In a remarkable discovery in Mérida, Spain, archaeologists have unearthed a sprawling bathing complex adjacent to the city’s prominent theatre and amphitheatre. Augusta Emerita, originally established in 25 BC by Augustus to resettle veterans of the Cantabrian Wars, has now divulged new facets of its Roman heritage.
Transformed into one of Hispania’s grandest Roman hubs, Augusta Emerita ascended to become the provincial capital of Lusitania, spanning an expansive 20,000 square kilometres. Its strategic positioning at the crossroads of vital routes and proximity to the Guadiana River’s crossing fortified its importance. Roman thoroughfares radiated in multiple directions: linking it westward to Felicitas Julia Olisippo (modern-day Lisbon), southward to Hispalis (Seville), northwestward to prolific gold mining areas, and establishing connections to Corduba (Córdoba) and Toletum (Toledo).
The Emeritense Consortium, in collaboration with students from the University of Granada, embarked on excavations that unveiled a trove of historical insights. The focal point of this revelation is the remains of a bath complex nestled within the Casa del Amphitheatre, a substantial domus built during the 1940s. This domus featured an encompassing portico, encircling a trapezoidal courtyard adorned with a central garden.
Ana María Bejarano, an esteemed archaeologist from the Consortium leading the dig, shared that the excavation zone harbors impeccably preserved public baths. This newfound evidence indicates that the Casa del Amphitheatre transcended the conventional concept of a domus, transforming into a public edifice possibly associated with the performances held in the Meritense amphitheatre.
Félix Palma, the Director of the Consortium, elaborated, “Our current excavation is an extension of the Casa del Amphitheatre, the boundaries of which remain elusive. Yet, the revelation of these magnificent baths, of remarkable proportions for a typical Roman dwelling, stands as the most significant revelation.”
In summary, the archaeological marvel unfolding in Augusta Emerita presents a captivating chapter in its storied history. The unearthing of an expansive bathing complex alongside the revered theatre and amphitheatre provides fresh perspectives on the city’s vibrant past. This newfound insight enriches our understanding of ancient Roman life and cultural practices, casting light on a remarkable era long past.