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Archaeological Sites of Andalucia

Baelo Claudia Archaeological Site

Archaeological Sites of Andalucia

Baelo Claudia Archaeological Site – Bolonia – Tarifa

Between Sea and land

Baelo Claudia  Archaeological Site is situated in a cove on the Atlantic coast in the southern province of Cádiz, municipality of Tarifa, in the Strait of Gibraltar itself and delimited by Cape Paloma and Cape Camarinal. This small bay is flanked by the San Bartolomé Hills in the east and the Higuera and Plata mountain ranges in the west, which acted as a natural barrier between the town and the interior with a single point of access via the so-called Bolonai Pass.

Fron ancient times, the abundance of fish in the Strait of Gibraltar facilitated the settlement of the coast and the exploitation of resources from the sea. Similarly, the advent and practice of navigation permited communication between the two shores.

Baelo´s terrestrial environs -coastal mountains and cliffs with small shelterd coves ideal for mooring vessels- belong to the Strait of Gibraltar Nature Reserve (El Estrecho Natural Park), nearly 20.000 hectares extending 60 kilometers along the coast between the municipalities of Algeciras and Tarifa. Meanwhile, the maritime environs encompass the area situated one nautical mile out to sea, between Cape Gracia and San García Point.

The Strait of Gibralta is home to a rich variety of permanent and migratory marine species, the most important wich is tuna, which pass through twice a year to spawn in the Mediterranean and then return to the Atlantic. The exploitation of livestock and agricultural resources also played and important role: despite the lack of sufficient archaeological data, the coins minted at Baelo featuring ears of wheat and cows as well as fish suggest the this was indeed the case.

Baelo Claudia Archaeological Site

The Historical Question

The Roman army landed on the shores of the Iberian Península towards the end of the 3rd century BC in an attempt to halt the advancing Carthaginians, with whom they were engaged in a dispute for control of the Western Mediterranean.

The Roman victory at the Battle of Ilipa (the present-day town of Alcalá del Río in the province of Seville) in 206 BC signified the end of the Second Punic War and the definitive expulsion of the Carthaginians from Hispania. That same year, by virtue of the signature of a pact or foedus, the Phoenician-Punic town of Gañir (the present-day Cádiz) opened its gates to the Roman army, maintaining its administrative organization in exchange for economic privileges and a promised alliance. As a federal town, it was exempt from payment of the stipendium and entitled to keep its own customs, institutions and identity, as well as the capacity to legistalte, mint coins and trade freely.

From that point on, Rome was unstoppable, and despite resistance from numerous towns and villages, it managed to take control after crushing the Cantabrian and Asturians. In the year 19 BC, during the reign of Augustus, a period of peace, the Pax Augusta, commenced, and Hispania found itself firmly under Roman control.

Conjunto Arqueológico de Baelo Claudia

Geoggraphical OrganisationBaelo Claudia

The strategic situation of Baelo Claudia was crucial to its development. Due to its proximity to the North African coast, it became a centre for trade between the latter and the Iberian Peninsula, while its proximity to the Strait of Gibraltar and the annual tuna migration route to the Mediterranean gave rise to a powerful seafood export industry.

Thanks to its high degree of Romanisation and urban development, the town was rapidly incorporated into Rome´s legal and administrative system. To ensure greater control, Hispania was divided into several provinces, which Augustus subsequently subdivided into conventus or administrative districts comprising towns and cities, which were the main units of political and administrative life, and also centres of economic, political and religious activities and the seats of government and trade.

Baelo Claudia belonged to the province of Baetica, which was divided into four administrative districts whose capitals were Corduba (Córdoba), Atigi (Écija), Hispalis (Sevilla) and Gades (Cádiz).

The main Towns and Roads

The present-day province of Cadiz was part of the administrative district known as the conventus gaditanus, which comprised most of the coastal area of Baetica, the province to which it belonged. The capital of the conventus was Gades (Cádiz), while the most important population centres were Abdera (Adra), Sexi (Almuñécar), Malaca (Málaga) and Hasta Regia (near the present-day Jerez dela Frontera).

The town of Baelo Claudia was the religious and administrative centre of a territory that extended westwards to Baesipo (Barbate) and eastwards to Mellaria. Baelo must have exerted substantial influence over the nearby interior region because the closest towns – such as Asido (Media Sidonia) and Lascuta, not far from Alcalá de los Gazules – were fairly distant.

Connections within the conventus gaditanus were articulated around a large road network that has been well documented. Two of Baelo`s gates led to the coast road. Commencing at the east gate was the road that led to Carteia, while the west gate provided access to the section leading to Gades. But, above all, Baelo was a port, and maritime routes were the main channels of its trade relations. It was the natural gateway to Africa, and there are numerous records of its relations with North African towns and, in particular, with Tingis (Tangiers), which supplied materials such as the bricks used in the construction of the thermae.

From Bailo to Baelo Claudia

The data provided by archaeological research in the are of the fish-salting factories as well as numismatic findings confirm that the town of Bailo (the name that appears on the coins) was almost certainly established towards the end of the 2nd century BC. However, despite numerous excavations in the urban area of Baelo, archaeological remains prior to the Roman conquest have never been found. This suggests that the origin of Baelo may lie in its environs. One possible location is the so-called Silla del Papa (“Pope´s Chair”). Situated in the highest hills of the Sierra de la Plata, this would have been an ideal location for controlling access to the western exit from the Strait of Gibraltar, the plains near Lake Janda and even the coves of Bolonia, Zahara de los Atunes and Valdevaqueros. As an oppidum or primary settlement, the site was probably occupied until the middle of the 1st century BC, when production needs led to the expansion of the industrial centre in the Cove of Bolonia to the edges of the town which, by the mid-1st century AD, had acquired the status of Roman municipality: namely, Baelo.

The Doryphoros of Baelo Claudia

During the archaeological excavations carried out by the University of Cadiz in 2012, the remains of a marble statue were found in the fill of the large swimming pool located in the Maritime Baths. These remains were situated in the vicinity of a semi-circular niche in the wall at the rear end of the natatio. Based on style, the statue has been dated to the 2nd century AD. It seems to have remained in situ during the period of abandonment of the complex, because it has been found in relation to mid-5th-century AD reoccupation levels.

The statue represents a nude athlete holding a spear in his right hand (the metal spear point has also been found), and it has been interpreted as a Roman reproduction of the famous Doryphoros by the Classical Greek master Polykleitos. Archaeometric analyses have shown that the stone used was a high-quality marble, which was white with grey veins, from the Greek island of Paros.

The sculpture is of considerable artistic quality, and is the only copy of the Doryphoros which has been found in Hispania to date. It is also the most significant sculpture in Baelo Claudia, and it illustrates the considerable wealth and the refined taste of Baelo`s elite in the Roman period.

The Doryphoros of Baelo Claudia

The Maritime Baths of Bolonia

This bath complex was located outside the city wall, near the harbour – an arrangemet reminiscent of the Suburban Baths in Pompeii. Excavations in 2011 and 2013 uncovered only a small section of the north-east end of what was a much larger complex. However, it is already clear that this bath complex was, in fact, larger than the one situated within the city walls.

An elevated cistern, which was probably supplied by an aqueduct, has been identified, along with an are connected with the distribution of hot air, and a related swimming pool (notation) that was nearly 50 m2 in size, richly decorated with marbles and statues, and accessed by a flight of steps.

A little bath room – alveus – has also been found in this area; the room was originally decorated with a fountain-statue that was placed in a niche. The hot rooms were located to the north of this area and have not yet been fully excavated. Some were decorated with mosaics. The quality and the quantity of decorative elements, and the large size of the complex, suggest that these baths were of a public nature.

The baths were built in the 2nd century AD; this was a period of economic prosperity for Baelo Claudia, mostly because of the intense activity of the city´s almadrabas and fisheries. They were active for approximately 200 years and were finally abandoned during the reign of either Emperor Diocletian or Constantine, in the late 3rd or early 4th century AD. Before their closure, however, they were robbed, and for this reason the decorative plan is only incompletely known.

Thermae et Balnea
Between functionality and ostentation

Bath complexes needed a constant supply of water, which was provided by means of aqueducts and cistern. Pavements therefore needed to be completely waterproof; this was achived with a sort of plaster-lining known as opus signinum, which was invented by the Romans. Baths were equipped with external furnaces for heating; hot aire entered into an open space under the floor -hypocaustum- and was therefrom distributed to all the rooms through air chambers in the walls -concame- rationes. Specially-shaped bricks were used for this purpose, and their presence at archaeological sites may reveal the function of the building in which they were used.

Ostentatiuous decoration was also important, and paintings, mosaics, and marbles were combined in high-quality displays of status. The excavation of the Maritime Baths in Baelo Claudia has uncovered polychrome mosaics decorated with sea motifs (fish, octopuses) and marble cornices and slabs of different quality, colour, and origin: some had been quarried in Hispania (Almadén, in Seville, and Estremoz and Lameiras, in Portugal), but others had been brought from distant Mediterranean provinces (Greece and Asia Minor). Personal items connected with everyday hygiene habits have also been found, such as bronze tweezers and fragments of pumice.

Baths in Baelo Claudia

Roman baths were buildings for hygiene and leisure. They could be large and luxurious (termae) or small and simple (balnea). Their size and complexity depended on the importance of the city, the country villa, or the settlement in wich they were built; they could be public or private. In Hispania, all cities had one or more bath complexes for its citizens. They were divided into cold (frigidaria), warm (tempidaria), and hot rooms (caldaria), and they also included swimming pools, bath tubs, saunas and other miscellaneous spaces (dressing rooms, palaestra). Baths played an important social role, and they were central hubs for social reunions and displays of ostentation. They were the direct forebears of Arab baths (hamman) and, much further down the line, of modern-day spas.

Baelo Claudia had at least one urban bath complex, located to the west of the forum, of which little is visible. The economic prosperity of this centre of the fishing industry is demonstrated by the construction of a secon bath complex in the south-western part of the city. The remains of this complex were recently discovered in the excavations outside the city walls, near the beach; because of their poition, they are known as Maritime Baths. Both bath complexes were erected in the first half of the 2nd century AD, the ages of Trajan and Hadrian, the great Spanish-born emperors.

The Economy: Fishing and Trade

Since time inmemorial, the Strait of Gibraltar has served as both a hábitat and a place of transit for a rich variety of marine species.

In Antiquity, the exploitation of these marine resources gave rise to a flourishing and prosperous fishing industry, both at Baelo Claudia and at other towns along the coast.

These industrial centres or Roman cetariae not only caught and quartered fish for export, but also produced several kinds of pastes and brines. During the classical period these were highly prized throughout the Roman Empire, the most popular product being garum, a savoury paste made from the remains of species such as tuna and sturgeon.

With the arrival of the Romans after the Phoenician-Punic period, the production of these delicacies increased during the republican period (2nd century BC) as a result of the fusion of the Punic tradition and Rome´s new interests. Production peaked between the 1st century BC and the 2nd century AD, before the area was hit by a general recession that affected the entire Roman Empire in the 3rd century AD, when economic activity declined and the factories closed.

Urban Space and Public Works

The paths followed by visitors to this archaeological site run directly above the main thoroughtares of Baelo Claudia. These streets were arranged in a perfect grid, given that the town was noted for its strict adherence to the town planning models of Rome, based on perpendicular roads. The two main streets were the decumanus maximus, runing from east to west, and the cardo maximus, which ran from north to south. The intersection of the two roads was usually the site of the forum or town square, around which all administrative, political and religious life revolved.

The town occupies just over 13 hectares and its layout was adapted to the topography by means of sloping perpendicular terraces and roads connected to the terraces by ramps and flights of steps. The excavations undertaken have mainly affected the monumental area located on the lower, flat ground and connected to the industrial parts -the fish-salting factories- near the beach. The upper part of the town has yet to be researched but was probably given over tho the less important dwellings.

An ample supply of drinking water was provided by three aqueducts. The main one was the east aqueduct, which commenced at Punta Paloma, eight kilometers away, where it is still possible to see traces of the arcades built to span various streams. The ruins of one of these arcades are still visible near the eastern section of the wall around the town. The end storage cistern of another aqueduct has survived and can be seen in the upper part of the town. There was also an efficient drainage system to evacuate bouth rainwater and sewage.

Dating from the 1st century AD, the forum here adopts the from of a large rectangular space around which a series of buildings are situated. We know that the were colonnades aloong the east and west sides. On the north side is a terrace, the rostra, where the orators gave their political speeches. At the centre of this north side is a monumental marble-cevered fountain that fulfilled both an ornamental and practical function, as it was used to drain the rainwater from the higher terraces. Two flights of steps at the sides lead to the platform containing the three temples dedicated to the Capitoline Triad that overlooked the entire site. The south side was occupied by the basilica, where legal transactions were conducted. On the west side, beyond a large honorary arch, parts of which have survived, stood the Curia or local senate and other associated spaces, possibly the archive (tabularium) and the voting chamber. East of this area lay several shops (tabernae) that were abandoned when the market or macellum was built. The entrances to the forum could be closed to seal off this important public space from the remainder of the town.

Statues of reclining Sileni, each embracing a wineskin. Copy; originals in the Museum of Cadiz. Marble, late 1st century AD (Fountains of the teatry pulpium)

Statues of reclining Sileni, each embracing a wineskin. Copy; originals in the Museum of Cadiz. Marble, late 1st century AD (Fountains of the teatry pulpium)

Statue of a lady or goddess with palla and stola. Marble. 1st century ADThese two statues (photos above) were found in a prominent position flanking the pulpitum in the theatre (the area between the orchestra and the scaena), which was richly decorated with marble claddings and painted stuccoes.

The figures represent two Silenes (lesser gods of intoxication in Greek mithology) and are made of marble. Bearded and naded, they recline on and animal skin and are propped up on their elbows, with their legs partially bent. Bouth are clutching a winesking, which served as a type of fountain that poured water into tow basins embedded into the wall. The water effect, the hadsome scultural assemblage and the wall claddings all combined to make this the aesthetic focus of the theatre.

The monuments in Roman towns were lavishly adorned with statues and inscriptions, dedicated not only to the imperial family and deities, but also to members of the local oligarchies. The excavations conducted in Baelo Claudia have uncovered interesting sculptural elements that were once part of the decorative repertoire of public buildings.

One of the most famous findings was the colossal togate statue of Emperor Trajan in the basilica, now held at the Museum of Cadiz. Other examples, such as the statue of the female figure uncovered during excavations at the eastern gate of the town (which in all probability was originally located in the forum) and the front part of a female sandaled foot (almost certainly belonging to a statue of a female deity), reveal that the statuary at Baelo had the same characteristics as the statuary of other towns in Hispania. Official art was reproduced at local studios based on pre-existing models, and only a small fraction of statues were imported.

The most commonly used material in the construction of the town was stone, primarily limestone and calcarenite. Proximity to the sea permitted easy transportation of the limestone by boat to the town, and the calcarenite was extracted from the nearby quarries at Punta Camarinal and Paloma Alta.

The rock was quarried by making several deep incisions in the rock and then inserting wedges fro leverage. Large numbers of skilled workers must have been required at the quarries since the stone was cut and shaped prior to transportation.

Calcarenite was mainly used for supporting structures and limestone was used for walls, road surfaces and the pavement of public buildings. There were no marble quarries near Baelo Claudia, so the various types of marble used in the town came from other parts of the Iberian Peninsula and the Mediterrnean.

Religious Beliefs and Funerary Culture

The temple of Jupiter in Rome was situated on the Capitoline Hill, overlooking the forum, and this same arrangement was repeated in numerous towns throughout the empire, including Baelo Claudia. The three temples in the paved public square are dedicated to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, the triad that represented official religion in the town and comprised Baelo´s main religious centre. Their dominant position is intentional, symbolising the submission of administrative and political life to the deity under whose protection civilian life was conducted.

After the 1st century AD, the worship of oriental deities spread throughout the empire. For example, Isis was worshipped in ritualistc ceremonies attended only by the initiate people who had taken part in a series of rites to make them fit to worship the goddess.

Baelo Claudia had three necropolises. Two of them are situated by the main exit gates (Carteia y Gades) from the town, flanking the so-called via heraclea. The third necropolis, which emerged at a later date, lies next to the east wall, between the eastern gates of the decumanus, or main thoroughfare, and of the theatre. It also extends to the northwest in the vicinity of the aqueduct at Punta Paloma.

The southeast necropolis, which is the best known, occupies two hectares and contains numerous tombs, more tham one per square meter in certain places. The evidence that has been unearthed identifies two different funeral rites performed here: cremation, mainly between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD and, after the 3rd or 4th century AD, interment.

The tombs vary greatly in type and have been classified according to their dimensions and typology. The simplest are common graves, but much more complex structures were also used, such as dual-chamber mausoleums, funerary sites with a tower and tower-shaped blocks. Similar burial structures have been found at other sites in North Africa.

The Carthaginians bequeathed a rich legacy of customs that were continued by inhabitants of the coastal of Andalusia until the Romanisation of the territory. There is evidence to suggest that the prepetuation of these links between Hispania and the north coast of the neighbouring continent were consolidate even further under Roman rule. The similarity between the west necropolis in the town of Tipasa (Mauritania Tingitana), situated at the Caesarea Gate, provides proof of a connection between the necropolis at Baelo and its North Africa counterparts.

Baelo Claudia contains three necropolises: two running parallel to the eastern and western exits from the town, and another one, built at a later date, near the eastern wall. The best known is the southeast necropolis, where funeral rites were conducted: cremation, between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD; and interment, between the 3rd and 4th centuries AD.

The simplest form or burial was a ditch dug out of the earth, usually containing two elements: an urn for the ashes and vases for offerings. The more complex burial systems used were small funeral monuments in the shape of a cube or parallelepiped, and the cuppae, dual-camber mausoleums, funeral sites with a tower and tower-shaped burial blocks, that originated in Egypt are repeated here but were probably inspired by the model employed in North Africa, where tower-shaped tombs had proliferated.

A unique characteristic of the Roman necropolis at Baelo is the use of baetyls. These take the form of carved limestone figures, either cylindrical or cone-shaped, with or without a base, or simply quartzite pebbles loosely representing a human torso. The baetyls were place outside the funeral monument, facing the sea.

The ritual significance of baetyls may be associated with marine deities, protective spirits, or even Grecvo-Roman (Saturn and Bacchus) and Punic (Baal) gods. These unique pieces were used in Baelo from the time of Claudius until at least the 3rd century AD. Similar items have been found in Sardinia and in the North African necropolises of Susa, Tipasa and Volubilis.

Funeral altar. Fossil-bearding calcarenite, 1st century AD (Eastern necropolis) and Funeral urn, fossil-bearing calcarenite, 1st century AD (Eastern necropolis)

Aqueduct of Punta Paloma

The fresh water supply to the city of Baelo, sued both for domestic use and for fish salting industry, was carried through three aqueducts. The first came to the city from the east, from Punta Paloma, 5.2 kilometers long and there are still remains of his structure at the crossing of Chorrera Stream. The other two entered the city from the west, coming from the Sierra de la Plata mountain range.

The water came through pipes to public fountains, were the population was supplied. Waste water and sewage -aqua caduca- were them collected in a complex system of sewers to guarantee the inhabitans health.

Aqueduct of Punta Paloma - Baelo Claudia

Aqueduct of Punta Paloma

East Gate

The city´s most monumental gates are at each end of the Decumanus Maximus. This is the East or Carteia gate, which is the name of one of the cities to which the road led. The gates are symmetrical in design. Both of them mark the end of the urban flagstone street paving and have a central accdess point flanked by towers which protruded beyond the line of the city walls.

In addition to the defensive function of their towers which included a guardhouse, the city gates played a more significant role s an element of propaganda of Roman might. They were built in the Augustan era, in the 1st century BC.

Baelo Claudia East Gate

Baelo Claudia East Gate

Baelo follows the model for Roman urban layouts exactly: a walled enclosure with perpendicular streets. The most important of these are the Decumanus Maximus which runs east to west, and the Cardo Maxumus, running from north to south.

The city was adapted to the terrain with terraces and streets connected by ramps and steps. The streams at the perimeter delimit the city´s maximun width of up to 300 metres. In the north-south direction it extends to 550 meters.

The lower part of the city was dedicated to industrial and port activities. The mid-part as far the Theatre was the administrative , commercial and social area. The upper part was probably mainly residential.

The origins of the Roman city of Baelo date to the Republican period, that is the 2nd century BC. During Claudius´s rule, an entire monumental complex was built which had a particular impact on the structure of the Forum that was built years before under Augustus. It was at this point that it acquired the status of a municipium and was when it attained its greates urban and economic splendour.

While the city began to decline during the 3rd century AD, several buildings had already undergone demolition or changes in function in the 2nd century AD. The industrial activities were partially maintained, the urban space was reused in the 4th century; new houses were erected and Baelo Claudia´s original appearance was altered. It survive until the 7th century AD

Decumanus Maximus

The Decumanus Maximus maintains its original flagstone paving while the unevenness reflects the earthquakes that the city has suffered. The road runs from east to west and passes two of the city gates. Along its length were shops, the public market building and the south square of the Forum. There were porticoes on either side, which were partially raised above the level of the central road; thier capitals and other varied features are preserved.

Given the almos total adsence of wheel ruts on the flagstones, it seems likely that the Decumanus Maximus was the main street for commerce and social relations, although it cannot have been a place through which wheeled traffic passed.

Baelo Claudia - Decumanus Maximus

Baelo Claudia - Decumanus Maximus

House of Sundial – House of the West

In the early 2nd century AD, at the far south end of the Cardo of the Columns, there were tow large private homes -domus- with similar qualities and interior structures: the House of the West and the House of the Sundial. They have similar surface areas of some 500 squared meters and both have a first floor. The space is organised around a courtyard surrounding which were rooms with stuccoed walls decorated with painted vegetal and geometric motifs. The front of the buildings had a gallery supported by columnswhich was used to house shops, or tabernae.

These dwellings may have belonged to different traders or owners of the salting factory.

House of the West - Baello Claudia

House of the Sundial

Salting Factories

Tuna fishing using nets -almadraba- and the catch´s subsequent conservation through salting was a flourishing industry along the whole of the Cádiz coast and was the main reason for Baelo´s prosperity. A large number of fishing salting factories have been identified along Cádiz´s Atlantic coast. The activity had its origins in the Phoenician and Punic period and developed significantly in the Roman world.

The buildings used for production had two main areas: one was dedicated for the cleaning and cutting of the fish, and another for preparation -salting basins-. This industrial complex was active from the 2nd century BC to the 3rd century AD.

Baelo Claudia Archaeological Site - Salting Factories

Baelo Claudia Archaeological Site - Salting Factories

Port Area

During Roman times, Baelo was a busy place for maritime trading. It was the main port connecting with nearby Tingis, modern-day Tangier and therefore had continuous ties with the north of Africa, one of the main factors behind its urban growth. This sector of the city combines the activities of fish processing and the produce´s shipping and trade and was probably also a residential area for people associated with the factory.

Tuna fishing, running from May to September, was carried out using fixed nets similar to the almadraba nets of today. The activity was an industrial operation requiring and abundant temporary workforce.

Baelo Claudia Archaeological Site - Port Area

South Forum

The Forum is at the intersection of the main streets -decumanus and cardo maximus- and is the area around which administrative, political and religious life was conducted. Its original layout dates to the Augustan period and followed the same model as other Roman cities a the end of Republican era: a sacred area, a public square and a political and commercial area.

The south part of the Forum demarcated by the Decumanus Maximus is still visible here. Its main features, the Basilica and an adjoining building, the function of which is knot known, are arranged around a secondary square which is paved with flagstone and raised above the decumanus by steps. It was probably a place for commercial transactions.

Baelo Claudia Archaeological Site - South Forum

The Basilica

Built in the 1st century AD, the basilica was the site for the administration of justice and one of the major public buildings in Baelo. Located in the Forum south side, it has three doors opening to the Forum square and a single door to the Decumanus Maximus. It was a single large hall in rectangular plan, with columns that supported a second floor with a high open gallery over the central courtyard, in which the judges and magistrates went about their daily business. A colossal statue of emperor Trajan set on a pedestal clad with marble stone domnated the room. The Basilica was destroyed after a major earthquake that affected the city in the beginning of the 3rd century AD.

Baelo Claudia Archaeological Site - The Basilica

Thermal Baths

Located by the west walls, these baths have been partially excavated as a result of which we are only familiar with their south facade and hot rooms. The layout corresponds with the organisation of the activity: a warm room -tepidarium- for washing; a hot room -cella soliaris- and a cold room -frigidarium-. The last of these had two tubs: a deeper one for bathing and another in the shape of an apse for splashing. The open space towards the wall may have been the palaestra, an area for gymnastics training.

A furnace heated water and circulated steam through the rooms, from under the floors -on vaulted conduits, the hypocaustum- and also from between the walls which had and air chamber between the wall and partition.

Baths were important for hygiene in the Roman world but they were also a space for leisure and relaxation, for interacting with other citizens, a place for discussion, sport or bathing. Typically users would rub themselves with oil, and them go into the tepidarium or the warm room and then to the cella solaris, where they took a hot bath. They finally went to the cool room where they would wash and have a cold bath in the frigidarium.

Thes baths were built under the reign of Hadran in the first half of the 2nd century AD and were abandoned in the 4th century AD. It would later be used as a burial site.

Baelo Claudia Archaeological Site - Thermal Baths

Baelo Claudia Archaeological Site - Thermal Baths

The Thermal Baths of Baelo Claudia

Cardo of the Market

Baelo´s main market or Macellum is close to the Forum and could be reached via the Decumanus Maximus. Apart from the north side, the building was a porticoed structure with an entrance at the centre of the south facade in which there were four shops with counters spilling onto the street. Inside was a symmetrical space with then shops around an elongated octagonal courtyard.

Construction of the market dates to the 1st century AD, when the monuments in the Forum were already built. The inside at least was abandoned from the early 3rd century AD.


The Forum Square

The Forum of Baelo, dated in the first century AD, froms the central city block and consists of a large paved square of 37×30 meters, arcaded on east and west sides, around which are located most official buildings of the city: basilica, market and temples.

The north side of the Forum is occupied by a terrace or rostra, elevated above the square and used as a platform oratory. Behind it, there is a monumental fountain in marble. The steps located on bouth sides lead to the platform of the Temples.

Baelo Claudia - The Forum Square

Shops – Tabernae

The west portico of the Forum square opens at the foot of the steps. This porticoed area was occupied by a series of shops, or tabernae, from Augustan times. There are six elongated rooms of similar dimensions. The drains that can be seen in some of them indicate that they were dedecated to the sale of meat or fish.

In Claudius´s time, changes in the south area, the construction of the Basilica, led to the loss of a number of shops in the Forum. The remaining shops lost their function shortly afterwards with the construction of the central market in Baelo. The monumental flagstone paving of the square belongs to this period.

Shops - Tabernae

The Temple of Isis

The Temple of Isis

Capitoline Area

The three temples that stand on this space and dominate the Forum square are dedicated to Minerva, Jupiter and Juno. They from the classical Capitoline Triad that represents the main religious centre in Baelo.

These three independent buildings are separated from one another by two narrow passages. Each temple had an imposing base, or podium, with 12 steps at the front. Above this was the portico wich preceded the cella, a rectangular room reserved for the deity. The facades featured Corinthian columns and pilasters on the walls of the cella. There was a shared altar in front of the temples.

Capitoline Area

The Theatre

The theatre at Baelo Claudia uses the natural slope as a base for the seats. It was built in the second half of the 1st century AD but lost its use in the 3rd century AD. The outside wall has nine vaulted entrances that give access to the different levels of the seating area, or cavea. The public could enter the different areas by doors, or vomitoria, depending on their social status.

The orchestra was accessible from the side doors. It was flanked to the south by the stage, a rectangular construction supported on the parascaenia, or side halls. The pulpitum separated the orchestra from the stage and was decorated in marble and painted stucco. The stage wall, the scaena, had five doors giving easy access to actors.

The Theatre of Baelo Claudia

The Theatre of Baelo Claudia

The Theatre of Baelo Claudia

The Theatre of Baelo Claudia

The Orchestra

This space at the foot of the cavea is a semicircle with a 18 meters diameter. It is delimited by the wall of the stage -pulpitum- and a balustrade -balteus- which separates it from the first row of seats intended for the city´s upper classes. The space was used by musicians who accompanied the performances. In line with Roman custonm, the most common works were light-hearted plays and satires. Mime shows, dance and short comedies were also highly popular.

The Orchestra of Baelo Claudia

The Orchestra of Baelo Claudia

East Wall

The Baelo Claudia city walls were built in two stages: the first in the Augustan era and the second under emperor Claudius. The perimeter is marked by rectangular towers although the limited thickness of the walls indicates that, during the pax romana under Augustus, the chief concern was not to provide security against non-existent enemies. Instead the walls delimited the city area for tax and administrative reasons and for the purposes of propaganda and religion in effect it was a feature that marked out the sacred space forming the urban area that was protected bt the deities.

East Wall

East Wall

City Walls

From this point we can see the two types of techniques used in building the walls of Baelo Claudia and repairs made later to counteract the effects of different earthquakes. The lower part of the city´s walls is built with large dry-laid blocks of dresssed limestone, which belongs to the Augustan founding of the city. At the top, refurbished around 60 AD, the wall faces are built with smaller regular ashlar, and the corners of the towers are finished with shell limestone. The wall filling consists of irregularly-shaped stones mixed with mortar -opus caementicium-, the precursor to modern concrete.

City Walls

City Walls

East Gate of the Decumanus of the Theatre

East Gate of the Decumanus of the Theatre

Baelo Claudia Archaeological Site

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