The origin of the earliest Roman cities in Catalonia: An examination from the perspective of archaeology *

Josep Guitart
2010 unpublished
tery of the archaeological knowledge available at that time, he offered a brilliant synthesis, remarking on the importance of studying the ancient world for our history if we wish to understand the structure of the country. The overview that Tarradell provided enabled him to make numerous reflections in which he linked the issue of the Roman period to the historical process as a whole. In his desire to provide a global view of the subject matter, he stressed a variety of considerations, such as
more » ... iderations, such as the territorially balanced distribution of the urban network forged during the Roman period and the patterns of its evolution until it linked up with the shape of the country in the mediaeval period. However, he placed the most emphasis on the issue of the origins of those cities and their role in transforming the pre-Roman world of the Iberian civili-sation and its eventual remnants within the context of Romanisation. He tried to discern the continuities and the meaning of the newly founded cities, and he formulated fascinating working hypotheses, always with the caution of a scholar who is aware of the shortcomings of Knowledge regarding the origins of the earliest Roman cities in the Catalan-speaking lands has made major strides in recent decades thanks to the information provided by developments in the archaeology applied at the sites, which potentially serve as the most important source of information for enriching this knowledge, in addition to being a valuable legacy from our cultural heritage. *** A little over 30 years now, in 1978, Miquel Tarradell devoted a study to the Roman cities in the Catalan-speaking lands which served as the groundwork for the speech he delivered upon his investiture in the Royal Academy of Belles-Lettres of Barcelona. Abstract In recent decades, the progress in archaeology applied to knowledge of the Roman cities in the Catalan-speaking lands has begun to furnish a new perspective on the question of the origins of these cities. In this article, which focuses on Catalonia, and in the one planned for the next issue focusing on Valencia, we shall examine this topic, which also provides valuable information on the Romans' earliest presence here. With just a handful of exceptions, the majority of Roman cities documented in Catalonia were newly founded by the Romans. With them, a network of new cities was built that had a profound influence on the process of Romanisation that had gotten underway during the Second Punic War and culminated at the end of the Republican period with the founding of Barcino, the predecessor of today's Barcelona. The archaeological information provided by the cities of Tarraco, Baetulo, Iluro, Iesso, Aeso, Gerunda and Roman Emporiae, among others, furnishes fragmentary yet highly significant information that enables us to fine-tune the chronologies of their starting dates and the characteristics of their earliest development with regard to the historical context of the time, which unquestionably marked the first steps in their formation as cities. The early years of the 1st century AD were particularly dynamic in terms of this urbanising activity, which was most likely not just inspired but also planned by the Roman authorities. The new cities, with their regular layouts in rigorously orthogonal grids and their fortified premises, brought to Catalonia the urban models that the Romans had developed during their years of expansion around the Italian peninsula. Along with the construction of the roadway network, they would lay the foundations for the structure of the country, which would mark the entire Roman period and largely remain in place in the subsequent centuries and even until today.