Merida, also referred to as ‘Emerita’, was founded in 25 BC by Augustus at the end of his Spanish Campaign. The initial settlers of the town were the veterans of the legions that made up his army.
The archaeological ensemble of Merida symbolizes the Romanization of a land hitherto never influenced by urban landscape. It contains important elements of Roman town design that are considered the best surviving examples of their kind. Most notable are the aqueducts and other elements of Roman water management that are in an incredible state of preservation.
Merida, also referred to as ‘Emerita’, was founded in 25 BC by Augustus at the end of his Spanish Campaign. The initial settlers of the town were the veterans of the legions that made up his army. Amazingly, its rise was quick as 3 years after it was established it became the new capital of the Roman Province of Lusitania. The city played a very important role in conquering the area northwest of Iberian Peninsula.
The fact that the town was located along the junction of a major road and River Quadiana allowed it to become an administrative, communications and commercial center. At around 3rd century AD, Christianity was established in the city and the city eventually became the seat of the Archbishop.
Upon pacification of the peninsula by the Visigoths in 457, the city enjoyed prosperity as one of the capitals of the Visigoth’s 6 provinces. In 711, the Visigothic army took refuge in the city. The city also played important role in the opposition against the rule by the Moors. It is for this reason that Abderrahman ordered the construction of the fortress of Alcazaba to guard the Guadiana Bridge in 834. In 1230, the Christian army recaptured the city and it saw a brief revival under Los Reyes Catolicos. Unfortunately, its glory days were over as it was drained of both material and human resources during the Catalan and Portuguese rebellions against Philip II.
Attractions in Merida
- The Guadiana Bridge
- The amphitheater (15,000 spectators)
- The classic Vitruvian theatre
- The peripteral and hexastyle Temple of Diana
- The Circus
- Two columbarii (family tombs)
- The water supply system to Emerita that includes three dams, well-preserved stretches of underground water channels and substantial remains of
- The Basilica de Casa Herrera
- A palaeo-Christian basilica
- The Martyr Church of Santa Eulalia
- The Alcazaba
- The massive walls, with their 25 bastions
It is fair to say that Merida is one of the few ancient cities in Spain that still have significant Roman monuments. You are well advised to spend some time there.
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