Archaeological site of Itálica, Seville, Spain

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Date: Dec, 2014
Location: Itálica, Santiponce, Seville, Spain

 

The city of Itálica was founded in 206 BC by Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus in order to settle Roman soldiers wounded in the Battle of Ilipa, where the Carthaginian army was defeated during the Second Punic War.

Although the city’s population at the time is estimated to have been only around 8000, Itálica’s amphitheater seated 25,000 spectators, half as many as the famous Flavian Amphitheatre (Colosseum) in Rome, and was the third largest in the Roman Empire. The games and theatrical performances were funded by the local aristocracy, who filled the positions of magistrate, and were a means of establishing status. The size of the amphitheater shows that the local elite were maintaining high status that extended far beyond Itálica itself.

Itálica was also the birthplace of Roman emperor Trajan who was officially declared optimus princeps (“the best ruler”) by the Senate. He is remembered as a successful soldier-emperor who presided over the greatest military expansion in Roman history, leading the empire to attain its maximum territorial extent by the time of his death.

The city started to dwindle as early as the 3rd century. A shift of the Guadalquivir River bed, caused by siltation following mass deforestation in the area left Itálica desolate. Eventually, with the growth of Seville nearby, the city was completely abandoned.

One of the first excavators of the ruins was the British textile merchant and Seville resident Nathan Wetherell, who uncovered nearly 20 Roman inscriptions in the vicinity of Itálica in the 1820s that were later donated to the British Museum. Many of the best artifacts from the site are now in the Museo Arqueologico of Seville, including the famous marble colossus of Trajan. In Itálica, cobbled Roman streets and tile mosaic floors are still visible. The excavation of Italica began in 1781 and still continues today.

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