Empuries

Page 1 of 4

Page 1:  The Greek City

Page 2:  The Greek City (continued)

Page 3:  The Roman City

Page 4:  The Roman City (continued)

The Greeks colonized much of the Mediterranean during the first Millennium BC.  By colonized I mean they traveled to foreign shores and set up towns with ports, then traded with the natives and sent raw materials and other goods home in exchange for wine, grapevines, cloth, pottery, and metal objects.  

By the time of my story in 220 BC, they had already been in the Empuries area for almost 500 years!

These Greeks were Ionians from the city of Phocea, thought to have been across the bay of Smyrna from the city of Smyrna.  The city site is really unknown, but here is a good guess by historians:

How do you lose a city?  Become the city with the longest ships, send colonies out the farthest, get richer than your neighbors, and then have a Persian invasion and see who comes to your rescue?  Maybe.  In about 540 BC the Persians came and took the city's wealth, pushing the population that survived off to sea to join their colonial brethren and sisters.  Other cities were simply incorporated into the Persian Empire, but not Phocea. With all of any value removed, the city physically vanished.

So when Phocea fell it sent a wave of new immigrants to Marseilles and to the other cities that had been established, including two places along the Bay of Roses in what is now Spain: Rhodes and Emporion.  Rhodes is now completely surrounded by towns visible across the bay from Emporion in the next photo.  

So were they still colonists, or were they immigrants?  In the sense that they maintained their own distinctive society and continued their seafaring, trading ways, sure, they were colonists.  But they were here to stay, so they were also immigrants.  The population influx after the sack of Phocea caused Emprorion to be relocated from a smaller hilltop to the north of the present site. The present site provided room build a larger city.

Trading in tin is what brought the Phoceans first around the Cape of Gibraltar and up the Atlantic coast to the islands that we know as the British Isles.  This trade route was interrupted, then taken over, by the North African Phoenician colonists, who established Carthage and thus became the Carthaginians.  They controlled the North African side of the Mediterranean and took over southern Spain and thus came to control all of the western Mediterranean.  

The Greeks compensated by doing the tin trade overland from the low countries through France to their port at Marseilles.  From there they could stay in the northern Mediterranean and out of sight of the Carthaginian pirates (naval forces, in the eyes of the Carthaginians).

There were Greek towns built up along this overland route, the northernmost of which was just a hundred miles south of Paris!  But even this trade vanished when the world was inundated with cheaper metals obtained from Spain, thanks again to the Carthaginians.   There was dislike between Greeks and Carthaginians, to put it mildly, and very early on an alliance was struck between the Greeks and the arch-rivals of the Carthaginians, the Romans.  The three Phocean colonies, in fact, made much of their living off the trade between Italy, Gaul and Iberia.  They also followed the Italian coast to keep away from the southwestern end of Sicily (Carthage controlled it) and went to Greece, sure, but most trade was with Italy.

At the time my story begins, the Carthaginians had begun to come north from their proud new city on the Iberian coast, New Carthage, and were putting the Greeks under tribute (taxation) and threatening their destruction if there was no compliance.  The Greeks asked their ally Rome to come to their aid.  Seeing the Carthaginians as a menace to their own real and planned hegemony over the whole Mediterranean world, the Romans sent their armies and navies to the rescue.

Things would never be the same again for anyone living in the Iberian peninsula.

The next few generations of Iberians (northeast and east) and Celtiberians (north central to southwest) saw nothing but war.  First there was war between the two giants of the north/east/central and south/western Mediterranean, the Romans and Carthaginians, each of whom involved native peoples as both mercenaries and conscripts.  

Next, with the Romans victorious, the war was between them and their native allies against recalcitrant native tribes throughout this land of rich resources.  The Romans wanted to make Spain part of their empire, but many natives didn't want to be owned by anyone.

Natives changed sides several times during both these wars, in large measure depending on how they were taxed and treated by their new overlords.  

In the beginning the Romans typically won the contest for native allegiance. But after Rome beat Carthage the Roman overlords sent to Iberia were sometimes fair and reasonable, empowering new and loyal citizens of the republic, and sometimes greedy and bloodthirsty, impoverishing and terrorizing what were supposed to be new citizens of the republic.  

Rebellions were sometimes fomented on purpose so there could be a heroic slaughter that brought fame and promotions to the Roman leaders, civil as well as military.  Sometimes there was a slaughter without a precipitating rebellion, just to allow battle-field fame to be created for someone ambitious for status in Rome. No wonder it took generations to achieve peace.

Enough history already, let's see where the Greeks lived as my story began (this page), and where the Roman rescuers first came to live during the early part of my story (next page).  By the time my story ends the Romans live everywhere and are building colossal public works, and monuments to themselves, throughout the Iberian peninsula it seems.  

They were much more into colonizing than the Greeks ever thought of being, in the sense of taking over a country with its native peoples, making them subservient first, and after a lot of bloodletting, having them become an integral part of the larger republic (soon to become the Roman empire with the fall of the senate and the rise of dictators).

We already looked across the bay to where Rhodes lay, within sight of Emporion.  This next photo shows where the bay ends and the Mediterranean sea opens up.

Looking through the trees straight east shows the sea:

Looking to the south shows the other part of the land that created this large bay now known as the beach playground called the Costa Brava, or wild coast.

Twice in the photos above, the Greek city's foundations were shown in part.  Here is a better view looking inland, with the museum (built into a refurbished Medieval monasterybuilt to a large extent with Greek stone) being the large structure:

It was cute to see a grade-school class apparently listening intently to their history lesson on-location:

The statue is Asclepius: god of healing and apparently the main God of the city.  He is thought to be standing over the hospital area.  Hygeia, goddess of health and Asclepius' consort was also prominent.  Zeus-Serapis, Isis, and Serapis have been found on inscriptions.  The whole Greek panteheon was involved, to be sure, but the ones named were the most prominent, giving the sense of this palce being a healing resort as well as a working port city with meatal working, fish-salting, and other activities.

I was quite taken by the water and sewer facilities. Water was collected into deep cisterns like these:

And was treated by flowing through pipes like these, filled with sand and charcoal to remove impurities from the water (very similar in principle to modern treatment systems)!

And what about waste water?  Did they flow it down the centers of streets like was done in Medieval cities centuries later?  No, they had a sewer that took waste water into the Mediterranean:

I made the mistake of musing about the waste from the Roman town built up-slope from the Greek town. I thought maybe they would have had their sewer feed into the Greeks' sewer.  My wife, part Greek, stated matter-of-factly that the Greeks would never have taken crap from the Romans.  Coming to think of it in those terms, I am sure she is right.

Go to the second page on the Greek town at Empuries.

Go to the first page on the Roman town at Empuries.

Go to the second page on the Roman town at Empuries.

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