You may wish to see two introductory pages to this section first.
The Guadalquivir, the ancient Baetis, runs before the town,
which it has worn into a perfect half-moon.
A bridge of sixteen arches, defended by a large Moorish tower, leads from the south
into Cordova, and near the end of the bridge
stands the mosque, now the cathedral. (..) The view of
the river, city, and woods, on the opposite
hills, is extremely agreeable and picturesque.
Henry Swinburne - Travels through Spain in the Years 1775 and 1776 in which several monuments of Roman and Moorish architecture are illustrated.
The city arms are "a bridge placed on water," allusive to that over the river; the foundations of it are Roman; the present irregular arches were built in 719 by the governor Assam. (..) The artist must not fail to walk below the bridge to some most picturesque Moorish mills (see an image in the introductory page) and pleasant fresh plantations.
Richard Ford - A Handbook for Travellers in Spain - 1855
The foundation of the Roman bridge is dated early Ist century AD and it was most likely part of Via Augusta, the road which linked Narbo Martius (Narbonne) in France with Gades (Cadiz). Its current aspect is the result of a thorough restoration in 2006-2008 which has robbed the monument of its venerable decay.
Partially reconstructed Roman temple which was discovered in the 1950s near the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall)
leave to carry you back to more remote
times; to a period, when Cordova figured to much
greater advantage on the theatre of politics
and commerce. This is not be fixed at the
time of its being a Roman colony, though
it boasts of having given birth to Seneca
and Lucan; nor in the ages during which
it acknowledged the dominion of the Goths. Swinburne
The Moors and Spaniards have combined to destroy all the Roman antiquities of Cordova. Ford
When Swinburne and Ford visited Cordoba, the bridge was almost the only visible Roman monument of the town. Today the traveller has the opportunity to see a number of Roman monuments which were discovered by chance in the second half of the XXth century.
(left/centre) Details of the Roman temple; (right) inscription in Calle Cruz Conde marking the site of the Roman Forum
The construction of the temple began at the time of Emperor Claudius and was completed during that of Emperor Domitian. It stood on a terrace of the provincial forum of Cordoba, which was the capital of Hispania Baetica, one of the three Roman provinces in the Iberian peninsula (similar forums have been identified also at Merida and Tarragona, the other two capitals).
Excavations have unearthed fine marble columns and capitals which show the importance of the building, but not inscriptions indicating its purpose. Considering its location in a forum it is likely it was a Capitolium (see that at Thuburbo Maius in Tunisia), a temple dedicated to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, the deities who were worshipped on the Capitol Hill of Rome, or a temple dedicated to a divinized Emperor, perhaps a Temple to Rome and Augustus as those at Athens and Ancyra (Ankara). In both cases it was a symbol of the bond between Cordoba and Rome and its emperors.
(left/centre) Patio de Naranjos in the Cathedral/Great Mosque: Roman milestones of Emperor Augustus - Imp(erator) Caesar divi f(ilius). Augustus co(n)s(ul) XIII trib(unicia). potest(ate) XXI pontif(ex) max(imus). a Baete et Iano August(o). ad Oceanum. LXIIII. - and Emperor Tiberius (almost identical text); (right) Museum of the Cathedral: capitals which were employed in the construction of the mosque
Near the great gate, that leads from the
cloyster into the mosque, are three pieces of
columns, each with an inscription, which
vary from each other only in the name of the emperor, the rest of the words being
alike in all three. They bear the names of Augustus, Tiberius and Caius (aka Caligula). What these kind of milestones,
and the Janus Augustus were, I confess I
am not able to inform you. Swinburne
Observe the miliary columns found in the middle of the mosque during the repairs of 1532: the inscriptions (re-engraved in 1732 !) record the distance, 114 miles, to Cadiz, from the Temple of Janus, on the site of which the mosque was built. Ford
The existence of a temple beneath the cathedral has been confirmed by excavations. The inscriptions on the milestones were interpreted by Ford as evidence that it was dedicated to Janus, but today many archaeologists suggest they made reference to an arch on Via Augusta because Janus was the god of passages (see Arco di Giano in Rome).
Structures of the Roman theatre inside the Archaeological Museum
The Roman aqueduct was
taken down to build the convent of
San Jeronimo. In 1730 an amphitheatre was discovered during some
accidental diggings near San Pablo (not far from the temple discovered in the 1950s), and
By combining inscriptions, chronicles describing ancient monuments and discoveries made in recent years, archaeologists have ascertained that Roman Cordoba had three aqueducts, a circus, an amphitheatre, a theatre, baths and two forums.
Alcazar de los Reyes Espanoles: Roman wall in an inner patio
In making the prisons of
the Inquisition some statues, mosaics,
and inscriptions were found, all of
which were covered again by the holy
tribunal as being Pagan. Ford
Some facilities were built at the time of Augustus in the proximity of the bridge where most likely was located the river harbour. In the Late Empire they were turned into a castellum, a small fortress. The Umayyad Caliphs used some of its walls to build an alcazar (castle/palace). In the XIIth century the Almohads established the capital of their Spanish possessions at Seville and the alcazar was converted into an alcazaba (a major fortress). After the Christian conquest in 1236 the site became the palace of the Kings of Castile and in 1482 it was assigned to the Holy Office of the Inquisition.
Roman mausoleum and evidence of the road which exited from the western gate of the Roman town
In 1993 a group of funerary monuments built in the Ist century AD were discovered near the site of a Roman gate. A round mausoleum brings to mind that of Cecilia Metella and other similar tombs near Rome as Mausoleo di Lucinio Peto, Sepolcro dei Plauzi and Mausoleo di L. Munatius Plancus.
Roman walls near Calle San Fernando (left/centre) and Arco del Portillo (right)
walls of the town are in many places just
as the Romans left them. Swinburne
Archaeologists have identified the location of the Roman walls which were built in the IInd century BC and of those of the enlargement of the town which occurred at the time of Emperor Trajan. Evidence of them can be noticed in many points of the walls of the Arab medina (walled town).
(left/centre) Ancient columns outside and inside Capilla de San Bartolomé; (right) another ancient column in a street of the old town
A very large number of Roman columns and capitals were utilized in the construction of the Great Mosque, but some broken columns can be seen also in later buildings or at street corners in the old town, especially in the former Jewish quarter.
Archaeological Museum of Cordoba: (left) an unusual Ionic capital (Ist century BC); (right) keystone decorated with a winged Victory (Ist century AD)
Caesar issues a proclamation, appointing a day on which the magistrates and nobility of all the states should attend him at Corduba. This proclamation being published through the whole province, there was not a state that did not send a part of their senate to Corduba, at the appointed time; and not a Roman citizen of any note but appeared that day. (..) Caesar made a public oration at Corduba, in which he returned thanks to the Roman citizens, because they had been zealous to keep the town in their own power.
Caesar - De Bello Civili - II:17-19 translation by W. A. McDevitte and W. S. Bohn.
The Ionic capital was found near the bridge; the wings might have symbolized a victory, perhaps by Caesar.
Archaeological Museum of Cordoba: (above) inscription celebrating Lucius Iunius Paulinus, perpetual "flamen" and "duumvir" of Colonia Patricia; (below-left) "rostrum", beak of a Roman ship; (centre) Pegasus in a mosaic from Calle Cruz Conde; (right) marble mask of a satyr from the centre of the town
Cordoba was given the official name of Colonia Patricia Cordubensis to acknowledge that many of the Roman veterans who settled in the town were patricians, i.e. belonged to the upper class of the Roman society. They were most likely patricians of small Italian towns, the inhabitants of which were entitled to Roman citizenship (e.g. Rieti). Emperors Trajan and Hadrian came from patrician families of Italica.
Archaeological Museums of Cordoba and Madrid: (left) perhaps Drusus Minor, son of Tiberius (from Puente Genil, near Cordoba); (centre) Emperor Antoninus Pius; (right) perhaps Clodius Albinus, self-proclaimed emperor in 195-197
Antoninus Pius ruled the Empire for 23 years, Drusus Minor was the expected heir to Tiberius for three years, but Clodius Albinus was a meteor on the Roman political scene. He was the commander of the legions in Britain and Gaul and he sided with Emperor Septimius Severus during the civil war which followed the assassination of Emperor Commodus. For this reason Septimius Severus gave him the title of Caesar and the consulate for the year 194. He then challenged the authority of the Emperor and was defeated and killed in the battle of Lugdunum (Lyon) in 197. His bust shows that the provincial authorities of Cordoba were well informed about the events in the Empire.
(left/centre) Archaeological Museum of Cordoba: statues of a woman and of a Crouching Venus; (right) National Archaeological Museum of Madrid: Livia, Augustus' third wife as Fortune or Ceres from Baena, near Cordoba
The economy of Roman Cordoba was based on farming. The town stood at the head of the navigable section of the River Guadalquivir and it was therefore able to ship the olive oil which was produced in the surrounding region directly to the warehouses of Rome. The statue of Livia combined the homage to a member of the imperial family with that to the goddess of agriculture. Similar statues can be seen at Caceres, ancient Norba Caesarina and Merida, ancient Augusta Emerita.
Archaeological Museum of Cordoba: (left) Mithras killing the Bull from a villa at Cabra, near Cordoba; (right) fragment of a Christian sarcophagus portraying the Prophet Daniel from Belalcazar, near Cordoba
In some layers of the population of Cordoba the embracing of the Christian faith was preceded by the worship of a supreme deity (Mithras or Sol Invictus). These cults originated in the eastern part of the Empire and in Persia where monotheist religions had their roots.
Alcazar de los Reyes Espanoles: Roman sarcophagus (IIIrd century AD)
This sarcophagus which was recently found in the northern outskirts of Cordoba shows how the feelings of believers in the traditional religion began to change. The central part of the relief on the front of the box depicts the gate of the underworld. The doors are decorated with ram and lion heads symbolizing strength. Two peacocks are shown in the pediment, representing eternity. The two dead stand at the sides of the gate, both accompanied by a mentor. Their portrayal is pervaded by a melancholy which is very far from the light-heartedness of earlier Pagan sarcophagi and tombs which depicted banqueting scenes.
Archaeological Museum of Cordoba: details of an early IVth century Christian sarcophagus found in Avenida Cruz de Juarez in the outskirts of Cordoba: (left) Adam and Eve; (right) Sacrifice of Isaac. The image used as background for this page shows another relief of the same period showing men at work in an orchard
The first Bishop of Cordoba is recorded in 279, but the most important one in that period is Hosius, bishop in 294-357. He advised Emperor Constantine on the 313 Decree of Milan which made legal the Christian faith. He attended the 325 Council of Nicaea and in 356 he fiercely opposed the interference of Emperor Constantius II in religious matters.
Hosius to Constantius the Emperor Sends Health in the Lord. I was a Confessor at the first, when a persecution arose in the time of your grandfather Maximian; and if you shall persecute me, I am ready now, too, to endure anything rather than to shed innocent blood and to betray the truth. But I cannot approve of your conduct in writing after this threatening manner. Cease to write thus. (..) Cease these proceedings, I beseech you, and remember that you are a mortal man. Be afraid of the day of judgment, and keep yourself pure thereunto. Intrude not yourself into Ecclesiastical matters, neither give commands unto us concerning them; but learn them from us. God has put into your hands the kingdom; to us He has entrusted the affairs of His Church.
St. Athanasius - History of the Arians - Part VI-44 - Translation by Philip Schaff
Alcazar de los Reyes Espanoles: Roman mosaics: (left) Polyphemus and Galatea (see Raphael's Triumph of Galatea - it opens in another window -, a fresco at Villa della Farnesina in Rome); (right) tragedy actor
These Roman mosaics were found in 1959 during excavations in Plaza de la Corredera in the very centre of the old town. This three-eyed Polyphemus brings to mind a mosaic at Villa del Casale in Sicily. The Cyclops is portrayed while courting Galatea, a beautiful nymph. The scene depicted is based on Ovid's account:
(Galatea:) Now, Polyphemus, wretched Cyclops, you are careful of appearance, and you try the art of pleasing. You have even combed your stiffened hair with rakes: it pleases you to trim your shaggy beard with sickles, while you gaze at your fierce features in a pool so earnest to compose them. (..) There, after he had laid his pine tree down, which served him for a staff, although so tall it seemed best fitted for a ship's high mast, he played his shepherd pipes - in them I saw a hundred reeds. The very mountains felt the pipings of that shepherd, and the waves beneath him shook respondent to each note.
Ovid - Metamorphoses - Book XIII - Brookes More Ed. Boston.
Alcazar de los Reyes Espanoles: other Roman mosaics found in 1959: (left) a geometric one with a head of a Gorgon; (right) fragment of a garland
Roman exhibits in the Palacio Viana Collection
Plan of this section (see its introductory pages):
|Andalusia||Almeria Antequera Baelo Claudia Carmona Cordoba Granada Italica Jerez de la Frontera Medina Azahara Ronda Seville Tarifa|
|Castile||Archaeological Park of Carranque Castillo de Coca Olmedo Segovia Toledo Villa La Olmeda|
|Catalonia||Barcelona Emporiae Girona Tarragona|