Caesaraugusta, the former name of Zaragoza, which the city received in the 14th century BC in honour of the emperor Caesar Augustus, is proof of an undeniable Roman past. This past has never completely disappeared, of course, and it is now possible to travel back in time thanks to the museums dedicated to the city's history.
Roman history buffs really need to book their Renfe high-speed train ticket to discover the history of Aragon's capital.
The museums dedicated to the Public Baths, the Forum, the River Port and the Theatre define the route of Caesaraugusta, an itinerary that allows you to discover the political centre and the most emblematic buildings of the Roman city. These buildings bring the commercial, economic, political, social, cultural and religious activities of the time to life.
The remains of a large swimming pool, part of the public Roman baths, were discovered around 1983. In 1990, the latrines from an earlier stage were discovered. The public baths were located between the Forum and the Theatre, in the centre of Caesaraugusta. Of all the facilities (changing rooms, hot rooms, cold rooms, warm rooms, gymnasium, etc.) only the latrines, which could accommodate up to twenty people, remained. The rest was demolished in the middle of the first century AD to build a large swimming pool with arcades over the remains, where people could swim in the open air.
Whatever city you visit, if it has Roman roots, you'll know that the Forum was its nerve centre, being the main meeting place for political, administrative, economic and religious life. The most important buildings were set around a large area: the Curia, Basilica and also the city's main temple. Next to it were taverns, shops and certainly other buildings linked to the town's administration. These buildings were decorated with a range of other features, including altars for sacrifices, statues and triumphal arches… In this case, we know what some of these monuments looked like thanks to the fact that they were depicted on the city's coins.
The Ebro, Spain's longest river, flows through Zaragoza. In Roman times, the river was navigable from Dertosa (Tortosa) to Vareia (Logroño), encouraging the development of trade, which in turn led to the development of river ports in several towns. Caesaraugusta was the main enclave for the redistribution of goods, both from inland and from the coast, in the centre of the valley. The port facilities were housed in a large building with a superb arcaded façade overlooking the river.
It was undoubtedly a huge building and the most popular in the city. Aligned with the baths and the forum, its construction began in the time of Tiberius. Nevertheless, its popularity declined in the third century, and it was systematically stolen. Even though it was abandoned as a theatre, its ruins were repurposed to build houses throughout history, a secret and hidden witness to the lives of Zaragoza's inhabitants right up to the 21st century.
The four main museums in the city will help you discover the past of beautiful Zaragoza. However, there are many more, which we'll come back to in a later article, such as the Zaragoza Provincial Museum and the Pablo Gargallo Museum, both part of Aragon's Cultural Heritage. First of all, travel in comfort on our Renfe trains and then travel back in time, in the footsteps of Caesar Augustus.
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