In modern day Navarra and La Rioja regions one can find many vestiges of Roman architecture. This area boasted many important cities and public works. In Calahorra, La Rioja located in the Ebro River Valley a small but very well interpreted museum, the Museum of Romanization describes pre-Roman culture, the conquest of the region, and the spread and development of Roman material and immaterial culture.
In Navarra I visited the Roman country villa of Las Musas, a domus that had evolved in its use over several centuries in the common era; the ruins of the city of Andelos which possesses a still standing impressive water capture and distribution system; the ruins of the aqueduct of Acanaldre-Lodosa (two modern day villages in La Rioja and Navarra) which provided water to the Roman city of Calagurris Iulia Nassica (modern day Calahorra, La Rioja). In La Rioja I visited Calahorra and the Roman town of Tritium Magallum (modern day Tricio, La Rioja). There are more sites in both of these regions, but either time constraints or their inaccessibility to the public did not allow me to visit them.
Prior to Roman conquest, the village of Andelos was occupied by an Iron Age proto-Basque ethnicity. This village later submitted to Roman rule and began a process of Romanization. The village developed and achieved civitas status (a Romanized urban settlement in the western empire with official state recognition) in 74 CE. As the village grew in both population and importance, many public works were created. Among them are its impressive water supply system consisting of a still standing dam and water reservoir.
Roman Villa of Las Musas
Visiting this site one can learn a lot about country life in Hispania. This villa was occupied from the 1st century CE to near the decline of the western empire in the 5th century CE During the late 3rd century the villa was temporarily abandoned for a period of about 30 years. Throughout its occupation, the villa was involved in the production of wine, olives, and wheat. The name Las Musas (the Muses) is not its original name, but a modern appellation because of its most notable mosaic of the nine muses of Greek mythology now located in the National Museum of Archaeology in Madrid. Adjacent to the villa an interesting feature was discovered; the ruins of temple dedicated to the worship of the goddess Cybele. The rites of worship to the goddess included the taurobolium, or blood sacrifice of a bull. Two stones inscribed with bull icons have been found and are located in exposition area.
Calagurris Iulia Nassica (modern day Calahorra) and the Aqueduct of Acanaldre-Lodosa
Originally a walled village inhabited by a former celtiberian ethnicity called the Berones, this town along with several others along the Ebro River was conquered by the Romans in the 2nd century BCE. Calagurris grew and achieved municipium status (an official state recognition of a town of Roman citizens or controlled by Roman magistrates). Calagurris became an important regional administrative center that minted and distributed Roman coinage. Today much of the original Roman city has disappeared under the modern town of Calahorra, but some vestiges still remain such as the arch of San Andres or the outline of its Roman circus. Further exemplying the importance of the town is its civil engineering. Its water supply was provided by an aqueduct spanning 18 kilometers. Today only 13 of the original 108 arches remain. The ruins are found about 2 kilometers west of Lodosa, Navarra right on the border delineating Navarra from La Rioja.
Tritium Magallum (modern day Tricio, La Rioja)
Tritium Magallum was another important Roman town in the Ebro River Valley region. Like Calagurris, it was also a former celtiberian Beron settlement that was conquered. During the Roman period it was an important production zone of terra sigillata pottery (a high quality red pottery that was often covered with relief designs) in the Ebro River Valley. In the 1st century CE it also achieved municipium status. Located on the Roman road traversing most of modern day Spain from Flavium Brigantium (A Coruña, Galicia) in the northwest to Caesar Augusta (Zaragoza, Aragon) in east, it was well-connected to other tributary roads which enabled it to receive news and trade from throughout the Roman empire.
In this former Roman town is a true small jewel of architecture and history, the church of Santa Maria de los Arcos. The church is unique in its historic layers of pagan Roman, Visigothic paleo-christian, Romanesque, and Baroque art and architecture. From the outside the church is a very small and unassuming 18th century baroque style church. Inside the church one can see the remains of the site of an original 3rd century CE Roman mausoleum with Roman walls, stone sarcophagi, mosaics, and a mural. In the 5th century CE the proto-christians in the area reused six massive columns from a nearby Roman temple to construct a church. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Visigoths continued using the church and added arches and murals. By the 12th century Romanesque murals were painted over the original paleo-christian ones. The church is amazing with all of its stratums of history of use and reuse.