The Roman Route
In the 3rd century B.C., the province of Cadiz fell to the Romans which already controlled the Guadalquivir River Valley. This would mark the start of a period of great prosperity for the province within the Empire. The province's important role can still be seen from the many different archaeological remains - theatres, burial grounds, drains, aqueducts, roads, fish factories, walls -, scattered throughout the province, from where wine, oil and salted fish were exported to Rome.
These remains from the Roman era are particularly notable in the provincial capital of the same name, known as Gades under the Romans, which was the birthplace of the mother of Emperor Hadrian, Juan Moderato Columela, the famous farmer, and of the powerful Balbo family. Baelo Claudia, on the shore of the Bolonia inlet (Tarifa), was famous for its factories where "garum", the delicacy that was so sought-after by the gourmets of the time, was produced. Other urban centres (Asido, Carteia, Asta Regia, Iptuci, Ocuri) prospered in the shadow of the cities and are witnesses to a splendid periods of the province's past.
JEREZ-CÁDIZ-BAELO CLAUDIA (BOLONIA)-CARTEIA
Its name dates back to the Phoenician city of Xera, Sèrès, which was then Romanised with the name of Ceret, even though its actual location is still unknown. During the Roman era, the city of Asta Regia was very important and its archaeological remains can be seen in the rural district of Mesas de Asta, 11 km. from the city.
Local wines were exported throughout the Roman Empire and were even tolerated by the Arabs. This marked the start of the expansion and fame of the world famous Sherry wines from Jerez. Horses played a key role in the Roman armies and the local horses were highly sought after.
Traces of Rome: Your visit should start at the Archaeological Museum, which is located in the old Muslim Medina of the city. The building is home to a permanent exhibition that traces the history of the human groups that settled locally.
This city of legends, which is over three thousand years old and the oldest in Western Europe, is now popularly known as the "Tacita de Plata" or "Silver Cup". Cadiz was founded by the Phoenicians in 1100 B.C., even though the oldest archaeological remains date back to the 8th century B.C. Legend has that the earliest settlement was founded by Hercules and linked to the legendary Tartessos. The Phoenicians called the settlement Gadir, which meant "closed complex". They built a commercial factory and a temple to worship the god Melkart.
In 206 B.C., it would become part of Rome as an allied city called Gades. This would mark the start of one of the city's most prosperous eras and it became one of the most important of the Empire. It was known as "Augusta Urbs Julia Gaditana" during the Roman era. During the reign of Julius Cesar in the 1st century B.C, the city's inhabitants were awarded Roman citizenship. Under the Balbo family, Cadiz was a Roman city whose economic importance was only exceeded by Rome.
Apart from its many attractive sights, thanks to its history dating back over 3000 years, the visits spotlighting its Roman past are:
Classical sources date the construction of Cadiz's Roman Theatre to halfway through the 1st century B.C. Built under the aegis of Balbo, it was the second largest in the Roman world, after the Pompeyo Theatre in Rome. However, the information gathered during the excavations show that it had been widely refurbished during the reign of Augustus. It was erected on a large area of the neighbourhood that is now El Pópulo, which was the part within the walls of the medieval city. The excavations so far have only unearthed part of this monument: the remains of the early façade in the upper part, a large part of the semi-circular seating, part of the stage and a section of the gallery connecting the different parts of the theatre, covered with semicircular vaulting.
This archaeological settlement reveals a large part of the history of Cadiz through its remains. A thrilling stroll through 1500 m2 takes you back through time thanks to the discoveries in the "entrails" of the former bishop palace of Cadiz. The house contains glass floors and digital reconstruction with information on the evolution of the city from the 8th century B.C. to the 18th century.
It has been the place of worship for different civilisations and started out as a huge Phoenician funeral monument. During the Roman era, it was a complex with a temple, where they worshipped Apollo, Asclepius or Hygeia (healing temple).There are also remains of Roman cisterns from the 1st century A.D. In the 16th century, Bishop García de Haro turned it into his residence.
The archaeological settlement of the Bishop's House is right in the historical centre of the city of Cadiz, between the former cathedral and the new cathedral of the city.
Salting Factory (booking required)
The salting factory is within the Cadiz District of Historical Interest and was declared a Site of Cultural Interest by the Autonomous Government of Andalusia in 1998. This complex dates back to the 1st century B.C., which was a time of growth and splendour for the city ruled by the Balbo, and it was operational until the start of the 14th century.
These are the remains of the Roman preserving and fishing industry, which was a salting factory where the fish was cleaned, cut up and salted to make salted fish and sauces.
The information panels describes all those aspects and puts them into context in the relief and structure of Roman Gades, apart from explaining the importance of the salting industry within the Empire, along with snapshots of moments during the excavation work.
Cadiz museum is in the square known as Plaza de Mina in the historical centre. It is built on land seized from the Franciscan monks in the 19th century. The refurbished Museum has three sections: Archaeology, Fine Arts and Ethnography. Its collection boasts: the Phoenician anthropoid sarcophagus, the finds from the Roman era) with different items from Baelo Claudia, Medina Sidonia, Carissa Aurelia, Sancti Petri or Gades) and the rooms featuring the Baroque art, with works by Zurbarán, Alonso Cano, Rubens, Juan Carreño de Miranda and Murillo. Its activities include the guided visits, series of visits, the "items of the month" where one work from museum is analysed and discussed, "Voices in the Museum" conference cycle, etc. Telf.: 956 203 368
BAELO CLAUDIA, BOLONIA (TARIFA)
Baelo Claudia is located on the Bolonia inlet, an unspoilt spot boasting one of the province's best beaches in the municipal district of Tarifa. It became a Roman settlement at the end of the 2nd century B.C. and was at its heyday during the reign of Emperor Claudius (1st century A. D.). The archaeological complex can be visited and is made up by the ruins of that flourishing town, laid out in the classical manner and surrounded by walls. The itinerary takes in the forum and the most important public buildings next to the beach. That district was the location of the fish salting factors and where the famous "garum" fish sauce was made. These products made the city famous throughout the Empire. The factories can be seen in a perfect state of conservation in the complex.
"Garum" or "garo" was a type of sauce made out the remains of tuna and sturgeon, which was dipped in brine and then left to dry for several weeks in the tanks exposed to the sol where the mixture was beaten to help it ferment. It was considered a highly sought-after delicacy by the Romans during the Empire.
Before starting the visit through the archaeological complex, you should visit the Baelo Claudia Visitors' Centre next to the site, in order to get an overall view and it will help you learn about and appreciate this artistic enclave. You will also be struck by the unrivalled views of the archaeological site, the Cadiz coast and the Straits of Gibraltar.
Continuing along the coast, you reach the heart of the Campo de Gibraltar and San Roque, with the ruins of the city of Carteia. This settlement, which dates back to Phoenician times (c. 7th century B.C.) and was run by the Romans from the 2nd century B. C. onwards, played a particularly important role due to its strategic location close to the Straits of Gibraltar. One of the highlights of the visit is the thermal pool, which seems to have been recently built, but in fact is over two thousand years old. Take exit 117 from the A-7 motorway towards Guadarranque to reach Carteia.
INLAND ROMAN ROUTE
Asido Caeserina - Sierra de Aznar - Carissa Aurelia - Iptuci-Ocurri
Medina-Arcos de la Frontera-Espera-Prado del Rey-Ubrique
The site to be visited along this route is:
Medina Sidonia, Asido Caeserina during the Roman Empire, preserves a highly important legacy (1st century. A.D.) of magnificent examples of public facilities and hygiene infrastructures used during the Roman civilisation. The archaeological complex at Medina Sidonia includes remains of hydraulic structures and underground channels, which were the drains and sewers of the early Roman city, and which makes up a unique complex in Spain. And the visit will not be complete without seeing the Roman road.
The Carissa Aurelia site, currently Espera, was a former settlement dating back to the Neolithic era and which was at its heyday during the Roman era (2nd to 4th centuries). The two necropolises dug out of the rock dates back to that time. The northern necropolis is from the Imperial period and was the site of incineration and burial; the southern necropolis is older, from the Republican era and only had incineration facilities. The burial sites were niches excavated in the rock where the urns were placed. It is located in the municipal district of Espera and can be reached from the Avenida de Sevilla.
The Espera Archaeological Museum is open from 10.00 to 14.00 and 16.00 to 20.00 hours on Tuesdays, Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays and from 10.00 to 14.00 hours on Sundays. There is a permanent exhibition on the Iberian-Roman funeral ceremonies, with information on the characteristics and importance of the rites at that time.
Ocuri (2nd century B.C.) is situated within a stone's throw of Ubrique, the capital of leather, on top of the Salto de la Mora. It is an interesting archaeological complex, where important ruins, such as the columbarium funerary architecture, are preserved, together with traces of domestic architecture, walls and remains of utility infrastructures.
The Roman road runs from opposite the Monastery of the Capunchin Order, along an alleyway known as "Camino de Benaocaz". This is the start of our route along an old Roman road in a good state of repair. This road runs from Ubrique towards Benaocaz and ends in an area known as "new water" close to Benaocaz.
The route is an easy stroll and takes approximate 1 hour.
It is currently closed to visitors.
The Sierra de Aznar site is in the Arcos de la Frontera municipal district, the gateway to the Cadiz mountain range. The site was formerly the ancient Iberian-Roman city and part of its walls, some traces of houses and the burial sites can still be seen, along with interesting examples of its hydraulic system to supply water.
Continuing along the route through the Sierra de Cadiz, you will reach Iptuci which is 5 kilometres from Prado del Rey. This archaeological site boasts the remains of the walls and towers, together with some paving and architectural features of the houses of what was an important Roman city (2nd century B.C.), whose inhabitants worked the local salt pans. You can still see the Hortales salt pans in the heart of the Sierra de Cádiz, the only inland ones that can still be seen.
Monuments in Arcos de la Frontera
Sierra de Aznar site. Currently being unearthed -Telf. 956 702 264. Visits. Reception and Information: Municipal Tourist Office
Monuments in Cadiz
Cadiz Roman Theatre. Department of Culture - Autonomous Government of Andalusia Telf.: 956 009 418. Location: Campo del Sur, s/nº
Cadiz Museum. Location: Plaza de Mina, s/nº Tel. 956 203368
Salting Factory. Visits and information - Cadiz Museum -Tel: 956 203 368
Bishop's House site. Callejón Fray Felix,5. Tel: 956 264 734.
Monuments in Espera
Carissia Aurelia Espera Roman city. It is located in the Espera municipal district and is reached along Avenida de Sevilla, (A-393) to the Villamartín-Las Cabezas A-371 crossroad. Go towards Villamartin and turn right along the CA-4031 at the Puerto Llano estate. The path will take you to the Carissa Aurelia carpark.
Monuments in Jerez
Jerez Archaeological Museum. Location: Plaza del Mercado, s/nº. Tel. 956 333 316
Monuments in Medina Sidonia.
Asido Caesarina Roman Archaeological Complex. Location: C/Ortega,10. Tel. 956 41 24 04
Monuments in San Roque
Carteia archaeological settlement. Location: A7 motorway, exit 117 Barriada de Guadarranque-San Roque. Tel. 956 670 122 Website: www.sanroque.es/turismo
Monuments in Tarifa
Baelo Claudia Archaeological Complex. Location: Ensenada de Bolonia - Carretera N-340, km 70,2 Tel. 956 106 797
Monuments in Ubrique
Ocuri Roman City. Location: Ctra. A-374. Tel. 956 464 900. Visits. Reception and Information: Ubrique Municipal Tourist Office