Roman City of Ocuri
Roman City of Ocuri – Archaeological Site of Ocuri – Ubrique
The Roman City of Ocuri / Archaeological Site of Ocuri is located on the road that joins the town of Ubrique with Benaocaz, in the Salto de la Mora, limestone hill from which it controls the natural path to La Manga of Villaluenga on one side and the exit to the south of the mountain on the other side, in the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park.
Its strategic position, dominant in height, clinging to its walls and its extension indicate that it must have been an important pre-Roman “oppidum” (walled city) and then a Roman municipality of great relevance, a fact that is demonstrated by the monumentality of the remains that are preserved.
The discovery of the city was made at the end of the 18th century thanks to the intuition of a local farmer called Juan Vegazo who bought the land in 1792 in order to check if the remains that were seen in it could be compared with thouse of Pompeya itself, that in those years was excavated intensely. Vegazo, authentic pioneer of field archeology, excavated several of the structures and left written records of his discoveries, including two magnificent epigraphs dedicated by the “ocuritanos” to the emperors Antonio Pío (142 AD) and Commodo (186 AD).
Although recent reserarch has established its origins at least in the sixth century BC, the vast majority of the emerged remains correspond to the Roman era of the city, with a moment of maximum splendor in the second century AD.
One of the most important structures of the Roman City of Ocuri is the Mausoleum. This impressive funerary monument houses in its interior a series of niches where the urns were deposited with the ashes of the deceased as well as the offerings of relatives and possible small statues. It is located outside the city walls as dictated by Roman sanitary laws, like the rest.
Equally impressive are the remains of its Cyclopean Wall, which protects the entrance from the North. Of Iberian origin and remodeled in Carthaginian and Roman times, it has parts built with large stone “a bone”, others with molded ashlars and others with sillarejo. In the 2nd century AD it was equipped with a monumental door with pillars in columns and possibly a pediment.
Behind the wall can be seen remains corresponding to their homes, public buildings, etc.. arranged in several terraced and successive enclosures. They emphasize several cisterns with “opus signinum” (waterproof mortar) of great capacity of reservoir, as well as a wide enclosure, surrounded by constructive rest and where the mentioned inscriptions were found to the emperors and must be the Forum. Behind this are the remains of a large building, complicated construction which has several tanks, pools, channels and other elements that identify it as a Termas (Baths).
Main Archaeological Structures of Ocuri
Mausoleum of Ocuri
We are facing the most significant funerary monument of Ocuri: The Mausoleum.
Located outside the walls as dictated by Roman sanitary laws, it is a funerary structure with a rectangular plan, measuring 12.7 meters by 8 meters on one side and about 5 meters high. It is constructed of concrete mixed with stones (“opus incertum”) and covered externally with ashlars of local limestone. It is currently accessed inside by a false door made in one of the niches.
The chamber or crypt is covered by a half-barrel vault cured of concrete of 2.229 meters in diameter and a height of 4,70 meters. The four internal faces are symmetrical with each other, they are central niches with a reduced arch and at their sides small niches (“loculi”) to accommodate the cinerary urns. The two sides have larger and deeper niches so they could serve to house statues.
On the top floorthere could be an outdoor altar to celebrate the funeral rites and the original entrance is found. It is dated between the 1st century and the 2 nd century AD. and could belong to a powerful family or a “collegium funeraticium” (funeral society).
Cyclopean Wall of Ocuri
We have arrived at the entrance of the Roman City of Ocuri which as can bee seen is defended by an imposing Cyclopean Wall. It is a structure of large irregular limestone blocks placed without mortar and in wich later rectifications are realized with sillarejo and a zone with ashlars almohadillados. It should have a width of two meters with large blocks placed anarchically but solid in appearance.
It has conserved length of about 20 meters and a height of 3.65 meters, so it is estimated that it should have an original of a least 5 meters. in the western zone it has been included in the base sandstone ashlars that are molded and cushioned which could be Carthaginian era.
It has an entrance with advanced pillars and supported by two cubes made of masonry that were plastered with stucco. Two ashlars with circular holes for the hinge of the door and various elements of cornice that have molded lines so it could have a pediment finish. Some of its steps are also appreciated.
Its chronology would cover between the 5th century a.C. for its constructions phase (Iberian) and the third century AD. for his abandonment. The monumental Roman door was erected between the 1st and 2nd centuries AD.
The Ocuri Forum
You are at the Forum of the Roman City of Ocuri. It is considered as the central part of the city and here the terraces are leveled with greater amplitude wich would allow the layout of the streets of which one is visible. In the western area there are two large perimeter walls that were identified as part of “taverns”.
In this place Vegazo found the floor of slabs that he would use to pave his house and it is also where the inscriptions of the emperors Antonio Pio and Commodo were found dedicated by the decurions of the “Res Publica Ocuritanorum” (the local Senate).
In addition, part of a statue of a male with a lion´s skin that has been identified as Commodo emperor and abundant building material such as shafts, capitals, bases, etc.. appeared.
The area has approximately 1.200 square meters of surface and in it, as in all Roman cities, all commercial, religious, administrative, social and economic actions would be developed. It was the reat meeting point of citizenship.
The Roman Baths of Ocuri
We have reached the most spectacular structure of all thouse excavated so far in Ocuri: Las Termas (The Baths). It is a set of walls, pavements, cisterns and pipes wich are currently difficult to interpret. It has a about 460 square meters preserved, although it could be even more extensive.
It measures 23 meters by 19.40 meters wide and has on its southeast side a wide semicircular apse (exedra) of 11 meters in diameter. The thermal building would enter through an opening in the northwest area. On the right wall there is a kind of small room that had a barrel vault. Behind it is a large cirstern of “L” that could be a “nalatio”.
on the northwest side there is a small semicircular enclosure and two other small rooms. The remains of a deposit with “opus signinum” are conserved here from which part a drainage channel (“specus”) of almost 20 meters of route that crossess al the exedra.
The exedra is a semicircle of “opus signinum” that seems to rest on some lateral foundations that are not conserved in their totality. Next to these is a pavement that forms a large central courtyard of almos 100 square meters wich could be a “palestra”. The footprint of a bathtub shaped like an octohedron wich had marble plates “labrum” is preserved in its head.
They are dated between the endo of the 1st century and the beginning of the 2nd century AD, being the only Roman baths identified until now in the Sierra de Cadiz.
Juan Vegazo House
According to his diary it was for his rest and winery but it served to him to be able to watch the excavations. Virtually all the material used comes from the Roman ruins and is based in turn between the foundations of a pre-existing building that could be one of the temples that dominated the forum.
On the east side of the house there are large Roman ashlars, well squared, that seem to correspond to this previous building. The interior of the house has been paved with large plates of limestone well polished that were extracted from the Forum. It conserves a line of mechinales to 1.90 meters of height which indicates that it had a ceiling of wooden beams. At the front had a covered porch and in the outer wall there is a small window.
House and Cistern 2
Cistern 3 (next to the Baths)
Source: Roman City of Ocuri
The visit to the Roman City of Ocuri is highly recommended
Date of the visit: 11/02/2018