Roman Cuenca

Its primitive name is thought to be Anitorgis, Sucro or Concava, although there is no reliable proof of it. They say that the Concani, the Lobetani and the legions of the Roman Empire went through Cuenca and its province, the latter leaving their mark in the shape of a Roman bridge that crossed the river Moscas and a small fountain.

Known by all are the three Roman gems that Cuenca possesses: Segóbriga, Ercávica and Valeria.

With the conquest of this land carried out by Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus in the year 179 BC, Romanization left its mark in Cuenca. The wealth of the land and the possibilities of economic exploration were the reasons that brought the Romans here.

Segóbriga

Located in Saelices, Cuenca, 2870 ft above a hill of 25 acres, the Roman architects had to turn to esplanades and land fillings to house the population. A wall was built around it, more for its status rather than to defend itself, and three monumental gates were built: the northern gate, between the amphitheatre and the theatre, the gate on the eastern part of the theatre with its watchtower and the gate of the western wall.

Outside the city walls and flanking the northern gate, they built the theatre and the amphitheatre, making the most of the slope of the hill and freeing space in the city. On the theatre, inside the city, they built hot springs and a gym that were linked through a cryptoporticus. Through the northern gate you reached the main street that crossed the city from north to south, the Cardus Maximus; going up this street, the Forum would be on the eastern side along with the Basilica, right next to the Curia; on the western side you could find the imperial cult temple and behind it the monumental springs; at the end of the street you could find the old acropolis or fortress that occupied the centre of the hill. They calculated that the population was of between 3000 and 4000 people.

Its essential monuments are those aforementioned, to which we can add the Imperial Cult Temple, Forum, Monumental Springs, Hot Springs, Theatre, Caius Iulius Silvanus House, Necropolis… all of which essential visits.

Ercávica

It is located on a promontory just 3 miles from the town of Cañaveruelas (Cuenca). Thanks to Titus Livius, we have evidence of this large settlement, labelled by him as “Potens et nobilis, civitas”. In the year 179 BC, during the campaign of Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus against the Celtic-Iberian tribes, it was conquered after five days of battle. Once the Romanization process of this Celtic settlement began, the city was reborn. It maintains its Celtic-Iberian name but archaeologists suppose that it was built on the opposite side of the river Guadiela, whose riverbed is occupied today by the reservoir of Buendía.

Ercávica obtained the status of municipium in Augustine times (17-15 BC) and the right to issue a currency. Its largest splendor was between the 1st and 2nd centuries AD but it was slowly abandoned until its final days between the 4th and 5th centuries. The remains found in the excavations were deposited in the Museum of Cuenca. The head of Lucius Caesar (grandson of Augustus), the head of Agrippina (wife of Claudius and mother of Nero) and a large amount of items related with the everyday life of the city are some of the most outstanding findings.

Later on, Ercávica became known as Arcávica, being mentioned in the Councils of Toledo. It was identified with its nucleus emerging in the second half of the 6th century around the Servitan Monastery, founded by the abbot Donato, located just 1.2 miles south of Roman Ercávica.

Despite all of this, Ercávica is yet to be discovered. The excavations carry on year after year and they have barely uncovered 25% of its totality.

Valeria

It is located in a beautiful setting between the gorges of the rivers Gritos and Zahorra. Populated since the Bronze Age, this old Celtic-Iberian city of the Olcades was founded between the 3rd and 2nd century BC. It was conquered in the year 179 BC by Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus just like Ercávica was. We do not know if it was a colony or a town but what is for certain, thanks to Pliny, is that Rome gave it the law of Ancient Lazio. It was at its most splendorous between the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD but later fell into decay. Its wealth was associated to mining and especially to the exploitation of the wood industry. The city owes its name to Valerius Flaccus, proconsul of Citerior from 93 BC. The city was founded around 87 BC and, during its most splendorous time, they calculate that its population was around 4000 people, also having a theatre, a circus and an amphitheatre. Valeria was located in an important road axis, as numerous epigraphs have been found.

In the early 20th century, with the construction of the road from Cuenca to Valverde, the first remains of the Roman necropolis and some buildings appeared. The town’s houses, when demolished, showed funerary epigraphs and remains of the ancient Roman city, apparently collected from the excavation for the construction of the road.

Remains of two forums have been found. It is supposed that the first one was built when the construction of Valeria began and the second one during the time of Tiberius. The forum was built in the high part of the city and it preserved the style of the typical forum of a Roman city: U-shaped, basilica, porches and shops. The ‘old’ forum is being excavated and most of it was found underneath the local cemetery. In the 3rd century AD it was re-occupied by households.