The roman colony of Emerita Augusta (current day Mérida) was founded in 25 BC by Octavius Augustus, to resettle emeritus soldiers discharged from the Roman army from two veteran legions of the Cantabrian Wars: Legio V Alaudae and Legio X Gemina. The city was the capital of the Roman province of Lusitania. The term emeritus meant in latin "retired" and referred to retired soldiers with honor. Today the Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida is one of the largest and most extensive archaeological sites in Spain
and a UNESCO World
Heritage Site since 1993.
The theatre was built from 15 to 16 BC and dedicated by the consul Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. It was renovated in the late 1st or early 2nd century AD, possibly by the emperor Trajan, and again between 330 and 340 during Constantine's reign, when a walkway and new decorative elements were added. With the advent of Christianity as Rome's sole state religion, theatrical performances were officially declared immoral: the theatre was abandoned and most of its fabric was covered with earth, leaving only its upper tiers of seats (summa cavea). In Spanish tradition, these were known as "The Seven Chairs" in which several Moorish kings held court to decide the fate of the city.
The amphitheatre was dedicated in 8 BC, for use in gladiatorial contests and staged beast-hunts. It has an elliptical arena, surrounded by tiered seating for around 15,000 spectators, divided according to the requirements of Augustan ideology; the lowest seats were reserved for the highest status spectators. Only these lowest tiers survive. Once the games had fallen into disuse, the stone of the upper tiers was quarried for use elsewhere.
The circus of Emerita Augusta was built some time around 20 BC, and was in use for many years before its dedication some thirty years later, probably during the reign of Augustus' successor, Tiberius. It was sited outside the city walls, alongside the road that connected Emeritus in Corduba (Córdoba) with Toletum (Toledo).
Roman Bridge Over The Guadiana
The bridge can be considered the focal point of the city. It connects to one of the main arteries of the colony, the Decumanus Maximus, or east-west main street typical of Roman settlements. The location of the bridge was carefully selected at a ford of the river Guadiana, which offered as a support a central island that divides it into two channels. The original structure did not provide the continuity of the present, as it was composed of two sections of arches joined at the island, by a large Starling.
Temple of Diana
This temple is a municipal building belonging to the city forum. It is one of the few buildings of religious character preserved in a satisfactory state. Despite its name, wrongly assigned in its discovery, the building was dedicated to the Imperial cult. It was built in the late 1st century B.C. or early in the Augustan era. Rectangular, and surrounded by columns, it faces the front of the city's Forum. This front was formed by a set of six columns ending in a gable. It is mainly built of granite.
Other Sights and Attractions
- Roman Baths of San Lázaro. These springs located in the San Lazaro Linear Park, the citizens enjoyed high rank who came to the events in the Roman Circus.
- Roman Baths and snow pit of the C/ Reyes Huertas. Used by the Romans as well snow and cold water baths, is unique in the Roman Empire. It was also used for storage of perishable goods.
- Crypt of Santa Eulalia, Santa Eulalia archaeological site. In the basement of the Basilica of Santa Eulalia is a very interesting site that describes the various vicissitudes he suffered this church from its construction to present day.
- Obelisk of Santa Eulalia. Built in the seventeenth century in honor of the martyr patroness of Merida, being used in various building materials among them Roman pieces, including three cylindrical and a capital interest. Crowning the whole is the image of the martyr, a reworked judicial robes.
- Xenodoquio. Only remnant of Visigothic architecture preserved in Spain that has no liturgical character. It was built by Bishop Mason in the second half of the 6th century. Near the Basilica of Santa Eulalia de Mérida, served as a hospital and shelter of the pilgrims who came to venerate the remains of the child martyr, also used as a hospital for the poor of the city.