Roman Ruins Walking Tour, Cartagena

Roman Ruins Walking Tour (Self Guided), Cartagena

The picturesque Spanish coastal town of Cartagena is famously packed with historic monuments. The many layers of its ancient and maritime history date all the way back to its Carthaginian founding in 227 BC. While the harbor area is defended by forts, the town itself is walled and dotted with Roman ruins.

Among the prominent sites here is the Roman Theater Museum of Cartagena (Museo Del Teatro Romano). This museum houses artifacts and exhibits related to the Roman Theater, a remarkable archaeological site that dates back to the 1st century BC. The Roman Theater itself is an awe-inspiring structure that once accommodated thousands of spectators for theatrical performances.

Adjacent to the Roman Theater is the Columnata Romana, remnants of a splendid Roman colonnade, showcasing the architectural grandeur of ancient Rome. This colonnade once served as a covered walkway, adding to the cultural and aesthetic significance of the site.

The Roman Forum Molinete Museum (Museo Foro Romano Molinete) is another must-visit location. It offers insight into the ancient Roman forum that once stood atop Molinete Hill, revealing the political and social life of the city's early inhabitants. Nearby, the Augusteum is a religious sanctuary dedicated to Emperor Augustus.

For a glimpse into the daily life of Roman citizens, the House of Fortune (Casa de la Fortuna) is a well-preserved Roman villa showcasing exquisite mosaics and architecture. The Punic wall of Cartagena, though pre-dating Roman rule, is a historic fortification that adds depth to the city's past.

To truly appreciate these Roman ruins, we encourage you to explore them firsthand on our self-guided walking tour. Your visit will not only be a journey through the past but also an opportunity to connect with the enduring legacy of the Roman civilization in Cartagena, Spain.
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Roman Ruins Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Roman Ruins Walking Tour
Guide Location: Spain » Cartagena (See other walking tours in Cartagena)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.9 Km or 1.2 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Museo Del Teatro Romano (Roman Theater Museum of Cartagena)
  • Roman Theatre
  • Columnata Romana (Roman Colonnade)
  • Museo Foro Romano Molinete (Roman Forum Molinete Museum)
  • Augusteum
  • Casa de la Fortuna (House of Fortune)
  • Punic wall of Cartagena
Museo Del Teatro Romano (Roman Theater Museum of Cartagena)

1) Museo Del Teatro Romano (Roman Theater Museum of Cartagena)

The Roman Theater Museum of Cartagena, designed by architect Rafael Moneo, opened its doors on July 11, 2008. This exceptional institution is dedicated to the excavation, restoration, and preservation of the Roman theater of Cartagena, unveiling an archaeological treasure that remained hidden for centuries. The discovery of this theater in 1988 sheds new light on the historical importance of Cartagena in ancient Hispania during the Roman Empire.

The Roman theater remained concealed for so long due to the constant human activity in the area. Over time, various structures were built on top of its ruins, including part of the Cartagena Cathedral. This ongoing development obscured the theater's existence and led to its absence in historical records.

Architect Rafael Moneo's project aimed not only to restore the Roman theater but also to seamlessly integrate it into the city's urban fabric. It encompassed the theater's maintenance, conservation, and educational exhibition, accompanied by the construction of an adjoining museum and research center.

While the Roman Theater Museum offers a comprehensive glimpse into this historical gem, it's essential to note that many artifacts from the theater's era are housed in the Municipal Archaeological Museum of Cartagena. The Roman Theater Museum's collection serves as a prelude to the main attraction, preparing visitors for their exploration of the Roman theater itself.

To access the museum, visitors enter the Riquelme Palace, situated in one of Cartagena's most iconic areas, close to the Cartagena Town Hall Palace. The museum spans two interconnected buildings, linked by an underground tunnel beneath the street. The Riquelme Palace houses the entrance hall, assembly room, cafeteria, museum shop, a temporary exhibition space, and a corridor detailing the theater's history. The second building hosts the museum's permanent collections and provides access to the awe-inspiring Roman theater.
Roman Theatre

2) Roman Theatre (must see)

The Roman Theater in Cartagena is a remarkable archaeological site that carries a rich history dating back to the first century BCE. It was constructed between 5 and 1 BCE, dedicated to Gaius and Lucius Caesar, the grandsons of Emperor Augustus, who intended them to be his successors.

Throughout the centuries, the theater witnessed various transformations. In the 3rd century, a market was erected above it, cleverly reusing its materials and maintaining a semi-circular layout reminiscent of the theater's orchestra. However, the market likely fell into disuse after a fire caused by the Vandals in 425 CE. Later, during the 6th century, the Byzantines established a market district on the site.

In the 13th century, the Old Cathedral of the city was constructed atop the upper cavea, further obscuring the theater's existence. It wasn't until 1988 that the first remains of the theater were rediscovered during the construction of the Centro regional de artesanía. The subsequent archaeological excavations and restoration work, completed in 2003, unveiled this ancient treasure. In 2008, a museum designed by Rafael Moneo was inaugurated, providing visitors with valuable insights into the theater's historical significance.

The Roman Theater was ingeniously carved into the rocks, particularly in its central section, where it presides over a series of vaulted galleries. This magnificent structure could accommodate around 6,000 spectators and was divided horizontally into three parts: ima, media, and summa cavea. Radial sectors were created by a network of staircases, with five in the upper section, seven in the medium and upper tiers.

Two side passages (aditus) served as entry points for the audience, revealing inscriptions dedicated to the theater's benefactors. The orchestra boasted a semicircular design and featured three rows of wooden seats for dignitaries (proedria). The stage, known as the proscenium, extended for an impressive length of 43.60 meters. The scaenae frons, the stage backdrop, was adorned with three semicircular exedras and adorned with two orders of columns. These columns boasted bases and capitals made from Luni's marble, while the shafts were crafted from pink travertine of Mula.

The stage edifice reached a towering height of 14.60 meters and featured notable elements, including three round altars dedicated to the Capitoline Triad and Apollo's associated divinities, such as the Graces, Muses, and Horae. Statues of Apollo playing the lyre and Rhea Silvia were also found nearby.

Situated behind the stage building was a portico, the porticus post scaenam, featuring a double porticoed gallery encircling a central garden. This well-preserved site allows visitors to step back in time and experience the grandeur of Roman theater and culture.
Columnata Romana (Roman Colonnade)

3) Columnata Romana (Roman Colonnade)

The Roman Colonnade stands as a testament to the city's rich history, dating back to the Roman occupation from 209 BC to 425 AD. Cartagena boasts several Roman ruins, and many significant sites are still undergoing excavation, offering intriguing glimpses into the past. Occasionally, remnants of this era are discovered by chance, as was the case with the Roman Colonnade.

This remarkable archaeological site was unexpectedly unearthed in 1957 during routine sewer maintenance. The Colonnade features a row of eight stately columns, each with its base adorned with limestone slabs. These columns were originally part of a Roman road that ran adjacent to an ancient structure. The presence of this road suggests a well-organized urban layout in Roman Cartagena.

Pedestrians in ancient times would have passed beneath the arches formed by these columns, while road traffic would have traversed a sturdy driveway constructed from large streaked black limestone slabs. These road materials, like the rest of the Colonnade, were discovered during the excavations, providing a glimpse into the city's infrastructure during the Roman era.
Museo Foro Romano Molinete (Roman Forum Molinete Museum)

4) Museo Foro Romano Molinete (Roman Forum Molinete Museum) (must see)

The Roman Forum Molinete Museum serves as the gateway to one of the largest urban archaeological parks in Spain. The museum's various halls house a carefully curated collection of artifacts that allow visitors to delve into the rich history of Cerro del Molinete, stretching from the present day all the way back to the ancient Carthago Nova.

During your visit to the museum, you'll have the opportunity to explore significant remnants from the glorious Roman era. These include:

The Curia (Local Senate): This area features a beautifully decorated marble pavement. It was a place where local leaders would gather for political discussions and decision-making.

The Colonial Forum: This was the heart of the city, symbolizing the hierarchy between the divine and the human at various levels. It was a central gathering place for the people of Carthago Nova.

The Sanctuary of Isis: This site was dedicated to the worship of Egyptian gods and was used for mystery cult ceremonies. It offers insights into the religious practices of the time.

Old Roads with Cart Tracks: You can see remnants of the ancient roadways and cart tracks that once crisscrossed the city, providing a glimpse into the transportation infrastructure of the Roman period.

The Port's Thermal Baths: The thermal baths were an essential part of Roman life, and you can explore their remains here. Additionally, the magnificent entrance portico with its original flooring is a sight to behold.

The Atrium Building: This building boasts high walls and pictorial decorations that provide a vivid portrayal of the grand banquets that were a part of Roman culture.

Visiting the Roman Forum Molinete Museum is not just an educational experience but also a journey back in time to the days of Carthago Nova's Roman splendor. It offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the history, culture, and architecture of this ancient city.

5) Augusteum

The Augusteum, a remarkable temple dedicated to Octavian Augustus, the very first Roman Emperor, is an archaeological treasure that provides invaluable insights into the cult of emperor worship, the grand theatrics of Roman religious practices, and the flamboyant displays of wealth and prestige orchestrated by the priestly class. This ancient temple played a pivotal role in disseminating the ideology of imperial rule, and its opulent decorations serve as testaments to a bygone era of grandeur and splendor.

Situated in close proximity to the Forum, the bustling epicenter of Roman cities, the Augusteum stands as a testament to the multifaceted roles of such city squares. In the Forum, various facets of Roman life converged, making it a hub for religious, administrative, political, and economic activities throughout the vast Roman Empire.

The Augusteum is not only an archaeological site but a portal to understanding the veneration of emperors in Roman culture. Exploring this temple and its surrounding Forum offers a unique opportunity to journey back in time, immersing oneself in the rituals, ideologies, and vibrant city life that once thrived during the height of the Roman Empire. As you walk amidst the remnants of the marble floors and the echoes of ancient ceremonies, you can gain a deeper appreciation for the rich history and culture of this extraordinary period.
Casa de la Fortuna (House of Fortune)

6) Casa de la Fortuna (House of Fortune)

The House of Fortune is a captivating journey back in time to the domestic life of Roman Cartagena during the 1st century AD. This historical site presents a well-preserved representation of the various rooms that constituted a Roman household, offering visitors a unique glimpse into the everyday life of that era.

Within the Casa de la Fortuna, you can explore several rooms that played distinct roles within the home. The dining room is where family members would gather for banquets and communal meals. The salon, a place of social importance, is where the head of the household would receive visitors and engage in discussions. Moving into the more private areas of the house, you'll find the bedrooms, which provide insight into the intimate and personal aspects of daily life in ancient Roman households.

The Casa de la Fortuna is replete with an array of artifacts that offer valuable insights into the fashions and customs of the 1st-century AD. Among these artifacts are items related to personal grooming and adornment, such as jewelry, along with practical household objects like lamps and dishes. These everyday items provide a rich tapestry of information about the lives and habits of the people of that era.

Moreover, the house is adorned with stunning murals and mosaics that captivate the eye. The designs on these murals and mosaics are incredibly diverse and include motifs like swans (which serve as the symbol of the house), fylfot crosses reminiscent of swastikas, intricate floral patterns, and pomegranates, each laden with profound mythological symbolism.
Punic wall of Cartagena

7) Punic wall of Cartagena

The Punic Wall of Cartagena is an invaluable archaeological site that dates back to the 3rd century BC. It is a testament to one of the most significant periods in the city's history, showcasing the earliest defensive fortifications erected by the Carthaginians. This historical site is of great importance as it provides a rare glimpse into Carthaginian civilization in Spain and the monumental events of the Second Punic War, which significantly shaped the course of ancient Mediterranean history.

The Punic Wall is a remarkable architectural structure that was constructed using Hellenistic models. It consists of a double parallel paramento, or wall, made from tabaire, a type of sandstone quarried locally. Even after centuries, parts of the wall have endured, standing at a height of approximately three meters.

The extant ruins of the Punic walls primarily belong to the section that once extended to the entrance of the isthmus. This section lay nestled between the hills known as San José and Monte Sacro, known as Aletes and Baal in antiquity, respectively. During the course of archaeological excavations, researchers discovered signs of a fire, suggesting that it may have resulted from the battles or looting that occurred during this pivotal era.

Today, the Punic Wall is open to visitors, thanks to the Interpretation Center of the Punic Wall, which is part of the Cartagena Puerto de Culturas tourism consortium. The center serves a dual purpose, protecting the historical site and offering a contemporary architectural reconstruction that provides insight into the wall's original elevation. Through this initiative, visitors have the opportunity to delve into the fascinating history of Cartagena, with the Punic Wall standing as a tangible reminder of the city's storied past.

Walking Tours in Cartagena, Spain

Create Your Own Walk in Cartagena

Create Your Own Walk in Cartagena

Creating your own self-guided walk in Cartagena is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Cartagena Introduction Walking Tour

Cartagena Introduction Walking Tour

Situated in the southeastern corner of Spain, in the province of Murcia, the city of Cartagena is a major naval station on the Iberian Mediterranean coast. Being the first of a number of cities worldwide named Cartagena, it has one of the most fascinating histories in all of Spain, inhabited for over two millennia by several great civilizations and cultures.

The town was founded around 227 BC...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles