possibly of an aristocratic family in the city. It is worth mentioning that this type of houses only represents a minority of the population, usually the houses of the town were infinitely worse, not to mention the “ghettos” of slaves. It has a good number of high quality mosaics, one of them gives name to the house. It was the first fully excavated house in the whole of Itálica. It is currently restored and equipped with walls of about 60 cm. of height that delimit the different rooms. From the door you can access a lobby -vestibulum- that immediately communicates with the “jaws” of access to the “peristilium” or patio with a well, distribution center of the house. It consists of a covered corridor, of rectangular plan that surrounds the patio and to which the doors of the rooms open. Columns are used for clamping the roof. In the background is the “triclinium “, flanked by two uncovered patios -exedra- one with a fountain and another with a pool. Also in this area the other main rooms are located, all of them paved with excellent mosaics. On the wings of the house are the rooms of the service, the kitchens and drains On the left of the house is the cubiculum paved with a mosaic with birds that gives name to the domus.Finally on the main facade some rooms are opened to the outside, one of them with oven, which were shops -tabernae- associated with housing.

Planetarium House: Its construction begins at the time of Adriano (117-138) and undergoes various reforms in late Roman times, highlighting among them the segregation of the plot in several room units. Residential building of almost 1,600 square meters, excluding the taverns that occupy the western half of an apple located between the Amphitheater and the temple dedicated to Trajan. The mosaic that gives name to this house consists of a circle within which seven medallions with busts are distributed. They represent the planetary deities that, in the Roman calendar, give name to each of the days of the week. In the center is Venus (Friday), surrounded by the Moon (Monday), Mars (Tuesday), Mercury (Wednesday), Jupiter (Thursday), Saturn (Saturday) and the Sun (Sunday). It is one of the mansions destined exclusively to the notables of Italica. These residences stand out for their privileged location, the quality of the construction and the luxury of their finishes, as well as for the extension of the habitable surface. It occupies the western half of an apple located between the amphitheater and the temple dedicated to Trajan. Upon admission through the “ostium” or entrance, you reach the lobby and the “tablinum”, reception room and transit open to the peristyle.

Around the peristilium, a large porticoed patio with columns and a central garden, the domestic areas were distributed: bedrooms – “cubicula” – and living rooms – “oeci” -. The two most western areas are the best known, being almost identical among them: a side room and two bedrooms with doors to a larger rear room and opening to the atrium, quadrangular space with an opening in the roof to allow the passage of air, light and rainwater. At the bottom of the peristyle was located, coinciding with its axis, the room for meals or “triclinium” and on both sides new rooms and patios. The plot was segregated into several room units in late Roman times. The peristyle was divided in two, so that its northern part was linked to the domestic area, characterized by mosaics, and the remaining surface became a garden or patio. In this new courtyard the columns were replaced, to the south, by powerful pillars, on which a second floor was raised. The rooms built at the bottom of the peristyle in the second century suffered the overlapping of various structures related to a late-stage service area.


Guided tour of the theater and the Itálica archaeological site. First Roman city of the peninsula and cradle of the emperors Trajan and Adriano. We will visit its ancient streets where we will discover amazing mosaics, the Roman theater discovered in the middle of the 20th century, the ancient major thermal baths and its famous amphitheater, one of the largest in the Roman world where the gladiatorial fights took place. We will also visit the medieval monastery of San Isidoro del Campo (open according to availability) and the San Rafael winery in La Pañoleta with wine tasting included.

Exceptional cultural heritage

The Vía de la Plata was the cornerstone, from the 1st to the 19th century, over which new roads and trails were built, and it acquired importance during medieval times with the livestock tracks, which the Mesta used for moving their flocks on the way to new pastures. Therefore, the Vía de la Plata is an exceptional historical and artistic legacy due to the art and civilisation that were created along it, with cities, circuses, temples, aqueducts, bridges, arches and forts being built, and the development of rich traditional architecture, folklore and craftwork was also favoured.

The Itálica Archaeological Complex

The city, walled, had an extension of 3,150 meters, and composed five main streets, parallel and sewer.

Among the ruins of what was once the nova urbs, we can find six public buildings and approximately fifty houses -generally two in each block-, most of them not yet excavated. We can highlight several great constructions that can be visited, such as the amphitheater, the theater, the temple dedicated to Trajan (the Traianeum), the thermal baths and several houses some of them have mosaics of great color and creativity.

Of the important monuments that there were in the city there are many remains of great interest and archaeological and sculptural value Many pieces are preserved in the Archaeological Museum of Seville.

An important part of the Roman remains was lost during the wars of the Visigoth kings Leovigildo and Hermenegildo, when using them as constructive elements to divert the course of the Guadalquivir river.


Besides the several Roman Sea Ports we already described, we also like to focus sometimes on river ports used or built by the Romans and especially those river ports which were tremendous important for the overseas trade. As we saw at Narbonne, cities laying on a river were often equipped with a network of harbours (see ‘Narbonne, gate to the Celtic world’) Today we like to tell something about one of the ports connected with the legendary kingdom of Tartessos in the western province of Spain, Hispania Baetica, which was very important among others for the trade with Britannia.

Photo 1: Tartessos cultural area 1.

Photo 2: Waterways around Hispalis and
Italica in Roman era 4

Italica was the first city to be founded in Spain by the Romans being situated about six miles to the north of Hispalis (modern Seville) in the Guadalquivir valley. Geograhically, Italica lies close to the routes running from the mining zone in the Sierra Norte mountains.
The area which became the city of Italica from 206 BC can be traced back to the 8th Century BC and the Kingdom of Tartessos 2 which covered an area of the middle and lower Guadalquivir Valley. The city of Tartessos was situated on the Atlantic coast at the mouth of the river Guadalquivir 3 . Trade flourished at those times with the Phoenicians and Greeks who operated prosperous factories smelting ores and manufacturing pottery.

Photo 3: Publius Cornelius Scipio
Africanus 6

Italica 5 was founded in 206 BC by Publius Cornelius Scipio (Africanus) specially for the veterans and invalids from the Battle of Ilipa in the 2nd Punic War against the Carthaginians, who settled there in 206/205 BC.
In due course, three Roman tribes moved into the city, the Gens Ulpia, the Aelii and the Tirahii. The Aelia were the ancestors of Hadrian and possible Trajan, both of whom were probably born in the city. It has been suggested that Theodosius (346-395 AD) was also born in Italica, but it is more likely that he was born at Coca, Segovia.
Particularly under the influence of Hadrian and Trajan, the city became quite prosperous and was linked to a busy river port. According to “The Catalogue of Ancient Ports” (nr 317), the port of Italica was situated at what is now the town of Santiponce. The catalogue states that the port could be found on an “affluent” of the Guadalquivir river, namely the Madre Viega (see photo 2).
Italica was an important centre for the redistribution of metals mined at Rio Tinto and Aznalcollar in the Sierra Morena. At what is now Santiponce, there is evidence that there was a large lake that was both wide and deep on the edge of Italica. This would have made it easy for big boats to turn and take advantage of the deep connection to the sea via the Guadalquivir.

Photo 4: Italica in the second century AD

The vetus urbs (original or "old" city), founded in the second century BC, developed into a prosperous city, built on a Hippodamian street plan (i.e. wide avenues with smaller streets between, at right angles to the main avenues) with public buildings and a forum at the centre. At the eastside the old town was linked to a busy river port connected with the Atlantic Ocean via the rivers Madre Viega and Beatis (modern Guadalquivir).

Photo 5: The theatre built by Augustus 7

Many improvements were made by the emperor Augustus, including the building of a 3000 seat theatre.
As we already mentioned, the forbears of both Trajan and Hadrian originally came from Italica and it is likely that both emperors were born there. Under Trajan, but especially under Hadrian, Italica flourished, its area increasing fourfold. He expanded the city northwards as the nova urbs (new city) and in the 2nd Century AD, upon its request, elevated it to the status of colonia as


When Italica was awarded municipal status, a short-lived mint was set up producing the low value As. These are just three examples of the coins produced:

Roman As minted after 14 AD.

Roman As minted after 27 AD.
Reverse: ROMA (holding a spear and shield)

Roman As minted during reign of Tiberius.

Hadrian also added temples, including the enormous and unique Trajaneum 8 in the centre of the city to venerate his predecessor and adopted father, and rebuilt public buildings. Today the republican town lies beneath the modern city of Santiponce.

Photo 6: Amphitheatre of Italica 9

When you arrive at Italica, the first thing that you see is the remains of the Amphitheatre. The seating capacity was 25,000 and it was built in a city with a population of just 8,000. It is the third largest Roman amphitheatre and by far the biggest building in the city, having survived despite much pillaging over the years. Most of the first level of seating remains along with some of the second and third rows.

Photo 7: Close up of the pit in the amphitheatre 10

In the centre of the arena is a pit where the animals were kept, which was covered by decking during the performances. Underneath the seating, corridors (or Vaults) ran all the way round the amphitheatre and these are still accessible today.
In 2016 the amphitheatre was used as a filming location for the international famous TV show ‘Game of Thrones’.
There were many side rooms off these corridors, and in one of the rooms hangs the copy of a lead plaque. The plaque is called the Tabula Gladiatoria which tells how elated the priests were that the costs of putting on gladiator fights was going to be reduced. The original Tabula Gladiatoria can be seen in Madrid.

Photo 8: Part of the Tabula Gladiatoria

When you enter the amphitheatre, a number of interesting features can be seen at floor level, namely some ‘boards’ for the game of Rota 11 and a reproduction of a votive offering.

Photo 9: The Rota boards in the amphitheatre of Italica

During the reign of Tiberius, a small shrine to Isis was built in the theatre and it was there that four ex voto marble inscriptions were found showing the characteristic foot prints. The votive offerings came originally from a find in one of the rooms in the amphitheatre.

Photo 10: Samples of the votive offerings 12

The remainder of what else still can be seen in Italica is in the urbs nova (new town). The urbs nova follows, like the old city, also a Hippodamian street plan. On, or near the main avenue, the Cardus Maximus, several large houses have been excavated (see photo 4).

The house of the Exedra (semi circular niche)

Photo 11: The house of the Exedra.

This house is the first you meet when you by-pass the amphitheatre. Because of its size, it is thought to have had a dual function – residential and business or socialising. The business or socialising part may have housed a school or have been the headquarters of some organisation.
In the residential section was a central pond and several latrines with decorated mosaic floors. (Compare this house with the ‘Schola di Traiano’ in Ostia).

Photo 12: A mosaic floor in the House of the Exedra

The house of the Planetarium
Close by, to the south-west, is another impressive building, the House of the Planetarium.

Photo 13: Mosaic with the seven celestial bodies 13 . Photo 14: Mitreo di Felicissimus at Ostia

The house was built in the 2nd Century AD but was later split into smaller units. The mosaic represents the seven celestial bodies that were closest to the earth. In similar mosaics Sol ("Deus Sol Invictus") was found at the centre, but here it is Venus. It has been suggested that the mosaic is a calendar, as the days of the week are named after the Gods Sol (Sunday), Luna (Monday), Mars (Tuesday), Mercury (Wednesday), Jupiter (Friday) and Saturn (Saterday). These seven Gods are also associated with the seven grades of the Mithras cult that can be seen also in the mosaic of the Mitreo di Felicissimus at Ostia (see our article:’The last ecavated Mithras Sanctuary’).

Apart from the mosaic and description provided, several other mosaics could be found in the house including the Mosaic of the Animals. As you enter the house, an oven is immediately visible.

Photo 15: The house of the Planetarium 14.

House of Neptune

Built in Hadrian’s time, the house had its own thermal baths and caldarium (hot room). Several mosaics have been found there, but the main one suggests that the owners had Egyptian interests.

Photo 16: Mosaic of Neptune 15

Neptune can be seen in a chariot being drawn by a hippocampus surrounded by crocodiles, hippopotami and pygmies fighting ibises. The mosaic is very similar to the mosaic found in the Baths of Neptune at Ostia and the labyrinth maze is similar to the one at Knossus.

Photo 17: The labyrinth mosaic in the House of Neptune 16

House of the Birds
The house of the Birds was the first house of Italica that was completely excavated.

Photo 18: Plan of the House of the Birds

The house was built in the time of Hadrian, obviously for a member of the upper classes. Like all these houses it was connected to the water system of Italica and had a water cistern in the basement. The main mosaic in the house consisted of 35 small squares, each showing different species of birds. Unfortunately, the sqare in the middle is damage and cannot be interpreted. At the entry end to the house were several tabernae (taverns). In one of them was a large bread-making oven. Also a small private altar to the Lares (house gods) has been found.

Photo 19: Mosaic of the birds

House of Hilas

Photo 20: Plan of the House of Hilas

Like all the houses mentioned, this was of traditional structure and obviously luxurious. The mosaic that gives the name to the house can now be seen in the Sevilla Museum.

Photo 21: Mosic of the House of Hilas (Now in the Museum of Acrhaeology in Seville)

What is happening in the mosaic, follows the verses of Apollonius of Rhodes describing the voyage of the Argonauts in the search for the golden fleece. Hercules and Hilas disembark in Bithynia looking for a source of water. Hilas is trapped by some nymphs and despite looking for help from Hercules, he cannot be rescued.

The Port
For details of the port at Italica, we rely on the reports of historians who visited the site in the past centuries. In the 16th Century, Italica was visited by Ambrosio de Morales18 and others. In their writings they describe ‘a powerful wharf that lies in the ruins of the city amongst layers of sand’. The Spanish local writer, Fernandez Prieto Sotelo, wrote in the 18th Century of a large wall at Italica, locally known as the pier. Apparently, not many years before he visited the site, large bronze rings (argallones) were still attached to the pier and it was here that the boats could be loaded/unloaded and tied to the pier for storage purposes.

Photo 22: The Guadalquivir near Seville 17 .

Downstream from Italica was the larger port of Hispalis which was probably situated near the Puerta Jerez in the modern city of Seville.
The port at Italica went into decline as a result of silting up of the Madre Viega in the 3rd Century due probably to deforestation in the immediate area whereas the port at Hispalis continued to flourish.
Italica simply became a quarry supplying artefacts and building materials for growing Hispalis (Seville).

Spanish Oil

Besides the already mentioned mining and metal industry, the whole of the Guadalquivir Valley and its surroundings (Roman Baetica) was involved in the growing of olive trees and the export of olive oil. This required the production of large numbers of amphorae to carry the oil and there were scores of pottery works in the Guadalquivir Valley between the mouth of the river and Corduba (modern Cordoba).

Photo 23: Dressel 20 type

It is likely that production was continued from pre-Roman days in Italica as several pottery kilns have been found in the area.

Photo 24: Roman pottery kiln in Malaga 19

It has been estimated that 80% of the amphorae produced, as llustrated, were the Dressel 20 type The evidence for this comes from the Monte Testaccio in Rome, a man-made mountain of broken (mainly Dressel 20) amphorae. Calculations similarly have been carried out to show how much olive oil each Roman soldier would need for personal hygiene, food preparation and lighting purposes. Without going through each stage of this calculation, it has been worked out that each Roman soldier would require 6.5 gallons or almost 30 litres of olive oil each year. Bearing in mind that there were 6000 soldiers at the garrison at York for example, that adds up to rather a lot of olive oil!

Britannica and the Spanish oil

Photo 25: Transport from Spain to Britain

So, the main destination of olive oil from the Guadalquivir valley was Rome itself and the Roman military camps scattered about Europe, thus also Britain. As to know how the olive oil actually got to Britain, there have been several routes suggested.
The cheapest form of transport was by sea so the boats could have sailed along the west and north coasts of the Iberian peninsula, along the west coast of France into the Oceanus Britannicus 20 . This route could obviously be quite hazardous, but the Romans did build the lighthouse at Corunna in an attempt to make sea transport safer.
The most expensive way to transport goods was by land. There was a land route to Morlaix, in what is now Brittany, from Marseilles but this would also have taken longer than the sea route.
A third possibility was from Cadiz to the mouth of the Rhone, then via the Rhone and Loire valleys to the mouth of the Loire river towards the north of the Bay of Biscay. These three routes are only suggestions, but as they have also been suggested as possible routes for the export of tin from Cornwall for example, it would seem to make sense that goods were being carried in both directions, keeping the boats “full” all the time 21 .

Photo 26: Transport routes in the north of Britain.

The above picture shows some of the routes that could have taken olive oil to the north of Britain.
South Shields was a busy port at the eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall and from here there were Roman roads that ran along the southern side of the Wall.
Brough was a crossing point of the River Humber and was positioned on Ermine Street which continued on to York. So again, road transport would be used to transport the olive oil to its final destination.
York itself was a busy port with wharves and warehouses and olive oil was passed from there to Catterick via Aldborough (Isurium Brigantum.)
There is also evidence of trade between Catterick and Vindolanda via Dere Street. Filey was a safe harbour used as a dropping-off point for the olive oil, and Roman roads ran from there to Malton and then onto York where there was a large garrison.
The two ports on the west side of the country in Cumbria, where olive oil would be delivered to the Wall were most likely Maryport and Bowness. Maryport was the larger of the two but both had roads leading to Carlisle at the western end of the Wall.
Further south was the city and port of Chester on the navigable stretch of the River Dee, again a military stronghold.

In this way Spanish oliveoil was sent also to all the places where Roman soldiers were encamped. So, there wasn't only trade between a province and Rome but also between all the different areas of the total Roman Empire.

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