For a hugely interactive tour of the Roman ‘Tarraco’ in today’s Tarragona, download the app ‘Imageen’, take some headphones with you, and seek out the historical sites. The app will show you virtually what each place looked like in Roman times, as well tell you its significance today. You can use a sliding bar to reveal more or less of past and present at each location!!
Here are the four key sites and the main bits I learned about each.
Amphitheatre & Arena
This was home to gladiator combats; fights between men and fights between men and animals, and the terraces could seat approximately 12,000 people, protected from the sun by the villagio. Contrary to the Hollywood portrayal of gladiators fighting to the death, for these men it was a long-lasting career and most went home to their families each night.
The amphitheatre was built in the second century and in the centre, there were 2 churches. The arena floor was covered by wooden board, and kept underneath were the wild animals and machinery. Enemies of Rome were publicly executed in the arena and there were two entrances: one in which gladiators used, and one in which the dead were carried out through.
In Roman times, this was a grand square dedicated to the Imperial Cult. The large marble building was a meeting place of the Provincial Council. In the centre, where the Cathedral stands today, used to sit the Grand Temple of Augustus. In front, stood an altar of sacrifices dedicated to the Cult. The square was a worship area, measuring 156 x 133 meters, and designed to impress, with great views out over the Mediterranean. Provincial and grand worship ceremonies were held here, in the upper section of Tarraco - the city’s most prestigious area, and now the historical quarter of Tarraco.
Font Square, Tarraco Circus & now City Hall
This huge square is today a public meeting place with cafes and restaurants spilling onto the patio with tables in the sun. In Roman times, it was divided by a large wall called a ‘spina’, adorned by statues, separating the northern and southern stands. Up to 23,000 spectators would watch chariot racing here, with chariots bursting out through 12 large starting gates at the Western end and racing 7 laps clockwise around the spina. There was a large tower at each end, and the Eastern tower still stands today although it has been rebuilt several times over the centuries. The square occupies only 20% of what was the circus arena. Today's houses on this strip were built on the Roman foundations, taking advantage of the vaults, hence they are all a similar width.
2000 years ago, a Basilica was built here. It had three knaves. One was centrally raised with large windows to illuminate the interior, the northern one was where different functions of the Basilica were carried out, and the southern one held the entrances to the large porticoed Forum square. The knaves were adorned with statues and inscriptions dedicated to Gods and the Emperors and their families. The Basilica was a grandiose building and the centre of Tarraco’s public life: holding the city’s political and administrative affairs, ceremonies of Emperor worship, and was where trials and financial operations were carried out.
This app was incredible and I definitely recommend using it! For a self-directed walking tour it was so informative, and holding my phone up to see chariots rushing at me in certain places was unreal. I learned so much in just a morning, and Tarraco is a truly beautiful place that you should definitely take time to visit.
If you liked this blog post, please 'like' it and share it with your friends! - Kirsty ☺️