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Spain Baelo Claudia, Roman Ruins in Cadiz Province

Explore an important trading centre of ancient Rome.

Location: The entrance to the ruins is approximately 100 Kms south from Cadiz; 200 Kms west of Malaga and 75 Kms west of Gibraltar. The nearest town Is Bolonia. 36o5'23.32''N 5o46'16.25''W.

The Site
Baelo Claudia was an important trading centre in the Roman Empire. Its chief exports were garum, a fermented fish sauce, and salted tuna. The city flourished between the 1st and 3rd centuries C.E. In the 3rd century earthquakes and pirate incursions brought about the decline of the city. It was totally abandoned by 600 C.E. Sands covered much of the area. Excavation and study of the area began in the early 20th Century and has carried on since then.

A new museum/interpretive centre provides a good overview of daily life in the city and more particularly the industry and trade carried on there. As a side note, upon seeing our Canadian passports the admissions clerk asked us if we wanted the information pamphlet in English or French. A nod to our bilingual country!

The pamphlet provides a recommended route to visit the site. We started on the route but quickly found ourselves wandering into various nooks and crannies around the site. Wild flowers were in abundance when we visited in the Spring.

Of particular note are the amphitheatre, forum, baths, and industrial area with its salting and garum vats.

The same winds that provide sport for windsurfers around Tarifa blow through here too. The beach looks inviting but the day we visited wind-driven sands made walking along it arduous.

We found the food at Restaurante Otero Bolonia well prepared. The restaurant is on the beach just outside the site. As expected, the fish was freshly caught, simply prepared. A dish of albondigas (meatballs in sauce) with a salad and fries was very tasty. The house wine was acceptable but were I to return I would order from the wine list.

For the more adventurous home cooks here is a recipe for garum:
  • Use fatty fish, for example, sardines, and a well-sealed (pitched) container with a 26-35 quart capacity.
  • Add dried, aromatic herbs possessing a strong flavor, such as dill, coriander, fennel, celery, mint, oregano, and others, making a layer on the bottom of the container; then put down a layer of fish (if small, leave them whole, if large, use pieces) and over this, add a layer of salt two fingers high.
  • Repeat these layers until the container is filled.
  • Let it rest for seven days in the sun.
  • Then mix the sauce daily for 20 days.
  • After that, it becomes a liquid.
- Gargilius Martialis, De medicina et de virtute herbarum, reprinted from A Taste of Ancient Rome by Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa, Anna Herklotz (Translator).


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