The Roman city of Tárraco was the oldest Roman settlement on the Iberian Peninsula and later became a major administrative and mercantile city in Roman Spain.
Excavations have revealed parts of the Roman settlement from the foundation of the city in the Republican period (3rd century BCE) to the Early Christian Era.
The archaeological ensemble of Tárraco is one of the largest archaeological sites of Roman Hispania preserved in Spain today. Many of the Roman remains are fragmentary but nonetheless present a vivid picture of the grandeur of Tárraco as a Roman provincial city.
In 2000 UNESCO declared Tarragona a World Heritage Site based on two Criterion:
Criterion (ii): The Roman remains of Tárraco are of exceptional importance in the development of Roman urban planning and design and served as the model for provincial capitals elsewhere in the Roman world.
Criterion (iii): Tárraco provides eloquent and unparalleled testimony to a significant stage in the history of the Mediterranean lands in antiquity.
Here’s a 3 min trailer of the documentary from the series Roman Engineering that gives you a sense of a Tárraco at the times of the Roman Empire.
Spanish company IMAGEEN creates the project “Reliving Tárraco” that lets to experience the past through the use of augmented reality and virtual reality. Based on my own experience, consider yourself lucky if you see all these videos before visiting Tarragona.
The view of Roman Tárraco over actual Tarragona in Catalonia, Spain.
Colonial forum was built in approximately 30 BCE as the religious and social hub. Just a few ruins remained to our days — several columns and only a portion of the basilica.
The Roman Circus
Built in the 1st century AD to hold horse and chariot races for 30,000 spectators. This Circus is one of the best preserved in the world.
The entrance of the museum is near the Praetorium, a Roman-era tower that once housed the stairs that connected the lower city to the provincial forum by way of the circus, to which it is connected by means of underground passageways.
Built in the 2nd century AD overlooking the sea as the scene of fights between gladiators and against wild beasts for 14,000 spectators.
The Necropolis and Paleochristian Museum
The early Christian necropolis of Tarragona is a late Roman funerary complex used in the Late-Roman period, between the middle of the 3rd and the 5th centuries AD discovered in 1923.
The fascinating collection of Paleochristian Museum and Necropolis consists of sarcophagi, mosaic, archaeology artifacts, and art.
On a Saturday in July, we were the only ones learning about Roman funerary practices and exploring the cemetery area for an hour after 10 AM… So cool!
The quarry can be visited easily from the National Road 340 or from the AP-7, by La Mora. It is the largest of the six Roman quarries around Tárraco.
Tárraco flourished under Augustus. In 27 BCE, he went to Spain to monitor the campaigns in Cantabria. However, due to his poor health, he preferred to use Tárraco as a base for his operations against the Cantabrians.
From the book “The Twelve Caesars” written by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus we know that in the course of his life Augustus suffered from several severe and dangerous illnesses, especially after the subjugation of Cantabria. He experienced also some disorders which recurred every year at definite times. Hence his constitution was so weakened that he could not readily endure either cold or heat.
Suetonius also shares how the story of Tárraco is connected with Galba, the sixth emperor of the Roman Empire. He governed the Hispania Tarraconensis province in Tárraco for eight years Galba from 61 AD in a variable and inconsistent manner. At first, he was vigorous and energetic and even over-severe in punishing offenses. But he gradually changed to sloth and inaction, not to give Nero any cause for jealousy, and as he used to say himself because no one could be forced to render an account for doing nothing.