Throughout the centuries, the Roman civilization has left its mark in ancient Gaul and Spain. Today still many vestiges of what once was the great Roman Empire are preserved. We continue on one of the main routes with Renfe-SNCF in collaboration, from Marseille to Madrid, to learn a little bit more about history that precedes us. With high-speed trains, this journey takes a little more than seven hours ... Can you imagine what would have happened if the Romans had been able to enjoyed high speed? We can't even imagine.
The first stop is the ancient Massalia. Founded in 600 BC by Greek sailors, legend has it that the city was the fruit of the love story between Protis an adventurer from Foceo and the beautiful Gyptis, daughter of the Ligur King Nann; they settled in what is nowadays the Vieux Port. Currently, we can see the marks left by the Romans in the Archaeological Museum, where we find the old gate from the first century, and also in the necropolis.
Arena of Nîmes
For history lovers, Nimes the old Oppidium, is a must. The city keeps in excellent condition several Roman buildings that show the splendor of the Empire. The most important is undoubtedly the amphitheater from the first century, the best preserved in the world. It had a capacity for over 24,000 spectators and bullfights and different concerts are now held. Another of the best preserved buildings is Maison Carree. This temple is dedicated to Caius and Lucius Caesar, grandsons of the Emperor Augustus, and is part of the forum.
The Pont du Gard is a Roman engineering masterpiece that supplied water to the city.
Roman Narbonne places
It´s perfect location turned Narbonne, Narbo Martius, in a strategic city for trade between the Roman provinces that in our days are Italian and the Spanish provinces. Proof of this, is the Via Domitia, the main route of Roman transport in Southern Europe which reaches Hispania where it changed it´s name to Via Augusta. In Narbonne we can find other important vestiges like the Horreum.
The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia
The Catalan capital, known in Roman times as Barcino, was not one of the most important cities at that time, but we can find important remains of it´s past like the columns of the Temple of Augustus which are located inside the ´Centre Excursionista de Catalunya´ or a part of the Roman wall next to the Cathedral.
Roman Tarragona places
The ancient Tarraco, was the capital of the province of Hispania Tarraconensis and consequently a prosperous city of the empire. We can find Roman culture, virtually in every corner of the city, but we recommend the great Roman amphitheater and the circus along the coast, several temples and part of the old wall. Just outside town, there are other buildings of interest such as the Arc of Triomphe located in Roda de Bará that goes across the ancient Via Augusta and especially the spectacular and well preserved aqueduct Ferreres.
Caesar Augusta was founded in 14 BC by the Emperor Augustus Caesar, from whom it owes it´s current name. Nowadays you can see part of the wall, the public baths, the ancient river port and theater from the first century in times from Tiberius with a capacity for 6,000 people.
We end our tour in Spain's capital. There are no existing vestiges of the Roman era there, because it was a rural settlement at that time, and it's not until the arrival of the Arabs in medieval times that Madrid becomes a village on the 16th century, when Philip II decides to move his court to Madrid and then becomes the capital of the kingdom of Spain.
If now you want to know more about the history of Gaul and Spain, we recommend any of the 21
destinations that Renfe-SNCF in collaboration brings to you at high speed. In all of them we find remains of what once was the greatest empire in history.