The Roman city of Italica Seville may be seen as vast swathes of ruins to some, but for me and mine it bought Roman lives to life. Shops, homes, baths and one of the largest amphitheaters in the Roman world (being able to accommodate about 25,000 people) are side by side here. Gladiators…!
It’s fair to say the men were the most eager. Turn left to the Roman homes, shops and baths. James had spotted the impressive amphitheater to the right. His Dad was already in a zone.
We weren’t always sure what we were looking at.
This area may be the service establishments, shops and craft workshops located around the residential buildings. In addition to these spaces, Italica probably had one or two markets selling basic necessities.
These “tabernae” may have had a ground floor open to arcaded sidewalks, which held the actual business, and an upper floor, often accessed by wooden stairs, where the home was located. However, Italica is considered quite posh (containing many homes of political and financial elites) so shop keepers may have had smart homes as well here.
Immediately we became amateur archaeologists. Was this ditch for protection?
After some head scratching we were non the wiser.
Pillars hint, but we just stare mouth slightly agape.
Windows like a cold English castle? Surely not. These open to the ditch and may be to do with drainage. Hmmm, but then wouldn’t those pebbles be more worn?
This was going to test our logical thinking!
Steps. Yep, definitely.
The streets are characterized by their large width and arcaded sidewalks. The route of the road is orthogonal, meaning there are perpendicular intersecting streets forming rectangular blocks of different sizes. They were designed to deal with vehicles.
They hint at the huge size of the city.
We were delighted to spot a mosaic floor. Little did we know that the site was full of them, many richly decorative and beautiful.
You are allowed to romp over most of the site, working out which room leads to which. Don’t worry you’ll know if you tread on protected areas, you’ll get a whistle blown sharply towards you!
Some parts looked like central courtyards with cooling pools in the centre.
A private bath? There are natural thermal springs here. Or maybe a bread oven or kiln? Please leave us a message if you can guess.
We reached the so called Bird House, named after the famous mosaic here. It is notible for it’s superior location, quality construction and luxurious finishes. The bathroom/kiln above may be part of this swanky abode.
Slightly restored you get to look at a courtyard with a well.
Some sort of fruit tree gives life to this area. You can imagine many such trees giving up their juicy fruit to hot and hungry Romans.
It has been documented that in summer the north wing was lived in and in winter the south wing, confirmed by the characteristics of the courtyards. This summer courtyard has a pretty pond with a fountain.
The small niche paved with mosaic has been interpreted as an altar dedicated to the patron gods of the home, the so called ‘Lares’.
A geometric pattern of thirty-three different species of birds fill this square with a lost emblem in it’s centre. This beautiful flooring has given this house it’s name.
But mosaic floors are everywhere here.
Where the ruins get baked in the Spanish climate the aging tree’s offer some shelter.
Emperor Trajan stands at the top of the hill. He lived here. In typical Roman fashion, he stands here proud and naked, with just a cape over his shoulder.
We reach another home, the exciting sounding House of the Planetarium, with it’s numerous lavish mosaic floors.
This mosaic contains images of the seven gods associated with the stars that, the Romans believed, govern the universe.
I would guess this was the most beautiful home, if the elaborate mosaics were to go by.
Despite hubby’s expression, he was relishing guessing what was what. This tub could be for washing up – I mean, have you seen the size of the storage jars they excavate on ‘Time Team’?
The public baths are a mix of hot ‘caldaria’, warm ‘tepidarium’ and cold ‘frigidarium’ baths. The cold one was used for exercise.
Friendly get-togethers and business meetings would take place here, whilst receiving massages, listening to poets or to consult the library there.
It was a very important hub of Roman life.
I’m pretty sure the stacks of bricks are remains of the underfloor heating system. So the hot and warm pools would be here, making the most of the natural warm underground water available.
The amphitheater stands just outside of the Roman walls, to the north of the city.
This entrance of the amphitheater is the grandest. The arena has two main entrances: to the east, the triumphal gate, through which the procession of combatants entered; and west, the gate the ‘fallen’ use.
This pillar standing at the centre of the entrance is engraved. Perhaps inspiring words for the gladiators, or proud Roman words for the people.
There was a river that flowed through the valley causing the Roman engineers issues with drainage. Many pipes were laid to try and keep the ground in the area constantly dry. A series of broken pipes may explain why it was eventually abandoned.
Its construction started in time of the Emperor Hadrian (117-138), when the population and size of the city expanded.
Although it seems that the construction was never completed, it was in use until the fourth century.
Charlotte peaks out. Checking I’ve seen where the family has disappeared to.
It has an oval plan and its main parts are the arena area, where the shows took place, and the stands, similar to a theater. It was a concrete structure with stones and marble plates.
There she is.
We explore the stands, shouting ‘Strength and Honour!’ at every moment.
Along the length of the arena there is a hidden basement housing various departments of the games and, above all, the animal cages that were elevated to the sand level at the appropriate time.
The Roman shows were bloody: gladiator fights; deathly dramas of historical military events; hunting and fighting between animals of different species.
Are you not entertained?! Weeell, I love the ruin, but would have hated the violent Roman aggression.
This amazingly is the Gladiators tablet listing their pay.
Apparently much of the remains of Italica were ransacked for the Seville Cathedral, you can see that and more from the Santa Cruz blog post, or you may like to see the Parque Maria Luisa or the Triana area of Seville. For some recommendations of restaurants click here.
Roman city of Italica Seville
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