Roman Theater, Merida, Spain, a Must See

It is worth time, money and effort visiting the partially reconstructed Amphitheater and Roman Theater Merida for all history buffs! Probably during 15th and 16th BC Romans enjoyed staged games in these theaters. The semicircular grandstand made of Roman concrete and clad in granite is most impressive of all sights here. In 1993 UNESCO declared this site as world heritage site.This site is significant enough to be included in top 10 historical sites of Spain.

History of Roman Site in Merida

One of the best preserved Roman site in Spain is Merida! It dates back to 25 BC and was one of the most important Roman cities of that era. In 713AD it was conquered by Muslim army. Most of the old buildings were reused; they made very few alterations and additions to the existing city. The city came under Christian rule in 1290 and was ruthlessly defaced during 19th century under Napoleon invasion . Many monuments came crumbling down. After this came the period of industrialization and the city almost lost all its old charm.

Today one can see many parts are just crumbling off. Amphitheater and Roman Theater both are must see for all Roman history lovers.

Amphitheater at Merida

While there, I was excited to think that once upon a time the gladiators fought in this same arena! Fast forward many centuries, “today I find myself walking these historic grounds.” my mind raced. The Amphitheater was built in 8BC with a seating capacity of 15,000 spectators. It has been restored well to give a near real look, only the action is missing. Plenty of signs and display of information all around the site that made it easy for us without a guide. Most exciting experience was the walk through the tunnels in semi darkness. It was like time travel.

Again, the best part of the visit was that there was less tourist crowd. Nor were there any functions for the day.

Roman Theater Merida

The “fossa arenaia” is the large cross shape depression in the center of the arena.

Roman Theater Merida

Adjacent to the Amphitheater is the Roman theater which is used for summer festival. The Roman Theater is much more beautiful than the Amphitheater particularly because of the tall white marble pillars still standing strong. This theater was constructed in 8BC and had much lesser seating arrangement, counting to may be 6000 spectators. The seating arrangement of Roman Theater Merida Spain was in three sectors, caveas summa, media, and ima. Caveas ima was for the people belonging to higher strata of society. Great view indeed from this sector! In those days seating determined the social status of people. Slaves and very poor people sat on the last rows in the top.

Roman Theater Merida is much older than the Amphitheater there. However with passing of time, over the centuries, Roman Theater slipped into a state of ruin and oblivion. In 1910, archeologists excavated the Roman theater where only top few steps were visible. These days the theater is the venue for International Festival of the Classical Theatre in Merida. So, you can plan a visit here in summers to witness the gala event!

Roman Theater Merida Spain

 

Most noteworthy statue in Roman Theater Merida is that of Livia, placed over the main door. She was wife of Emperor Augustus. The statue was discovered during last century, in February of 1911. Livia was known as the Goddess Ceres, goddess of agriculture. The sculpture that I saw there is just a copy; the original statue of Livia is kept in National Museum of Roman Art. Also on both sides there are several statues. They are representation of Serapls, Greek Egyptian God of healing and Pluto, god of underworld according to Roman mythology.

Roman Theater Merida Spain, statue of Livia.

Livia, the Goddess Ceres, goddess of agriculture.

Roman Theater Merida Spain - Columns

Picture of arched columns against blue sky!

How to reach Roman Theater Merida Spain:

From Seville 192km 2h approx by car. (4h 45min by train, 3h by bus.) The distance from Madrid it is 340kms. 3hrs approx by car. Trains run to Merida from both Seville and Madrid.

Tickets to Roman Theater:

Adults – 12euros, Students – 6euros, Children below 12 – free

Theaters are open daily.

 

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