Let’s go, to the ruins of Empúries!
The ruins of Empúries (ancient Greek: Emporion, Spanish: Ampurias) are one of the oldest cultural monuments in Catalonia. It is the only archaeological site in the entire Iberian Peninsula where visitors have the chance to see Greek and Roman ruins in the same area. Although the first excavations were carried out as early as 1846-48, it is estimated that the vast site only represents 25% of the total area of ruins. During our visit we observe also some archaeologists at their work.
The breathtaking location with sea view, close to the most beautiful beaches of the Costa Brava, is stunning. You can see old walls and columns here, very well preserved mosaic floors and enchanting marble works. At the entrance of the area there are small intercoms “to go”, with which one can listen to an explanation to different sights in many languages. Our tip: the children’s version tells the story in a pleasantly simple and humorous way.
The greek history
In the 6th century B.C., the Greek trading settlement called Emporion was built here, to which the Empordá region still owes its name today. Among the export products at that time were agricultural products and ores, which were exchanged with locals – for example from Ullastret – mainly for metal and pottery. Emporion was, however, also a trans-shipment point for other trade relations, such as that with the Balearic Islands or the south of the country.
The Greek old town (Greek: Palaiapolis) was the oldest part of Emporion and at that time layed on a small island at the mouth of the river Flúvia. Palaiapolis was then moved to the mainland around 500 B.C. as a new town (Greek: Neapolis), where the remains can be seen today and where trade continued to flourish. Northeast of Neapolis, in the middle of the sea – the ancient harbour district with an incredibly well preserved wall structure is still emblazoned. Right next to it you can go swimming at the “Platja de Moll Grec” (beach of the Greek pier) in an antique and charming ambience.
First stop: Neapolis
In Neapolis our tour begins. The ancient city wall of the Greek new town contrasts impressively to the view on the crystal blue sea and the bright green pines. On the left side and slightly elevated, there is the holy quarter of Neapolis, in which today a large statue of the god Asklepios stands. It used to be the site of the sacred temple of the ancient god of healing. Visitors can admire the original statue in the archaeological museum. The sun is burning and there is little shade on the large terrain. We discover former cisterns and then, closer to the water, we finally reach the foundation walls of the Agora. It used to be the central village square, where festivals and the weekly market took place. Luckily a cool breeze from the sea is blowing towards us.
Arrived in the museum, we admire among other things ceramic, bronze, and marble works of art of the antiquity.
The roman history
Afterwards we walk up the many steps to the ruins of the Roman planned city. At the end of the third century BC the Romans used the strategic position of Emporion in their fight against Carthage and made it the starting point for the Roman conquest of Spain. Under Julius Caesar the so-called Emporiae was extended. From 49 B.C. the Roman planned city, also called Municipium, was built above the Greek city.
This is characterized by a very orderly, right-angled road network and still coexisted about 150 years next to the Greek new town. During the Roman Empire, Emporiae lost its importance. This loss of importance was a consequence of the competition of metropolises like Barcino (today Barcelona), which, in contrast to Emporiae, were on the largest trade routes for wine and olive oil to Italy. From the fourth century onwards, the two settlements were used as cemeteries, as confirmed by the remains of an early Christian basilica.
Next station: The roman planned city
On the tour of the Roman area, the first thing you get to is the Forum. Then we discover the foundations of some villas, which impress with very well-preserved mosaics. We continue to the large cistern complex, where drinking and service water was collected underground a long time ago. We also pass ancient thermal baths. There one could enjoy spas – infused with ethereal herbs of the large garden of the complex. Leaving the Municipium, we walk through the beautiful gate in the city wall. Outside the wall lie the remains of the ancient Roman amphitheatre – once the scene of gladiatorial and animal fights, plays and sporting competitions.
Spectecular events at the ruins of Empúries
Today, this enchanting place of Empúries occasionally serves as a romantic backdrop for celebrity dream weddings. A nice idea to enjoy a banquet with sea view. For today we have collected enough impressions. Surely we will come back sometime.