The ruins of Baelo Claudia lie along the beach of Bolonia.
|Location||Bolonia, Province of Cádiz, Andalusia, Spain|
|Founded||End of the 2nd century BC|
|Abandoned||6th century AD|
Baelo Claudia is the name of an ancient Roman town, located 22 kilometres (14 mi) outside of Tarifa, near the village of Bolonia, in southern Spain. Lying on the shores of the Strait of Gibraltar, the town was originally a fishing village and trade link when it was settled some 2,000 years ago. Although prosperous at the time of Emperor Claudius, it went into a decline hastened by earthquakes and was abandoned by the 6th century.
The study of its architectural remains shows its Roman origin at the end of the 2nd century BC, already observed since that time a great wealth that makes it an important economic center in the Mediterranean area.
Baelo Claudia is situated on the northern shore of the Strait of Gibraltar. The town was founded in the end of the 2nd century BC as a result of trade with North Africa (it was a major port for Tangier, in Mauretania Tingitana, for example). It is possible that Baelo Claudia had some functions of governmental administration, but tuna fishing, salting, and the production of garum were the primary sources of wealth. The city was eventually successful enough to be granted the title of municipium by Emperor Claudius.
The life of the inhabitants reached its greatest splendor during the 1st century BC and the 2nd century AD. In the middle of the 2nd century, however, the town declined, probably as a result of a major earthquake which wiped out a large part. In addition to such natural disasters, by the 3rd century, the town was beset by hordes of pirates, both Germanic and Barbary. Although it experienced a slight renaissance later in the century, by the 6th century, the town had been abandoned.
Excavations have revealed the most comprehensive remains of a Roman town in the whole of the Iberian Peninsula, with extremely interesting monuments such as the basilica, theatre, market, and the temple of Isis. The spectacular setting in El Estrecho Natural Park allows the visitor to see the coast of Morocco. A modern Visitor Centre showcases many artefacts and has a comprehensive introduction to the site. It also offers parking, shade, toilets, a shop and good views of the sea. Admission is free to citizens of the European Economic Area on production of an ID card.
The archeological site
In its urban layout are distinguished the two main classical routes of the Roman city: the decumanus maximus , which ran from East to West and at the ends were located the entrance to the city, and the cardo maximus , which crosses it at a right angle and therefore in a north-south direction.
In the meeting of these two main streets was the forum or main square, whose current pavement is the original slabs of Tarifa preserved since the 1st century, and around which the main public buildings were distributed. This was an open square with porticos on three sides, from one of which three of them were accessed: the emperor's temple, the curia, and another that served as a meeting room. The main building, located in the background is the basilica, for various purposes and especially the seat of the courts of justice; and on the left side there were small rectangular constructions made of stones: the shops or tabernaes.
In the archaeological site the most representative elements that constituted the essence of a Roman city are preserved. This one had:
- A walls, reinforced with more than forty watchtowers, of which the main gates of the city are conserved, the one that was directed to Gades, to the west, and the one that was directed a Carteia (near San Roque). Towards the East, there existed a third door located to the north of the city, called Puerta de Asido.
- Buildings of an administrative nature such as curia (local senate) or the municipal archive.
- A public square (forum).
- A courthouse (judicial basilica), located in the forum in front of the temples. It has rectangular plant and measures 19.5 by 35.5 meters. It was presided by a statue of the emperor Trajan more than three meters high.
- Four temples: three dedicated to each of the components of the Capitoline Triad (Jupiter, Juno and Minerva) and one dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis, related to the Isiac cult in the peninsula, recently discovered by a group of archaeologists of Histdeutsch. A similar provision has only been found in the city of Sbeitla in Tunisia.
- The largest building in Baelo Claudia is the theater, with a capacity of up to 2000 people, where all the actors were men, even in the roles of women, which to interpret were they put on masks, depending on the character they represented.
- You can also see remains of the shops (tabernae), the market (macellum), enclosed area intended for the sale of meat and edible in general and formed by fourteen stores and an inner courtyard ;, and the hot springs (thermae).
The water supply of the city was carried out by means of four aqueducts. The industrial area can also be seen with remains of the garum manufacturing facilities, streets, aqueducts, remnants of the sewerage system, etc. In no other Roman site of the Iberian Peninsula is it possible to extract after the visit such a complete vision of Roman urbanism as in Baelo Claudia. In this lies its main interest, highlighted also by the spectacular landscape that surrounds the city.
Bien de Interés Cultural, its publication as a Monument appeared in La Gaceta de Madrid, in the year 1925. The archaeological site has been accompanied by a museum since 2007, incorporated into the Institutional Headquarters and Visitors Center of the Archaeological Site of Baelo Claudia, designed by the architect Guillermo Vázquez Consuegra.
The current site
The archaeological site is next to a tourist area, so it is beginning to exploit its potential cultural tourism. The site is easily accessed and visits are free, except for foreigners who must pay a fee to visit it.
The Junta de Andalucía has built a new Visitor Reception Center (of which the architect is Guillermo Vázquez Consuegra) and has carried out a Landscape Action Project in the Ensenada de Bolonia (written and executed by the Andalusian Institute of Historical Heritage between 2010 and 2013). Likewise the University of Cádiz conducts studies of the site, giving rise to new discoveries, as the only copy of the Doryphoros of Polykleitos in Hispania.
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- Press, Europa (27 September 2013). "Cádiz.- Cultura.- Hallan un nuevo conjunto termal y una escultura singular en el conjunto arqueológico de Baelo Claudia". www.europapress.es.
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