Travel Blog

Cordoba capital of the Roman Hispania
15th December 2020

Corduba, that is, Roman Córdoba, was founded by General Claudio Marcelo between the years 169 BC and 152 BC, and he settled, as we will see in the section dedicated to urban planning, opposite the part of river Guadalquivir where it is no longer navigable. The settlement had an undoubtedly excellent strategic situation, as it was a platform through which the land could be accessed in times of conquest. During the first years, the Romans lived together with the native population that was already established in villages near the city, but they gradually disappeared.

The new city, located on the highest hill of the current city, was from the beginning capital of the province of the Hispania Ulterior (Hispania “The Far”), which shows the importance Córdoba has had since ancient times. As time went by, a new period of conflicts started in Rome, triggered by the civil wars between Caesar and Pompey’s sons, which finished with the end of the Roman Republic. The city supported Pompey, the losing side; therefore the reprisal soon arrived, and Córdoba, with more than 20,000 inhabitants at the time, was severely punished, and a long period of recession started.
With the arrival of Emperor Augustus to power, things started to change, as he settled in Roman Córdoba a great number of veterans who had taken part in the northern wars, and he gave them numerous portions of land. But the most important thing is that, at this time, and despite his political records, Augustus granted the city the status of Colonia Patricia, the highest rank a city of the Roman Empire could have (also Carthago Nova, Tarraco or Astigi had it in Hispania).

Along the 1st century AD, Corduba experienced numerous transformations caused by this change of status: the walled perimeter was extended until River Betis (current Guadalquivir) and an embellishment and monumental process started, imitating the models brought from Rome, such as the remodelling of the primitive forum, which was extended following the example of the Forum of Augustus in Rome. The Provincial Forum was also built, located in the Altos de Santa Ana, or the Port Centre, located in the vicinity of the Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs. The currently known as Roman Bridge was erected, entering the city from the south, or the first aqueduct, which guaranteed a permanent water supply.

Due to the close relationship between Corduba and the Emperor, it is not surprising that he was worshipped here from the beginning. The Temple on Claudio Marcelo Street proves this. The building of this complex, as a public square, which centralised official activities– according to Desiderio Vaquerizo– was conceived as a tribute for the Emperor and his family, and it was dedicated to his cult.

Together with the building of monuments and the improvement of the infrastructures, we need to add the great development of civil architecture, as many domus (houses) and insulae (blocks) appreared gathered in neighbourhoods. On the other hand, we cannot forget the monumental character of the funerary landscape, which, according to experts, could be compared to that of the capital of the Empire. Located along the first kilometres next to the roads leaving Roman Córdoba, the best preserved example is the Mausoleum of Puerta Gallegos, which will be explained in detail later on.

Corduba’s splendor continued until the first crisis of the 3rd century; new public buildings were no longer built, and they also stopped the supply of quality material, thus workshops were in crisis and, consequently, some spaces were reused and the houses became older due to the lack of new constructions. All this led to the loss of the capital status of the province.

This whole decadent scene was counteracted by the building of one of the greatest projects witnessed by the city, the Palace of Emperor Maximianus Herculeus. The palace was erected in order to accommodate the Emperor during his stay in Córdoba, who was in the middle of a pacifying campaign in the south of Hispania and the north of Africa.

Next, we have prepared a brief analysis of the urban evolution of the city. Shortly afterward, as we have done before, we have organized a short tour around the most significant monuments preserved.

If you wish to know Roman Córdoba (Corduba – Colonia Patricia) do not hesitate to hire one of our guided tours