The city of Barcelona is one of the oldest in Europe. The first human settlements date back to the 6th century BC. The Romans were the ones who settled in the 2nd century BC on top of Mons Taber. In the year 13 BC Emperor Augustus founded the colony Iulia Augusta Paterna Barcino Faventia. The remains of Roman Barcelona are so visible that sometimes both visitors and locals walk by unnoticed.
Barcino, the Roman Barcelona
The Roman Forum and the Temple of Augustus
The present Plaça Sant Jaume occupies the land of the ancient Forum of the Roman Barcelona. In ancient Rome Empire, the centre of the cities was set on the intersection of two the main streets named Cardus and Decumanus, which also had the four city gates on their ends. These streets are known nowadays as Carrer Ciutat and Carrer del Bisbe (Decumanus) and carrer Llibreteria (Cardus).
It is believed that an impressive temple dedicated to the Emperor Augustus was built on that point. Today we can still admire some of its columns in the Centre Excursionista de Catalunya (Hiking Club of Catalonia), at carrer Paradis, 11.
The aqueduct of Barcino
At the Cathedral’s Plaça Nova there’s a reconstruction of the aqueduct of the Roman Barcelona, which it is believed that had brought clean water supply to the city for both public baths, and human consumption. Inside Casa de l’Ardiaca there’s two holes that show where water used to flow. Nearby, at Plaça del Vuit de Març Març you can see one of the few remaining sections of the aqueduct, that was discovered in the 90s of the 20th century during a construction work.
The Roman Wall
The wall of Barcino, the Roman Barcelona, is clearly visible from several points and it’s preserved in a very good condition. The only gate that remains of the old Roman wall is at the Cathedral Square (Plaça Nova), right next to the reconstruction of the aqueduct.
You can see the remaining parts of the wall at Carrer del sots-comandant Navarro, Plaça dels Traginers, Carrer del Correu Vell, Carrer de Regomir or Carrer d’en Gignàs.
The Sea Gate and the harbour terms
The current Pati Llimona in time of Roman Barcelona was part of the building of the terms located by the Porta de Mar (Sea Gate). Sea level in the 2nd century AD was where the nowadays Carrer Ample lies. Thanks to this, the public baths of Barcino were built by the sea. Nowadays only the cold pool is preserved and it’s visible from the street. The terms were abandoned in the 4th century AD and the old facility became part of the defensive wall, which still preserves the pedestrian entrance.
At Plaça Vila de Madrid you will see a set of tombs from the times of the Roman Barcelona. This archaeological remain is special because it can be observed from the street level, since the Roman city is between 1.5 and 3 metres below the current level of Barcelona. This necropolis is was located in one of the secondary roads of access to the city and the tombs belong to middle and lower class people (slaves and freedmen).
Barcelona City History Museum – MUHBA
The MUHBA (Museu d’Història de Barcelona), located at Plaça del Rei, offers a visit to the archaeological remains under the square. In the 1920’s a group of Roman houses was found close to Roman the wall. Further excavations discovered a group of 2000m2 containing Roman houses and noble Domus, such as Domus de Sant Honorat or Domus d’Avinyó. MUHBA also offers a tour through the history of Barcelona from Barcino to the 21st century.