Standing amidst ancient columns on top of old stone floors, looking out across the site of the forum of old towards the Mediterranean, I felt like I was back in Turkey at the ancient ruins of Hierapolis or in Israel at Qesarea. I could hardly imagine I was practically in my own backyard. It must be Spain’s best kept secret.
In fact, the only reason I came upon Bolonia and the Baelo Claudia Roman ruins was because the night before my husband and I were talking with some friends. After telling them we would be in Tarifa the next day showing my dad around, they suggested we make a stop in Bolonia. I had never heard of it before.
They did not prepare us for what we were about to behold. For Baelo Claudia is the most well preserved Roman ruins in Spain. Established in the 2nd century BC, this port town thrived for five hundred years, only beginning to demise after a major earthquake shook it.
The Museum and Grounds of the Roman Ruins of Baelo Claudia in Spain
Before stepping onto the ancient grounds, we passed through a small museum. The building itself is rather impressive with its marble façade. While the collection in the museum isn’t very big, you can definitely get a taste for the daily life marveling at the old necropolis and grave pieces, the statues of goddesses and heroes, the old fishing hooks and mortar. There are small relics and tear jars, too.
Once through the Baelo Claudia museum, we came upon the only bit of ancient aqueduct to remain. It sits just behind the scant necropolis. From remnants dug up during the excavation it was evident that while this town had its altar to Isis, the goddess from the cult of the same name, it also had its Christians.
Inspired by Ancient Life in Baelo Claudia
Upon learning this, my imagination took off. I couldn’t help but romanticize this era. Looking at the golden sand dunes beside the azure waters sitting to the southwest, the hills and terrain behind them block the fierce winds that blow through this coast making it an idyllic place to put a port. During this era, the port was a major trading and shipping harbor to Tangier in Morocco. Ruins from the old market stalls and fish factories still remain.
To me, the most impressive part of this town were the thermal baths that once contained a cold, warm and hot bath with a furnace room beside it where hot stones and other things were heated to make the water hot.
Gazing from the baths through the remnants of marble and stone columns in the forum, I saw the sea rolling. What a wonderful place to live.
I dreamt of a simple life. A life where wheat and barley were crushed beneath the millstone. A life where people only walked out their front door to begin working beneath the warmth of the sun and remained until bedtime. No cars were around. Or Internet. Or social media. Historians took notes. Artisans fashioned their wares. Life was organic.
Back in reality I know that it was a world where only the strong survived. The majority of people were poor servants. Life was a struggle. But today life is still a struggle. We are owned by so many things. Still enslaved. Deception swallows us through media and entertainment. So, bear with me, please, and let me romanticize the simple life for a moment longer.
Written by Jori Sams