Roman Mérida

To speak of Mérida is like talking about a city which is, in itself, practically an open-air museum... This marvellous city gives us a unique chance to get to know the Roman Empire in all its splendour. On each corner there are fascinating pointers to the past. One of the most beautiful is without doubt the Roman Theatre. In its heyday, 6,000 spectators would fill its terraces. Today, we can still marvel at its stunning ‘Frons Scenae’ decorated with marble statues of emperors and goddesses. Just a few metres away, we encounter the amphitheatre, the venue that bore witness to countless, emotional duels between gladiators, prisoners and wild beasts. These colourful events would bring together multitudes of spectators from all parts of Lusitania – a public who would also attend the Roman Circus, one of the oldest of its type in peninsula. Here, frenetic chariot races, using four and two-horse carts, would be staged – another of the city’s showpiece events in the day. If we stand close to the centre, we get a clear impression of the grand scale of this impressive structure - 417 metres long and 112 metres wide. We may ask ourselves, “Just what was everyday Roman life like back then?” The nearby amphitheatre house gives us a clearer idea of how the locals went about their daily business in their homes. Life revolved around an interior patio lined with columns with rooms off all four sides, many of them decorated with beautiful mosaics (featuring fish or the mosaic of Venus and Cupid). The streets of Mérida unveil treasures such as the Temple of Diana or the Trajano Arch and also reveals its many spas (Saint Lazarus) where we can imagine the saunas and pools of cold and hot water. The water arrived here via the many aqueducts such as the Miracles Aqueduct… On the outskirts of the city at the Mitreo House, we find the most well-known mosaic of Roman Mérida, the Aión Mosaic. A delightfully pleasant tree-lined stroll takes us to the final part of our route – a burial ground known as the Columbarios. Here we can contemplate the various, different burial models employed in different eras such as Roman mausoleums of startling beauty, which help us to understand a civilization whose cultural, architectural and social legacy we can still enjoy to this day.