The Roman amphitheatre at Italica seated 25,000
|Location||Province of Seville, Spain|
The city of Italica (Spanish: Itálica; north of modern day Santiponce, 9 km NW of Seville, Spain) was founded in 206 BC by the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus in order to settle Roman soldiers wounded in the Battle of Ilipa, where the Carthaginian army was defeated during the Second Punic War. The name Italica bound the colonia to their Italian origins.
Italica was the birthplace of the Roman emperor Trajan. Hadrian was generous to his settled town, which he made a colonia; he added temples, including a Trajaneum venerating Trajan, and rebuilt public buildings. Italica’s amphitheater seated 25,000 spectators—half as many as the Flavian Amphitheatre in Rome— and was the third largest in the Roman Empire. The city's Roman population at the time is estimated to have been only 8000. The games and theatrical performances funded by the local aristocracy, who filled the positions of magistrate, were a means of establishing status: the size of the amphitheater shows that the local elite was maintaining status that extended far beyond Italica itself.
Later history and first excavations
The modern town of Santiponce overlies the "old city" of Republican times founded by Scipio and the pre-Roman Iberian city. The well-preserved city of ruins seen today is the nova urbs magnificently laid out under Hadrian's patronage. 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 isolated, high and dry. The city started to dwindle as early as the 3rd century. Later Seville grew nearby, and no modern city covered most of Italica's foundations. The result is an unusually well-preserved Roman city of Hispania Baetica, and unexpected riches in the Museo Arqueologico of Seville, with its famous marble colossus of Trajan. In Italica, cobbled Roman streets are visible, and mosaic floors still in situ. The excavation of Italica began in 1781 and continues. 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.
Following extensive excavations and the building of visitor facilities, Italica is now a popular destination for tourists.
The ruins of the city also host an annual cross country running competition every January: the Cross Internacional de Itálica. The mass race and children's competitions attract hundreds of participants each year. The senior international competition has featured numerous world champions and (with IAAF permit meeting status) it is one of the world's foremost annual cross country competitions.
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