As the first Roman city established outside of Italy, the ruins of Italica are one of the most important surviving pieces of Roman history.
Roman Ruins of ItalicaLast updated on
The city of Italica in the Andalusia region of southern Spain marks an important development in Roman history. The settlement was established during the Republic era in 206 BC. Its founder was the legendary Roman general Scipio Africanus, who distinguished himself during the Second Punic War (218 to 201 BC).
As the first Roman city founded outside of Italy, Italica was a turning point in Rome's territorial ambitions in the Mediterranean. The settlement, created by Scipio as a reward for some of his veteran soldiers, became the foothold for Roman expansion across the Iberian Peninsula (modern-day Spain and Portugal).
Although other colonies in Spain quickly became larger than Italica, this city has other claims to fame. Two of Rome's most celebrated emperors, Trajan (r. AD 98 to AD 117) and Hadrian (r. AD 117 to AD 138), were born in Italica.
For about 300 years since its founding, Italica was a major port along the Guadalquivir River and grew steadily, becoming the residence of a few patrician noble families. But during Hadrian's rule, Italica was heavily expanded.
The older part of the city, known as the vetus urbs, was joined by a swathe of newly built temples, public buildings, and houses. This area became known as the nova urbs, or “new city”, and makes up most of the ruins that survive today.
But in the 3rd Century AD, Italica's fortunes faded as its stretch of the Guadalquivir silted up. When the Empire collapsed in AD 476, Italica gradually became abandoned. Following restorations and excavations in the 16th and 17th Centuries, Italica became a National Monument of Spain in 1912.
The site contains several well-preserved Roman houses decorated with some stunning mosaics. The “House of the Birds” and the “House of the Planetarium” are two of the most impressive houses and were likely owned by wealthy nobles. Other highlights include the remains of the city baths, an arena, and the Traianeum – a public square and temple dedicated to Emperor Trajan.
But the main attraction of Italica is its imposing amphitheater, one of the largest ever built in the Empire. It could seat up to 25,000 spectators, far larger than the estimated population of the city itself. It's thought that the gladiatorial fights and other events drew crowds from other Roman settlements nearby.
Visiting information and tips
Italica is surrounded by the modern town of Santiponce, near the Andalusian capital city of Seville. The ruins can be reached easily by the M-170A and M-170B buses running from Seville to Santiponce. Both routes run from Seville's Plaza de Armas bus station.
The site is open from Tuesday to Sunday throughout most of the year, including several holidays. Entry to EU residents is free. The entry fee for visitors from non-EU countries is €1.50.
You can also go to the official website for more information.