When you see these photos of the ancient Roman city of Italica, you will marvel that structures and mosaic floors built from 117-138 BC still have intact remnants, being so old. But keep this one fact in mind: this Italica is the New City! The Old City is another century older, but is inaccessible, as the current city of Santiponce is built over it. The feeling here is very much like the cities of Pompei and Herculaneum in Italy, except that those two cities were covered by the ash of Vesuvius for almost 2,000 years. The birthplace of three Roman emperors (Trajan, Hadrian, and possibly Theodosius), Italica simply fell into disuse, likely due to a problem with its port and poor soil. Its ruins were used as a source of building materials, and it was forgotten until it was “rediscovered” in the 19th century.
It is fantastic. The amphitheater was used as a filming location in the last season of Game of Thrones, and it truly looks its age. You can see the outside of the amphitheater, and some of the inside colonnade, in the first dozen photos. It seated 25,000, but Italica had a population of only 10,000 people, indicating that gladiator games attracted attendees from neighboring towns. There was a bestiary below, like Rome’s Coliseum, and the animals were sometimes allowed into the arena with the combatants just for fun. You may remember scenes in the Russell Crowe movie Gladiator, where animals would suddenly appear in the middle of the arena (and the action) when introduced from below ground. Everything you see is original stonework, of course. As we touched some of the stones, and looked at the mosaic floors in the remaining photos, we wondered about all the workers it took to built homes and roads and amphitheaters, thinking they would be so awed that their work would be somewhat intact and on view 2,000 years in the future.
Homes here were named by archaeologists based on some feature that had been uncovered, or what the mosaic floors depicted. You can see the gods of the sun, moon, and planets shown on one floor, so this is the “Planetarium House.” The floor showing 33 species of birds is the Bird House. Believe it or not, the third mosaic floor is part of the latrine, as depictions of pygmies fighting and riding upon cranes (??!!!?) is typical of latrines, for comedic effect! In the photo after that are four of the communal toilets, which had been built in stone against a wall, with a running water sewer underneath. We wondered how it came to be that the Romans knew how to build a system of underground sewers, yet 1,000 years later, waste from chamber pots was simply thrown onto village roads from an upper window!
The closeup of the flagstones is what is left of the original, ancient road. Much of it is gone, replaced with gravel or cement. But again, what a job to line all the streets with large flagstones and try to make them even for walking. After that are two bakeries, one still in beautiful condition with two ovens, the other only half there. And we end with a few statues that were found mostly intact. The last one is of Diana, the goddess of the hunt. It was a great day wandering around the grounds and enjoying all of these ancient wonders. Santiponce is just outside the city of Seville, a beautiful area. It is sunny and warm, as it must have been back then when people actually lived here, decorated with mosaics, threw dinner parties, and enjoyed life in this lovely part of the world.