Barcino: The Roman City

When the Romans conquered the northeastern part of Spain, around 15 A.D., they established a capital in Tarraco (modern day Tarragona), another major city in Caesaraugusta (modern day Zaragoza) and Barcino (modern day Barcelona). Although Barcino was not initially the most powerful, it quickly grew in importance. The Romanization of Spain was vital to the nation’s development as the first laws came from the Romans, and Spanish (and Catalan) are derived from Latin.

The city was in a strategic location between two rivers, the Llebregat and the Besós. It was protected from the northern winds by the Collserola Mountains and had contacts in the

Mediterranean – Greeks and Carthegenians. It was also built on a branch of the Via Augusta, one of the major roadways that ran through the Spanish Roman empire. Barcino was a walled city built in the shape of an “oppidum,”or elongated rectangle.

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The Romans did not keep their dead inside the city walls, so several sarcophaguses can still be found in the Gothic Neighborhood. Holes were cut into the tombs so relatives could continue to “feed” their loved ones.

Based on artifacts uncovered from the era, it’s clear that the city thrived later in the Roman Empire. The first amphoras, or ceramic containers, were used to ship fish and other products from Barcino.IMG_2025
Today, all that remains of the ancient Roman city in Barcelona are three columns from the Temple of Augustus, a large temple dedicated to Caesar Augustus, and the archeological site of the Museu d’História de la Ciutat. The temple was built on Barcino’s highest point, Mount Táber at 16.9 meters.

Walking through El Barrio Gótico today, locals and visitors are reminded of Barcelona’s Roman history through street signs and Joan Brossa’s sculpture in the plaza of the Cathedral of Barcelona. A portion of the city’s arched aqueduct is also visible, along with small portions of the Roman walls.

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Ruins are something I find extremely fascinating, and when I came to Spain I did not realize the country was founded on such a strong Roman base. Marks of the ancient community are everywhere, if you just take the time to look.

 

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