Do you ever feel like you are walking in the past or right through history? I always have that feeling in Rome, I walk through the streets and I feel the rocks charged with the power of antiquity, hear my footsteps echo through time.
Rome is Rome, everyone knows what to expect in The Eternal City but not many people know that you can find the same feeling here in Spain, more precisely in the ancient Roman capital of the Iberian peninsula, Tarragona.
First, a quick history lesson! Everyone knows the story of Julius Caesar, Rome’s would-be dictator turned pin cushion. He sought to take control of the republic and was famously assassinated in the year 44 BC. …by the knives of every member of the Senate. In the turbulent years following Julius Caesar’s death his nephew and heir, Augustus, managed to claim the Roman throne and establish himself as Rome’s first “true” Emperor. In his latter years Augustus spent a winter on the Mediterranean coast, in a town in Hispania province then known as Tarraco, now known as Tarragona. With Augustus’s favor the city blossomed and this lead to the construction of a Roman Forum, a Circus, an Amphitheater and the establishment of a fresh water supply into the city through an amazing aqueduct system that still stands today.
Tarragona’s Roman heritage is visible throughout the city and surrounding region. 2000 year-old structures dot the landscape and many of them were deemed of enough historical significance to be declared UNESCO World Heritage sites. Come on then, shall we take a quick walk through time?
Let’s start our tour of Tarragona at the Ponte del Diablo Aqueduct
This 2000 year old aqueduct brought water into ancient Tarraco from a distance of over 50 kilometers. In ancient times this freshwater was a luxury, only readily available to the very wealthy, the poor plebeians had to make use of the public fountains in the city center.
Our trip continues with a visit to the Roman Amphitheater.
This arena hosted the infamous gladiator fights and sometimes religious executions. It was built over an ancient crematorium, as Romans used to burn their dead.
Moving further along on our trip we move into the main part of the city, the Roman Forum , surrounded by the the Roman Wall.
Built in the first century, the wall’s purpose evolved over it’s life. Initially conceived as part of the city’s defenses, over time people added windows and doors to access the Forum and it became more decorative than a true fortification. The Roman Forum of Tarragona was divided in two main parts; the upper half for the religious worship, (where the temple was located) and the lower part for the entertaining, the Circus.
The Circus was the main arena for the famous chariot races. 300 meters long and 105 meters wide, seven long turns to prove the velocity of the horses, the strength of the chariot and the skill of the charioteer. The races were one of the main ways for the politicians of the time to prove their power.
Here we find ourselves at another can’t-miss attraction the astonishing Cathedral of Tarragona.
Aside from being home to one the biggest rosaries in all of Europe, the overall architecture combines elements of Byzantine, Gothic and Romanesque styles. It also contains special chapel dedicated to the patron saint of Tarragona, Saint Thecla, a disciple of St Paul who was said to have been executed (along with twelve other disciples) in the Amphitheater we see today. These martyr’s statues line the the facade of the cathedral but unfortunately the facade was left unfinished due to the Black Death, which ravaged the city, leaving it without workers or sufficient money.
After all this time traveling I got lost… in a candy shop! Well, a Turon shop, more exactly! A turon is very traditional sweet, especially enjoyed around Christmas time!
What an amazing day and what an amazing feeling! Once a friend asked me if I weird being able to walk on 2000 years relics… I said on the contrary, I feel blessed!