IN AMPHITHEATRO. MUNERA ET FUNUS: Archaeological Analysis of the Roman Amphitheater of Cordova and its Urban Environment (I-XIII A.D. Centuries)

Funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology Policy (Directorate-General for Research, Ministry of Education and Science). Call for 2006, with support from the European Union through its Feder Funds.
Duration: 2007-2010 Reference: HUM2007-60850/HIST
Institution: University of Córdoba Center: Faculty of Philosophy and Letters
Departament: History of Art, Archaeology and Music Director: Prof. Dr. Desiderio Vaquerizo Gil

After the discovery of the amphitheater of the Roman Cordova, one of our primary objectives was the archaeological analysis of this unique building, as well as the organization and structuring of the immediate spaces to it, where the activities related to its functioning and maintenance; For which we propose the research project: “In Amphitheater. Munera et funus. Archaeological analysis of the Roman amphitheater of Cordova and its urban environment (I-XIII Centuries AD), “continuation of the projects we have been developing since the 1990s, centered on the recreation of funerary space: Roman, first (Ref .: 1FD97-0295), and in its evolution until the Christian reconquest, after (Ref .: BHA 2003-08677). With this new project, a general overview of the western suburb was planned, from birth to the present, based on a graphic and documentary support of the first magnitude, which has laid the foundations for an improvement of the protection and management of the historical cities.

One of the characteristics that more clearly defines the Roman society is its determined vocation towards the public life. The mechanisms of political promotion, the search for social prestige and the desire to perpetuate themselves in the memory of the community leave their reflection in the archaeological record through testimonies of a very varied sign. These public activities have in the buildings some of their main scenarios of representation. In them social roles are reproduced and public expression of adherence to the imperial regime is made public. Thus, the amphitheater stands next to the circus as one of the most popular entertainment buildings among the population, and its protagonists, gladiators, acquire a special social significance.

On the other hand, the inclusion of these monumental buildings in the urban fabric implies a complex urban planning that entails the execution of major infrastructure works, the physical and functional transformation of the surroundings and the design of the residential areas that emerge around it. The need for large areas for their construction favors the movement of these complexes to areas outside the city, to the suburbia, which usually include funeral areas, industrial activities, harmful to the population, and exploitation spaces agricultural.

As a result, the archaeological analysis of the Amphitheater of Cordova (whose remains have recently been exposed to the west of the ancient Roman city) and its immediate environment must be understood in the context of the profound transformations that throughout history Have produced in the urban image of Cordoba, understood as a unique and complex site. In this way, we continued the line of research that has been developing in recent years within the framework of the Archaeology Area of ​​the University of Córdoba and which has been the subject of two earlier projects focused on the recreation of the funerary space: Firstly the Roman Era and, secondly, its evolution until the Christian reconquest.

Central axis of our project was, as we say, the amphitheater of Corduba. This imposing spectacle building, erected around the middle of the 1st Century AD. (That is, about fifty years later than the theater, but practically contemporaneous with the circus), had to become from the outset one of the main urbanistic referents of the city, given its monumentality (the dimensions that have been calculated are among the largest in the Roman world) and located in front of the western walled enclosure and next to one of the main access routes to that one, the Corduba-Hispalis road. To the undoubted scenographic effects that his contemplation would have aroused among the inhabitants and visitors of Córdoba who enjoyed the gladiatorial games celebrated inside it we must add the unmistakable message of adhesion to Rome and to the Principality Regimen that the cordovan elites- proud of the paper of capital of the Baetica played by its city, and in its moment of maximum apogee in the own Rome (remember the gens Annaea and its better known member in Rome, the philosopher L. Anneo Seneca) -, proclaimed to the rest of the Empire through it construction. However, we do not neglect the archaeological analysis of the organization and structuring of the immediate spaces to the amphitheater, in which activities related to the operation and maintenance of the central building had to be developed, and the funeral areas which served as burial places for the gladiators who died in the sand.

The scientific commitment of research on the building was also linked to the more purely social side of Archaeology, when the need arose to integrate the exhumed structures with the new architectural program that represented the new headquarters of the Rectorate of the University of Córdoba, and especially to the vocation of formation and dissemination that should involve the archaeological heritage, which would materialize, in this case, in a Center for Interpretation of the building of shows and gladiator munera. On the other hand, the inclusion of the amphitheater and its surroundings in a larger urban plot implied the analysis of other aspects relevant to its correct interpretation. Among them, we can state: the layout of the Roman road next to which the building was erected, which acted as a vertebral element of the suburban space, and influenced the design of the nearby vici; And, finally, the distribution of areas of industrial activity, located outside the city due to the harmful consequences that such work could cause in the population. Nevertheless, such workshops would coexist, according to the time, with burials or with suburban houses and villae; Hence the need to gather all available information through which to reconstruct the diachronic image of the western suburbs of Cordova.

The scientific commitment of the research was also linked to the more purely social aspect of Archaeology, when the need arose to integrate the exhumed structures with it. Among the objectives that were essential were the increase of scientific knowledge and its social and business transfer, reinforcing the role of Archaeology as a historical science, a place of employment, and a dynamic, socio-cultural and economic element; The improvement of the level of research and its insertion in the international scientific community, promoting interdisciplinary and quality research that could revert in the formation of a society more identified and respectful of the historical and cultural heritage; Support for coordination, mobility and pooling of existing resources, fostering synergies between universities, research centers and institutions and managing bodies of historical, archaeological and cultural heritage and favoring their role as a resource in the emerging field of industry cultural; Enhancing the internationalization of R&D&I activities, both in disseminating results through publications and in increasing participation in projects integrated within the European framework; And support for the creation and updating of databases and research tools through new technologies to facilitate the rapprochement of such information to a growing number of researchers.

The singular characteristics of a city like Cordova, understood as a unique site, provoke that any Research Project focused on the study of its urban and suburban areas find itself with a dense, complex and unique archaeological heritage to face, making it a perfect “Laboratory of experiences”. Thus, the achievement of the aforementioned postulates has only been possible thanks to the formation of a multidisciplinary team of work, whose members are characterized by sharing a similar degree of commitment; A team conceived in a state of permanent renewal, as a means of formation, debate and scientific development, whose common objective has been, in this case, the elaboration of a general overview of the western suburbs, from its birth to the present, rigorously systematizing modes and customs, functions and ideologies, of the communities that occupied it in a diachronic way.

This has been of vital importance the configuration of a graphic and documentary support of first magnitude that facilitates the understanding of the changes or nuances observable in the evolution of the suburban areas, as well as the unification of the information and forms of documentation, obtaining to the Same time lay the basis for an improvement of the guardianship and management of the historic city. In achieving these objectives, the use of innovative tools such as a Geographic Information System (G.I.S.) created for this purpose and launched during the development of previous experiences.

Among the fundamental premises for the configuration of the future Archaeological Park of the Amphitheater was the protection of the physical integrity of the remains belonging to the building, by establishing the pertinent precautions with which to eliminate any possible affection on the archaeological deposits. For this purpose, the deposit was included within Zone 10 of the Rules of Protection of the Archaeological Heritage of the General Plan of Ordinance 2001, which establishes the non-occupation of the subsoil with basements. However, there were still many outstanding issues; Deficiencies that justified a new archaeological intervention that, as we informed the Ministry, was paralyzed by the crisis situation in which the country and the city are still immersed.

Thanks to the aid coming from the PROTEJA Plan, the excavation has been able to recover in the last months, being to this day of today. In addition, the importance of the archaeological remains concentrated there, especially those related to the ancient stage and the transformation of the building of shows into a religious center of the first order, has aroused the interest of the Bishopric and the Cabildo Catedralicio of the city of Cordova, which with their financial support will allow the development of new actions.

Some of the results obtained during these three years have been made known through many different channels (scientific journals, monographs, conference cycles, seminars, congresses, etc.), both in academic and scientific circles (but also In other broader plots of society), and especially in the periodicals generated in our own bosom: Anales de Arqueología Cordobesa, and Monografías de Arqueología Cordobesa, whose number 17 “Colonia Patricia, center Diffuser of models: topography and funerary monumentalization in Baetica “, is the result of the Doctoral Thesis of Ana Ruiz, directed by Prof. Dr. Desiderio Vaquerizo Gil and generated within the Project. Similarly, we can highlight the monographic work on the Urban Necropolis in Baetica carried out by the Principal Investigator, Prof. Dr. Desiderio Vaquerizo, whose relevance and scientific need aroused the interest of two foreign institutions, the ICAC (Tarragona) and the University of Sevilla, which financed it for the most part.

For its part, the celebration of the Congress Suburban areas in the historic city. Topography, uses, function (19 and October 21, 2010), allowed us to submit to the judgment of the international scientific community, as usual. During this meeting we were able to approach the problems of the suburbs as polyfunctional and mutable spaces, both in space and time, and therefore extremely diverse; Characteristics that make it almost impossible to establish general compliance rules or guidelines. However, it became clear that funerary, industrial, residential, recreational and religious uses were alternating or coexisting over the centuries in these sectors that should also be considered as urban. In this sense, rather than talking about isolated elements or testimonies, we must consider urban and suburban spaces as a whole, emphasizing the need to analyze each city as a unique site. And, as has also been said repeatedly, it is these suburban spaces that, in recent years, with the increasing and accelerated urban development, are generating the greatest amount of information, in the face of the “stagnation” that suffers the knowledge of the interior of historic hulls. It is for this and for its incontestable patrimonial value, that we must attend them of priority form.

This event, along with the simultaneous publication of the homonymous monograph and another immediately subsequent in two volumes on the Roman Amphitheater of Córdoba and its urban surroundings. Archaeological Analysis (I-XIII Centuries AD), have marked a before and after in the panorama of Hispanic archaeological research on suburban spaces, lacking up to now monographic works of reference. With them, we wanted to give an important presence to our working group, but also to renowned researchers from the national and international panorama, from the Università degli Studi di Firenze, the University of Giessen, the University of Göttingen, the Merida Consortium, Museo Nacional Arte Romano de Mérida, Badalona Museum, Museum of History of the City of Barcelona, ​​University of Murcia, University of Alicante, University of Alcalá de Henares, University of Huelva, German Archaeological Institute in Madrid , The University of Lille III, the Archaeological Museum of Catalonia-Empúries, the Archaeological Ensemble of Segobriga or the Institute of Classical Archaeology of Catalonia, which, in addition to contributing with their contributions to the resolution of some of the archaeological- , have collaborated with us in the direction and training of new researchers, which undoubtedly constitutes one of the priorities of our daily activity.

Our final achievement has been to create the appropriate framework for future collaborations with a view to improving the organizational, public and quality performance of our respective works, as well as stimulating comparative research, preferably at the European level, and those aimed at To know the role played by our culture and history in the international context. Something that is beginning to bear fruit through, for example, the signing of an agreement between the Municipal Management of Urbanism of the City of Córdoba, the University of Cordoba, the Museum of History of Barcelona, ​​the German Archaeological Institute of Madrid, The University of Giessen, the University of Göttingen (both German) and the University of Florence (Italy); Of the Integrated Action “Córdoba and Colonia”.

Most relevant scientific output derived from the project:

Organization of scientific meetings:

  • Congreso Internacional Las áreas suburbanas en la ciudad histórica. Topografía, usos, función. (Celebrado en Córdoba entre el 19 y el 21 de octubre de 2010, como colofón la proyecto de mismo nombre).


  • VAQUERIZO GIL, D. (Coord.) (2010): Las áreas suburbanas en la ciudad histórica. Topografía, usos, función. MgAC 18. Córdoba.
  • VAQUERIZO, D; MURILLO, J.F. (Eds.) (2010): El Anfiteatro Romano de Córdoba y su entorno urbano (ss. I-XIII d.C.) MgAC 19. Córdoba.