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Turismo de Mérida

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This option allows us to know some of the buildings used for entertainment in a great Roman Empire capital, and also tells us more, in a superficial way, about the daily life of the early inhabitants of Mérida and their ways of dealing with death. The Museum visit will give us the key to a civilization which is an intrinsic part of our culture.

The ROMAN THEATRE (1) was built under the patronage of consul Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa between 16 and 15 B.C. The Theatre was partially built on a hillside which made the construction costs substantially cheaper. The rest of it was built in concrete covered with ashlars.

Although Romans were not very big fans of theatre, a prestigious city had to have a building for theatrical performances. The one in Augusta Emerita had an especially large capacity: about six thousand people. They were distributed from top to bottom, according to their social status, in three tiers, caveas summa, media and ima, separated by passageways and barriers. Using well distributed passageways and stairs, people could reach the access doors or vomitories.

The highest, deteriorated, tier or summa cavea, was the only part of the building you could see above the surface, before its excavation in 1910. The inhabitants of Mérida called the ruins the Seven Chairs.

The Cavea ima, where the knights of the city sat, was modified in the Trajan period and a holy space was built in the centre surrounded by a marble rail. In front of the cavea ima we can see three wider and lower tiers where the magistrates and priests of the city enjoyed the show on chairs that could be moved. They had access to their seats through the big lateral gates on both ends. Above these gates you could find the tribunalia for magistrates who financed the event. The semicircular space where you could find the choir, la orchestra, shows a marble floor from a later reform. Behind the orchestra there is a proscenium wall with circular and rectangular exedra on which the scaena is displayed. Originally, it was a wooden stage underneath which all the pieces of the stage machinery were distributed.

The scaena is closed with a 30-metre high wall, the frons scaenae, organised in two sections of pillars and in between them you can see statues of deified emperors and gods of the underworld. You can find this all on a podium which is decorated with sumptuous marble. On stage there are three doors used by the actors to enter the stage. The central door, the valva regia, ends in a lintel on which the statue of the sitting goddess Ceres (or Livia, Augustus’ deified wife) is placed.

Roman Theatre

Behind the stage wall there is a wide garden enclosed by walls with vaulted niches that were decorated with statues of the imperial family members. On the axis of this portico, on the same line of the valva regia and the sacred space of the ima cavea, you can find the aula sacra, a small sacred space with an altar to worship the divine figure of Augustus.

We can see THE HOUSE OF THE THEATRE at the west end of the Theatre portico. José Ramón Mélida, who excavated it, thought that the rooms which had apses with windows were part of a church where one of the first Christian communities used to gather. That is why he called it “Basilica-house”.

The entrance of the house is on the west side and faces a road made out of diorite flagstones which goes from east to west. The fauces of the house lead to a series of rooms that are organised around a courtyard which used to be porticoed and where you can still see the remains of a pond in the centre.

Some of the rooms preserve remains of mosaics decorated with geometrical forms and plant motifs. At the back of the courtyard we can find apsed rooms which invade areas that used to be part of the Theatre portico. The rooms must have been covered with a barrel vault and, in the apses, they would have ended in a semi-spherical cap. On the part that is left of the walls, plastered with paintings, we can find decorations with imitations of marble inlays in the base and in the part of the apse, on pedestals, the lower third part of the statues, perhaps of servants dressed with coloured tunics and decorated with brocade, are preserved.

Except for the floor of the apse area, which was possibly paved with marble, the rest of the room was decorated with a mosaic showing a krater in a square. The house, from the 2nd century AD, has had several reforms, although the main one including the apsed rooms is from the 4th century AD.

The AMPHITHEATRE (2) was built in 8 BC, as is shown by the inscription found in its grandstands, and served as a stage to very popular events: the gladiatorial games. Between approximately fifteen and sixteen thousand spectators fitted into this gigantic arena.

Aerial view of the Roman Theatre and Amphitheatre

It is next to the Theatre but it is separated from it by a road that surrounds both buildings. This building was built with poorer means but it is quite similar to the Theatre and, just like the Theatre, it was built in several phases. To keep the costs low, a part of the stands was placed on boxes firmly packed with sand. The walls were made of rough local stone. On occasions the tiers of the walls were matched with layers of bricks. For the arches of the entrances, ashlars were used which showed the typical rustication of the augustean period.

The distribution of the stands was similar to that of the Theatre, although today only the cavea ima is well preserved and some of the sections of the cavea media. On three of the axis of the ellipse we can see the existence of four monumental gates. If you entered them from the outside, crossed the wide corridors, two of which had steps, you would come out onto the arena.

Doors came out onto different parts of each corridor that gave access to the stairs to go to the stands. Above the door on the western minor axis you could find the grandstand for the magistrates which has not been preserved. Opposite this grandstand, on the eastern axis, you can find the partially restored grandstand for the people who financed the event. By using a small stair, the sponsors could access the arena.

THE HOUSE OF THE AMPHITHEATRE is an archaeological area that is found outside the Augusta Emerita walls where you could find houses as well as funeral and industrial spaces. At the moment it is not possible to visit them because they are being restored. There are two houses: the House of the Water tower, from the 1st century BC, and the House of the Amphitheatre which lasted longer, from the end of the 3rd century BC until the beginning of the 5th AC.

National Roman Art Museum

Finally do not miss the NATIONAL ROMAN ART MUSEUM (3), work of the prestigious architect from Rioja, Rafael Moneo Vallés, with its colossal dimensions and repeated use of the semicircular arch and the use of bricks and concrete, recreates the great buildings of the late Roman age, such as the thermae of Dioclitatianus of Rome or the mausoleum of Gordianus in Thessalonica.

The Prado Museum, the Royal Galician Academy of Fine Arts and the Santiago Cathedral Foundation jointly organize a monographic exhibition with works by Maestro Mateo for the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, which offers the visitor the opportunity to know in depth a golden viagra price In the history of the basilica, between 1168 and 1211.

Inside we can admire one of the best collections of Roman sculptures and mosaics on the peninsula. By visiting its rooms, we will understand how a great Roman city used to work and how it administrated a vast province, the most Western one of the Roman Empire. A visit to this museum also allows us to have a closer look to a variety of aspects of daily life of the first inhabitants of Mérida.

In its crypt you can find, among other remains, the remains of houses from outside the town decorated with interesting paintings, as well as some tombs.