Baelo Claudia


Baelo Claudia

Baelo Claudia is the name of an ancient Roman town, located 22 km outside of Tarifa, near the village of Bolonia, in southern Spain. Lying on the shores of the Straits 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.

History

The town was born in the end of the 2nd century BC as a result of trade with North Africa (it was a major port for Tangiers, in Morocco, for example). It is possible that Baelo Claudia had some functions of governmental administration, but fishing, pickling, 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 suffered a great tidal wave 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 Celtic and Barbary. Although it experienced a slight renaissance later in the century, by the 6th century, the town had been abandoned.

The archeological site

The archeological site of Baelo Claudia preserves the most representative elements of the typical Roman city. There is a circular protective wall, the main gate, administrative buildings like the "curia" (local senate), the public archive, the forum, the judicial building, a temple to the Egyptian goddess Isis, as well as temples to Juno, Jupiter, and Minerva. Each god has its own individual temple, instead of one temple dedicated to them collectively; the only other Roman town believed to have a similar arrangement is Sbeitla in Tunisia. In addition, there are remnants of stores, a market, baths, and a theater.

Three aqueducts supplied the town with water. There are signs of an industrial zone with the remains of streets, installations for the production of "garum", aqueducts, and a sewer system. No other site in the Iberian Peninsula affords such a complete vision of the Roman urban experience. This is the site's main interest to modern visitors, and it can be seen via an impressive path that circles the town.

References

Pierre Sillières, "Baelo Claudia, une cité romaine de Bétique" (Madrid, 1995)


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