Andalucia Rustica

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Archaeological Sites of Andalucia

Cercadilla Archaeological Site

Archaeological Sites of Andalucia

Cercadilla Archaeological Site – Córdoba

The Cercadilla Archaeological Site is located in the monumental city of Córdoba, near the tren station (RENFE).

The Palatium Maximiani. 3rd-4th centuries

Walking through this area of the city of Cordoba you will discover the remains of what was the palace of the Roman emperor Maximianus Herculeus, emperor in the 3rd century A.D. who, together with Diocletian, Constantius, Chlorus and Galerius, formed what is known as the first tetrarchy, a government of four that for a time guaranteed the integrity of the immense territory that comprised the Roman empire.The palace was built to the north of the old amphitheatre and occupied a much larger area than can be seen today. Much of it has been used to build the current railway station and much is still hidden under Avenida de América, Avenida Vía Augusta and neighbouring streets.

The palace that was built on what had previously been a suburban villa is a closed construction, facing the northwest corner of the city and communicated with it via a single span preceded by four columns. It consisted of two distinct parts, one of a military nature, which occupied an area of more than 25,000 m2, and the other of a strictly palatial nature. The buildings in the palace area were arranged radially around a semicircular cryptoportico, 180 metres in width, whose upper corridor was colonnaded. At each end there were two architecturally identical poly-lobed rooms —with three semicircular apses at the head and another two on one side—. They may have been used to receive the public officials associated with the palace. Both are preserved in situ, the northern one in the archaeological area currently open to the public and the southern one, between the Avenida de América and the railway station. The most emblematic building of all those built, the one that stood out for its size, height and, above all, its rank and category, was the great reception hall, which, located on the central axis of the whole complex, was the throne room where the emperor received people in audience.

To the north of that room are the thermal baths exclusively for private use, which would be enjoyed only by the emperor and by those of his utmost confidence. The two banquet rooms —tricliniumandstibadium— and the imperial apartments, used for the retirement and rest of the owner of the palace, can also be considered private. Next to the banquet halls are two other basilica rooms, possibly used for administrative purposes by the government officials of Hispania. The water that supplied this imposing architectural complex must have entered through the building identified as nymphaeus.

The Tetrarchy (293-305 A.D.) formed by Diocletian, Maximianus, Constantius Chlorus and Galerius brought about a major transformation of the politics, administration and army of the Roman Empire. One of the first actions of these tetrarchs was to decentralise the imperial headquarters from Rome to the peripheral areas. The Cordoba palace must therefore have been Maximianus’ seat at the western end of their dominions, with which his effective control over the Western Roman Empire was established.

From the 6th century at the latest, while the thermal zone was being dismantled, part of the old palace would be reused as a centre of Christian worship and around it would be located a large Christian cemetery which would remain in use during the Moorish domination of the city, becoming one of the most important Mozarabic cemeteries of al-Andalus. Around this Christian centre there was a large neighbourhood was built during the emirate period, whose definitive expansion took place in the mid-10th century, at the time of the proclamation of the Caliphate of Córdoba. This suburb was arranged in the form of perpendicular streets, squares and walls and was home to souks, baths, mosques and, of course, private dwellings. All the houses, from the most humble to the most important, were built round a central courtyard, around which there were other outbuildings —lounges, bedrooms, storerooms, pantries, latrines, stables, etc—. The neighbourhood and the necropolis would be abandoned during the 11th century at the time of the Cordovan civil war.

In the 12th century, reusing the head of the old palace nymphaeum, a farmstead was built, used for the production of oil and the manufacture of ceramics. From this time on there is no evidence of occupation of this area, which would be used as a vegetable garden until the 19th century when it was occupied as an industrial and railway area.

Read more: Junta de Andalucía/Consejería de Cultura


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