Saturday, April 16, 2011

Empùries, Spain

Christie says "It's awesome! The oldest town ever. And it's so big you got too tired to see it all."

Empùries according to Wikipedia, was founded by the Greeks in 550 BC when they moved from an island settlement to the mainland. They called their town "Neapolis" meaning "New City". Empùries means market and that is just what this early outpost was. It was ideally situated on the Mediterranean on the trading route between Marseille (France) and the south of Hispania (now Spain) and became the largest Greek settlement in the Iberian Peninsula.

The statue of Asklepios, the god of medicine, was found in the location of what is believed to be a therapeutic and religious center devoted to him. A small museum houses a collection of other artifacts discovered on the two town sites. Walking around the Greek settlement gives you a look at several family dwellings, a market as well as remains of the agora (public square) and stoa (a porticoed building used for commercial and social activities). The commercial activity of the Greeks interacting with the indigeneous people gave birth to the Iberian culture.

At the end of the Punic Wars (218 BC), the Romans created a military camp on the hill above the Greek town. This camp turned into a prosperous Roman town and eventually the Greek and Roman towns were merged. As other cities in the area gained prominence and favor, Empùrius lost importance. It was abandoned in the 3rd century AD and no other towns were built over the abandoned cities. For this reason, the archeaology of the towns is quite accurate, although because of the size of the site, only about 25% has been excavated to date.

We saw the foundations of several huge Roman houses indicating that there was quite a bit of wealth in the area (or perhaps a really low cost of living?) Several of the homes had intact mosaic floors that were quite impressive.

The entire visit was very relaxing walking under clear blue skies with the warmth of the sunshine on your backs and a cool Mediterranean breeze to cool the heat of the sun. The vistas over the ruins and sea were calming and made you want to just sit and absorb the moment.

But, we had to move on to our next engagement, so while there was time to take in the experience, there wasn't time to dawdle. On to Girona.

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