Spain, The Roman Empire

Roman Zaragoza

Caesaraugusta is the only Roman city bearing the full name of its founder, Caesar Augustus. Its thought to have been founded in 14 BCE, perhaps 23rd December, coinciding with the 54th birthday of the Emperor. Caesaraugusta received the status of tribute-exempt colony of Roman citizens. During the 1st and 2nd century CE it experienced a period of splendour in which large public works were undertaken. The Roman City Walls, Theatre and River Port are just some of the remains from the Roman period still visible in Zaragoza where the former colony’s commercial, economic and cultural activities took place.

The Roman Theatre was discovered by chance in 1972 when construction of a new building began on Verónica street. After archeological campaigns Zaragoza City Hall took over the final excavations 1998-2002, and the museum was built. Of the Roman buildings from Caesaraugusta, the theatre is the best preserved of the city. For 200 years it was a meeting place, a focal point for social life and leisure activities for both the city and its surrounding area, transmitting the cultural, political and religious values of the Roman Empire.

Its location, at the highest point of the city meant that it overlooked a line of monumental buildings of which important archeological remains are preserved in the city’s different museums: the forum and its area devoted to the river port, and the public baths. The theatre, built in the 1st century within the town perimeter, stood out from the rest of the buildings as a point of reference in an essentially flat landscape. As time passed the theatre’s activity declined and during the 2nd half of the 3rd century the building was looted for its materials that were then used to build the nearby city wall during a period of political instability. Visiting its ruins today its difficult to appreciate the grandiosity of the building which once stood some 25 metres high, the hight at which the present roof has been installed.

During the demolition of a series of old buildings in 1989, remains of the Roman River Port were discovered, from the northeast boundary of the Roman Forum of Caesaraugusta. The structures remaining from this sector of the forum, dating from between the end of the 1st century BCE and the 1st century CE, are the arches of a spectacular facade oriented toward the river, leading onto a vestibule and the flight of steps that joined the port docks and the forum square. In some of the ashlar stones in this sector there are still the quarry marks made by the builders: soldiers belonging to the VI Victrix legion which, together with the IV Mecedonia legion, founded the city of Caesaraugusta.

The Ebro River was navigable in Antiquity from the town of Vareia (Logroño) and its banks were dotted with wharfs and large ports. The port of Caesaraugusta occupied most of the right bank of the city along a straight, protected stretch of quiet waters after a tight meander. The port became the most supplying point in the centre of the valley. Imported goods were brought upstream from Dertosa (Tortosa) a sea and river port. The raw materials of the valley were transported downriver towards the Mediterranean. The coins minted by Dertosa bear images of the boats that sailed the Ebro in Roman times. Cables were used to pull the boats upriver, an activity requiring great physical strength and which was still used well into the 20th century.

Information and illustrations from Museums of the Ceasaraugusta Route and ‘Alexander Omega’ by Hands Of Doom.

Journey Thru History, Perseus Records ® 2016

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