A week ago Tuesday Ruben and I traveled to Tarragona to do some sightseeing, mainly of the Roman ruins. I have broken this into two posts. This first one contains more general information while the second focuses on the various places that we visited.
Location of Tarragona (yellow spot)
with respect to Catalunya, Europe, and the World
Tarragona is a city located in the south of Catalunya and northeast corner of Spain, by the Mediterranean Sea. It is the capital of the Spanish province of the same name and the capital of the Catalan comarca (county) of Tarragonès. The city has a population of about 150 thousand, and the urban area of 450 thousand.
In Roman times, the city was named Tarraco and was the capital of the province of Hispania Tarraconensis. This province encompassed much of the Mediterranean coast of Spain along with the central plateau and the north coast, and part of northern Portugal. During the Roman era Tarraco was much more important than Barcino, present day Barcelona.
Some suggest that the city was probably founded by the Phoenicians, who called it 'Tarchon, which means a citadel. This name was probably derived from its location on a high rock, between 700 and 800 feet above the sea. Tarraco lies on the main Roman road, Via Augusta, crossing all the Hispania Province, from Cádiz in the southern tip of current Spain and eventually leading to Rome. A branch of the Via Augusta runs in front of where I live.
Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire and for whom the month of August is named, wintered at Tarraco after his Cantabrian campaign. The city minted coins and was the richest town on the coast.
Model of Tarraco.
The Roman Circus is in the foreground.
The temple in the rear is now a cathedral.
There are still many important ancient remains at Tarragona. Part of the bases of large Cyclopean walls near the Quartel de Pilatos are thought to pre-date the Romans. The building just mentioned, a prison in the 19th century, is said to have been the palace of Augustus.
But Tarraco, like most other ancient towns which have continued to be inhabited, has been pulled to pieces for the purpose of obtaining building materials. The amphitheatre near the sea-shore has been used as a quarry, and but a few vestiges now remain.
A Roman circus, 1500 feet long, is built above it, though portions of it are still to be traced. Throughout the town, Latin and even Phoenician inscriptions appear on the stones that have been “re-purposed” for building houses.
an underground gallery
of the Roman Circus
Tarragona is home to a large port. Much of its economic activity comes from a large amount of chemical industries located in the city or in surrounding areas.
Tarragona tourist attractions include the Museum of Archaeology and the Roman ruins of Tarraco, which has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Tarragona has a wall surrounding the old city, too. More about these in my next post.
Me in front of the cathedral
site of a Roman temple
A number of good beaches, some awarded the prestigious Blue Flag, line the Mediterranean coast near the city.
e_ticket could probably tell you about the nearby Universal Studios theme park Port Aventura, one of the largest in Europe.
The most important fireworks contest in the Mediterranean area is held the first week of July in Tarragona. The competition selects six international pyrotechnic companies.
Tarraco Viva is one of the most important Roman reactments of the world. Many groups around Europe recreate the Roman world: from the Roman legions and gladiators, to daily life. It’s celebrated between 10th and 20th of May.