THE ROMAN COLONY OF EMERITA AUGUSTA
(present day Mérida) was founded in 25 BC
by Octavius Augustus, to resettle emeritus
soldiers discharged from the Roman army from
two veteran legions of the Cantabrian
Wars: Legio V Alaudae and Legio X Gemina.
The city was the capital of the Roman province
Today the Archaeological Ensemble of
Mérida is one of the largest and most extensive
archaeological sites in Spain and
aUNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993.
The theatre was built from 16 to 15 BC and dedicated by
the consul Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. It was renovated in
the late 1st or early 2nd century AD, possibly by the
emperor Trajan, and again between 330 and 340
during Constantine s reign, when a walkway around the
monument and new decorative elements were added. With
the advent of Christianity as Rome's sole state religion,
theatrical performances were officially declared immoral:
the theatre was abandoned and most of its fabric was
covered with earth, leaving only its upper tiers of seats
(summa cavea). In Spanish tradition, these were known as
"The Seven Chairs" in which it is popularly thought that
several Moorish kings held court to decide the fate of the
ROMAN AMPHITHEATRE .
The amphitheatre was dedicated in 8 BC, for use in gladiatorial
contests and staged beast-hunts. It has an elliptical arena,
surrounded by tiered seating for around 15000 spectators, divided
according to the requirements of Augustan ideology; the lowest
seats were reserved for the highest status spectators. Only these
lowest tiers survive. Once the games had fallen into disuse, the stone
of the upper tiers was quarried for use elsewhere.
The circus of Emerita Augusta was built some time around
20 BC, and was in use for many years before its dedication
some thirty years later, probably during the reign of
Augustus' successor, Tiberius. It was sited outside the city
walls, alongside the road that connected Emeritus in
Corduba (Córdoba) with Toletum (Toledo). Like most
circuses throughout the Roman Empire, Mérida's resembled
a scaled-down version of Rome's Circus Maximus
ROMAN BRIDGE OVER THE GUADIANA.
The bridge can be considered the focal point of the city. It
connects to one of the main arteries of the colony,
the Decumanus Maximus, or east-west main street typical of
The location of the bridge was carefully selected at a ford of
the river Guadiana, which offered as a support a central
island that divides it into two channels.
“LOS MILAGROS” AQUEDUCT.
The aqueduct was part of the supply system that
brought water to Mérida from the Proserpina
Dam located 5 km from the city and dates from the
early 1st century BC.
The arcade is fairly well preserved, especially the
section that spans the valley of the river Albarregas.
It is known by this name, because it seems a miracle
that it was still standing.
TEMPLE OF DIANA.
This temple is a municipal building belonging to the
city forum. It is one of the few buildings of religious
character preserved in a satisfactory state. Despite its
name, wrongly assigned on its discovery, the building
was dedicated to the Imperial cult. It was built in the late
1st century BC or early in the Augustan era. Later it was
partly re-used for the palace of the Count of Corbos.
Rectangular, and surrounded by columns, it faces the
front of the city's Forum. This front is formed by a set of
six columns ending in a gable. It is mainly built of granite.
An entrance arch, possibly to the provincial forum. It was located in the Cardo
Maximus, one of the main streets of the city and connected it to the municipal
Made of granite and originally faced with marble, it measures 13.97 meters
high, 5.70 m wide and 8.67 m internal diameter. It is believed to have a
triumphal character, although it could also serve as a prelude to the Provincial
Forum. Immersed in the maze of modern construction and masked by nearby
houses, this arch stands majestically and admired by travelers and historians
of all times. Its name is arbitrary, as the commemorative inscription was lost
This building was found fortuitously in
the early 1960s, and is located on the
southern slope of Mount San Albín.
Its proximity to the location of
Mérida's Mithraeum led to its current
name. The whole house was built in
blocks of unworked stone with
reinforced corners. It demonstrates
the peristyle house with
interior garden and a room of the
famous western sector Cosmogonic
Mosaic, an allegorical representation
of the elements of nature (rivers,
winds, etc.) overseen by the figure
of Aion. The complex has been
recently roofed and renovated.
The Columbaria are two roofless funeral buildings, part of a
necropolis outside the walls of the Roman city. Both are the
best examples of funerary constructions in Emerita. The
materials used for manufacturing of the building are
unworked stone and granite for the seating. Both buildings
have preserved their identifying epigraphs of the original
families who owned them, (the Voconii and the Iulii).
Recently the area has been arranged as a promenade and
park about the relation to death of Mérida inhabitants.
Quotations ofEpicureists and Stoics are displayed in
panels, and tomb remains and trees are mixed with panels
explaining Roman funeral rites. Two Roman mausoleums
are also on the same site. During the 1970s this was the
slum dwelling of a tin-worker's family.
The area is accessed through the House of the Mithraeum.