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Location: BC, Canada

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Baelo Claudia - Part 2 - Self-Guided Tour

This is Part 2 – for Part 1 on Baelo Claudia scroll down.

Access to these ruins is easy. Just watch for these cattle and the San Bartolomé Hills when heading southeast on Highway N 340, turn right and go 8 miles through the Bolonia Pass (keep these hills on your left and the Higuera and Plata Mountain Ranges on your right) and at Bolonia follow signs to the site. Now wasn’t that easy?

The cove at Bolonia is on the Spanish entrances to the Strait of Gibraltar and the area is still abundant in a variety of permanent and migratory fish stocks, the most important of which is tuna which migrate twice a year through the straits to spawn in the Mediterranean and then return to the Atlantic. This gave rise to the fish salting industry of the Roman period, mentioned in Part 1. The dependence on fish, cattle and grains is also evident in the coinage shown in Part 1 with its depictions of cows, fish and ears of wheat. This 1st century AD lead anchor found in the cove is also evidence of maritime activity.

Once in the parking lot it is a short walk to the outstanding displays in the Information Center. Some of those are in Part 1. It takes a good hour to fully view the displays which provide a good orientation to the site and its history. This charming little (about 2.5” tall) Terracotta Gladiator, mold-cast in the 1st century AD, is also on display.

The lower floor of the center leads to the city ruins via a walk leading past the aqueduct remains seen in Part 1 and then along the side of the city to the eastern gate.

The nearby salting industrial site is pictured in part 1. Tuna was the mainstay but other species were also fished in the area and processed here. Once in the factory the fins were removed. The head, intestines, semen, eggs, and blood were also removed and saved for the production of garum. The fish were then cut into cubical or spherical pieces and lacerated so that the salt would easily penetrate. These were then piled in basins, alternating layers of fish and salt, and left for 20 days curing. The cured fish were placed in clay amphorae and closed with a clay disc and then stored to await transport.

The garum, was a highly prized and expensive sauce used with all types of foods. It was also used as a curative for burns, in enemas to fight intoxications, against ulcers and to alleviate dysentery. It was made with the byproducts: intestines, throats, fauces, hypogastria, blood etc. of tuna, moray eel, mackerel and sturgeon. Small fish like anchovies were also added. Left in brine in the sun for 2 or 3 months to cure this must have produced some interesting smells. The nearby housing (to the right) must have been permeated with the smell of fish. (106-113)

Almost 100 meters directly uphill and across the 2000 year old main street (seen in part1) is the forum, a key element in the Roman city. The administrative and legal center and to some extent religious center it was also a place for networking and meetings and where commercial agreements would be undertaken. In the foreground is the well-preserved Basilica with the rest of the Forum in the back. The entire Forum is 115 by 87 meters.(69)

The Basilica was the courthouse of the period where the local magistrates would hear cases in small civil and mercantile matters. The governor and his council judged higher cases. Constructed on the south of the Forum on the main street between 50 and 60 AD, the Basilica was two storied and occupies a space 38.5 by 19 meters, quite large for a city of 2000, so it probably served a hinterland as well.

Remnants of the 30.4 by 23.1 meters macellum (market) can be seen to the left of and beyond the Basilica. Its main façade opened on the main street. Built between the 1st century BC and about 50 BC it housed the city’s artisans as well as retail shops for fish and other foods. (92-96)

A monumental statue of the Emperor Trajan “presided” over the administration of justice. The original is in the museum at Cádiz and this copy presides over the visiting public today.

The Basilica has 20 Ionic colonnades like these that divide the space into one large central nave and two narrower ones on either side. (97-102)

It is thought that not all the Baths at Baelo Claudia have been excavated since the one that has is too small to serve a city this size in all the functions of a Roman baths: hygiene, massage, exercise, meeting and networking. This bath has not yet been fully excavated but the basic functions can be seen. The bather entered by way of a room with tubs of cold water, proceeded next to be spread with oils, and scratched with strigils to stimulate circulation. Then it was on to the tepid room where the body was warmed enough to move on to the hot bath chamber for real sweating. To finish, the process was reversed, ending in the cold room – frigidarium. (88-91)

The theatre, located about 100 meters above the Baths, was built in the 1st century AD and seems to have been in use for 2-3 centuries. Typically the Roman city financed the construction of some sort of venue for the entertainment of the population, at a minimum a theatre for the performance of tragedies, comedies and mimes. Although the origins of the Roman theatre can be traced to the Greek, but in the Roman model the Chorus (the circular area where the chorus performed) was limited to a semicircle contained within the overall semicircular structure of the theatre. The straight side of the semicircle was enclosed by a 2 storey stage set.

At Baelo Claudia the theatre is a relatively small 67 meters across the semicircle and 49 meters front to back. Even this area would have provided seating in excess of the city’s needs again suggesting that the city served a hinterland. The exterior walls are 2.7 meters thick and have 7 vaulted openings of varying widths around the perimeter allowing access to the seating without the need for circulation corridors under the stands. Here part of the bench seating has been paved with concrete to stabilize the area while the lower seating remains can be seen.

The large rectangular loggias, one at each end of the theatre, are pierced by 3 vaults to lighten their load.

This shows some of the detail of the seating and two of the entrances.

Dominating the Forum on its higher side was the capitolium consisting of the 3 classic temples of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. These 3 independent buildings were separated from each other by narrow corridors. Situated above the Forum in this way they “establish symbolically and physically the per-eminence of the gods over daily life” in the Roman city. (80)

In the 1st century BC cults of eastern origins began to be followed within the Roman empire. “Isis in Egyptian mythology was the wife of Osiris and victor over the night powers. Worshipped widely in the classic world, she came to be considered the Origin of the Universal Female, goddess over all goddesses.” (77) This city boasted a temple to Isis built about 80 AD. Covering an area 29.85 by 17.7 meters, it was completely enclosed by a wall, supporting the theme of secretive mystery which closed its ritual ceremonies to all but the initiated. Again located at height, it is beside the theatre and above the 3 classic temples of the capitolium.

The end of the self-guided tour is at hand and now you’ll have to get back to the highway by keeping the San Bartolomé Hills on your right and the mountains on your left – but you’ve been down that road before. So just before your departure let’s see how well we have captured the essence of a Roman city on the periphery of the Empire by quoting this lengthy excerpt on the “Urbanism of Baelo Claudia”. (53-54)

For the citizens of Rome the city was much more than an agglomeration of housing organized to a greater or lesser measure one alongside another. The city was conceived only when the possibility existed for a series of conscious elements of collective life: temples, assembly or meeting spaces, public institutions, permanent and free services such as public fountains, etc.

This special conception of what is urban comes from understanding the city – the Urbe, that is so say Rome – ultimately as a sacred precinct, protected by gods and as such a space not only physical but also symbolic where each citizen identified with the collective conscience that pertained to a town. Upon reproducing the image of Rome and as much as possible its institutions, the sanctuaries, the public buildings, the tribunals, etc., each city of the Empire, as distant as it might be from the Urbe, participated also in this sacred and collective character.

In effect, the same concept of the city of an essentially religious and spiritual nature demarcated by the “premium,” the city limit, normally defined by the walls, and layout, at least ideally, of the plough line at the founding moment. It was a sacred space, and, therefore, according to the special mentality of the Roman people, it was a legal space. The Law ruled the functioning of the city, and the urban magistrates were intimately connected to the most profound conceptions, and at the same time routine daily life, of the citizenry.

These concepts, repeated in the same way throughout the entire area under the sovereignty of Rome, became one of the most essential structures for the unification of the empire. Definitively, urbanism “was not at that time an abstract, purely technical art.” Its purpose was to give material definition to the essentially abstract and spiritual reality that made up the Urbe.

Finally, it is important to highlight that the spiritual and symbolic character of the Roman city made it a great honour for the important families of each locality to construct the public buildings at their cost, or a least their enlargement, restoration, etc. On other occasions they tried to place beautifying elements on their streets and plazas, such as statues, porticos, triumphal arches, etc. The magistrates elected by the town demonstrated in this way their thanks for the honour they received. The consequence of this patronage was, logically, the greater glory of the cities in the High Imperial period.