During your visit to Seville, you will hear all about the city's rich culture and history. The arrival of different peoples and their customs over a span of 3,000 years still captures the imagination of the city center today. The cathedral, transformed from an ancient mosque, and the golden tower are examples of true symbols. However, Sevillian historians also say, ´´If you look carefully, you will find out that Hispalis has more of the Romans than the Moors´´. Indeed, Seville even has its own ´´Sevillan´´ emperors of the Roman Empire!
Romans in Spain
Seville, or Hispalis according to the Romans, had a Latin era of some 600 years. The arrival of the Romans is reflected in the stories of the Second Punic War, in which famed general Scipio Africanus conquered southern Hispania from Carthage. Northwest of our city, below the present village of Santiponce, Italica was founded in due course, the first Roman city outside Italy, as a retirement resort for the soldiers.
Trajan, Optimus Princeps
It was in this soldiers' colony where the ´´forefathers´´ of the first Seville emperor, Marcus Ulpius Trajan, most likely settled. So it was that Trajan grew up in Itálica in Hispania, but as the son of an important Roman politician during the Flavian dynasty. However, the small southern Spanish city was only the beginning of an illustrious career in the Roman legions that took him from the borders of Syria to the banks of the Rhine. Quickly Trajan became one of the most famous and beloved generals in the army, this meant a foundation of power. This position of power came to fruition when the old emperor Nerva needed a successor and support from the legions, for this, he promptly adopted Trajan as his son under pressure from his guard!
A new tradition of adopting a suitable successor was born. After Nerva's death, Trajan came out of the starting blocks and lived up to his name as a great general with great conquests such as Dacia (Romania) and part of the Parthian Empire (Iraq & Iran). It was during this time that the Roman Empire reached its greatest extension ever, from northern England to the Persian Gulf! Thus he achieved the unique title of Optimus Princeps.
At a stroke, local Itálica thus became a place of imperial interest, for who would not want a piece of the birthplace of the "Ultimate Prince"? But his influence in the region was not limited to his own village; according to various theories, the district of Triana also owes its name to the emperor's name. Trajan adopted his distant cousin Hadrian as his successor, and while the great Trajan was glorified as a god after his death, his adopted son had the opportunity to honor his father in Itálica in an entirely Roman style...
Hadrian, the Greek boy
But how could Publius Aelius Hadrian really honor such a symbolic figure? For would not every triumph arch or temple be too minuscule? Thus Hadrian decided to build an entirely new city! This city became the new district, Novo Urbs, of ´his´ Itálica, the current archaeological monument. Thus was created a new imperial city with city walls, a temple to Trajan, and huge bath houses. Later even one of the largest amphitheaters ever was added. But even more extraordinary, art and culture never flourished so much in a city outside the Italian peninsula.
This says a lot about the personality of Hadrian, whose nickname in his youth was ´´Greaculus´´ (The Greek Boy). Hadrian was partially schooled during his youth in Rome, where he developed his interest in Greek and art, but also learned to speak Latin well. Yet there are sources that claim that he spoke before the Senate with a Spanish accent and that he regularly returned to Itálica to hunt, an occupation that was considered a ´slave hobby´ in Rome (think of the gladiators).
Hadrian, unlike his predecessor, was not a great conqueror and commander; in fact, he withdrew his legions to clearly marked borders and thus sought to consolidate the empire. Thus, his most symbolic example is Hadrian's Wall in northern England. He also devoted much of his life as emperor to traveling throughout his vast empire, from encampments in England to his boat on the Nile. He spent his last years in the capital, where he died at 62. After his death, Itálica soon lost special interest in Rome.
Yet it could just be that even a third known Roman emperor has his origins in ´Sevilla la Vieja, as Itálica was called by the Spanish kings. Do we remember Emperor Theodosius the Great? The first emperor who made Catholicism the Roman state religion, but was also the last emperor of the vast empire after he had it split into west and east. At the age of 32, Theodosius became the third Spanish emperor in the history of the Roman empire, thus joining an illustrious list. Historians to this day disagree on whether he found birth in Segovia or Itálica, you can imagine which story we prefer.
Today Italica, the city of the emperors, is an archaeological monument. It can be visited all year round, just 10 kilometers from Seville. A special fact is that the entrance for Europeans is still free! Would you like to know more about the story of our emperors and their wonderful city? So this is your chance while visiting Seville. We organize a 5-hour bicycle tour with E-bike weekly from Tuesday to Sunday.