You may wish to see two introductory pages to this section first.
(above) View of the town: (left) El Carmen; (right) Santa Maria la Mayor and the castle; (below) view from Santa Maria la Mayor towards Peņa de los Enamorados, an isolated mountain; (inset) detail of "Tabula Peutingeriana", a Vth century map of the roads of the Roman Empire; it shows Anticaria (Antequera) on the road between Cordoba and Hispalis (Seville)
I rode on horseback alone to Antequera. This city is situated on an eminence, and possesses
the ruins of a Moorish castle: it contains four parish churches,
eleven convents of monks, eight of nuns, and several hospitals.
I have a concise Spanish account of this city, which says, that it
is dominated by Mercury and Mars, from whose influences it
participates in love of letters and of arms; how justly I cannot
pretend to say.
Richard Twiss - Travels through Portugal and Spain, in 1772-1773
Antequera is situated partly on a hill, and partly in a plain on which account it is divided into the upper and lower town. Some have thought that it was built by the Moors on the ruins of the ancient Singilis, which was at no great distance from it; but the greater number consider it, with some probability, as the Anticaria of the Romans. The upper town is full of acclivities and declivities; at the top there is a castle built by the Moors, which contains the Hotel-de-Ville, and two parish churches, in one of which there was a collegiate chapter, afterwards removed to the lower town.
Alexandre de Laborde - A View of Spain - translated into English for Longman, Hurst, etc. 1809
Antequera, "Anticaria" was in the time of the Romans, as now, an important city of the second order. (..) The Peņa or Peņon de los Enamorados rises like a Gibraltar out of the sea of the plain. (..) Here, it is said, a Moorish maiden, eloping with a Christian knight, baffled their pursuers by precipitating themselves, locked in each other's arms, into a stony couch.
Richard Ford - A Handbook for Travellers in Spain - 1855
(left) Arco de los Gigantes; (right-above) Roman inscriptions; (right-below) "Genio Municipi(i) Antik(ariensis)
Iulia M(arci) F(ilia) Cornelia Materna Mater Testamento Poni Iussit"
On an arch at the entrance of the castle
there are some Roman inscriptions, which were
placed there towards the end of the sixteenth century; they are relative to the town of Anticaria
and those of Singilis and Nescania, which were near
it, but no longer exist. This arch is called Arco
de los Gigantes. Laborde
The remains of a palace and a theatre, almost perfect in 1544, were used as a quarry to build the convent of San Juan de Dios; a few fragments were saved by Juan Porcel de Peralta in 1585, and are imbedded in the walls near the Arco de Gigantes, going to the castle court. Ford
The inscription shown above states that Anticaria was a municipium, i.e. it had the status of town.
Roman baths seen from the terrace near Santa Maria la Mayor; the image used as background for this page shows a head of Ocean, at the centre of the mosaic
The nucleus of Roman Anticaria was probably under the mediaeval castle.
The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites - 1976
Apart from historical records and some inscriptions there was no other evidence of Roman Anticaria until 1988, when chance excavations at the foot of the hill unearthed public baths which are dated IIIrd century AD. The establishment was small, but it had all the facilities of a typical Roman bath, including three halls (hot, tepid and cold), a pool and a palaestra for exercising.
(left) Ancient columns in the site of a Roman villa near the railway station; (right) Museum of Antequera: mosaic from Villa de Caserio Silverio (IIIrd century AD)
A Roman villa was excavated in 1998 outside the modern town; a number of interesting findings were moved the Museum of Antequera, but the site is not yet open to the public. Other villas have been discovered in the environs of Antequera and several mosaics have been moved to museums.
In the thickest groves of Ida (..) the grandson of great Atlas and Pleione (Mercury), borne through the air on nimble wings, stood before my eyes. (..) The God stood, and in his sacred hand was a golden rod: three Goddesses too, Venus, Juno, and Pallas, gently pressed the grass with their tender feet. I stood amazed, and a chilling horror raised my hair in bristles; when the winged messenger thus addressed me: "Banish fear; you are appointed the judge of beauty; settle therefore the contests of the Goddesses, and name one who must claim the prize of beauty from the other two."
Ovid - The Epistles - Paris to Helen - translation by R. Ehwald
In 1985 other chance excavations unearthed a Roman villa with a very interesting mosaic. It is dated IVth century AD. It depicts a typical pagan subject and it follows the traditional iconography, but the haloes of Mercury and of the goddesses prefigure those of saints.
National Archaeological Museum of Madrid: (left) reliefs of a heroon-type monument which were reemployed in the construction of the walls of Osuna between Antequera and Seville during the war between Julius Caesar and Pompey; (right) statue of Priapus (Ist century AD) from a villa near Antequera; such statues were placed in Roman gardens to ensure growth and act as protectors of crops (see another Priapus in Syracuse)
While the most recent findings in the region around Antequera are in local museums or in that of Seville, the earliest ones are in Madrid.
National Archaeological Museum of Madrid: bronze inscription with a fragment of "Lex Ursonensis", the foundation charter of the Caesarean Colonia Iulia Genetiva at Urso near Osuna (see a similar lengthy bronze inscription at Italica)
The Roman Empire was based on a hierarchy of towns. Basically they all had some form of self-government which was based on the political and administrative structures which existed in Rome. The Lex Ursonensis was incised in bronze during the Flavian Emperors' rule, but it was drafted and approved in Rome in ca 40 BC. It consisted of 140 chapters which provide historians with an extremely detailed description of the political and administrative machinery of a small town (and of its cost).
The following is chapter 62 (translation by Johnson, Coleman-Norton & Bourne):
In respect to all duumvirs: each duumvir shall have the right and the power to employ two lictors, an aide, two clerks, two summoners, a copyist, a crier, a soothsayer, and a flutist. In respect to the aediles in the said colony: each aedile shall have the right and the power to employ a clerk, four public slaves in girded aprons, a crier, a soothsayer, and a flutist. In this number they shall employ persons who are colonists of the said colony. The said duumvirs and the said aediles, so long as they hold their magistracy, shall have the right and the power to use the toga praetexta, wax torches, and tapers. As respecting clerks, lictors, aides, summoners, flutists, soothsayers, and criers employed by each of the same all the said persons, during the year in which they perform such services, shall have exemption from military service. And no person, during the year in which they perform such services for magistrates, shall make any such person a soldier against his will, or order him to be so made, or use compulsion, or administer the oath, or order such oath to be administered, or bind such person, or order such person to be bound by the military oath, except on occasion of sudden military alarms in Italy or in Gaul. The following shall be the rate of pay for such persons as are apparitors (civil servants) to the duumvirs: for each clerk 1,200 sesterces, for each aide 700 sesterces, for each lictor 600 sesterces, for each summoner 400 sesterces, for each copyist 300 sesterces, for each soothsayer 500 sesterces, for a crier 300 sesterces; for persons serving the aediles the pay shall be: for each clerk 800 sesterces, for each soothsayer 500 sesterces, for each flutist 300 sesterces, for each crier 300 sesterces. It shall be lawful for the said persons to receive the aforesaid sums without prejudice to themselves.
Alcazaba (citadel): (left) access to the fortress; (right) evidence of old buildings inside it
The castle is Moorish, built on Roman foundations. (..) It is much dilapidated. (..) The curious old mosque in the enclosure was converted by the French into a store-house, but the magnificent Moorish armoury disappeared when the city was sacked by them. (..) When we were last at Antequera the governor was in the act of taking down the Moorish mosque, to sell the materials and pocket the cash. Ford
the Torre Mocha (trimmed, because in origin it was taller), with its incongruous
modern belfry (a 1582 chapel). Ford
The Arab conquest of Antequera was not a big event, because the town had lost importance and it did not regain it until the XIIIth century. At that time it was part of the only remaining Muslim kingdom in Spain, i.e. the Emirate of Granada. After the 1248 conquest of Seville by the King of Castile, it became a frontier town, similar to Ronda, and its fortifications were strengthened.
Alcazaba: (left) view of the towers; (right) view of Peņa de los Enamorados from the tower with the flag
Early in the morning (May 4th, 1829) I strolled to
the ruins of the old Moorish castle, which itself
had been reared on the ruins of a Roman fortress. Here, taking my seat on the remains of a
crumbling tower, I enjoyed a grand and varied
landscape, beautiful in itself, and full of storied
and romantic associations; for I was now in the
very heart of the country famous for the chivalrous contests between Moor and Christian. Below me, in its lap of hills, lay the old warrior
city so often mentioned in chronicle and ballad.
(..) Beyond spread out the vega (fertile lowland), covered with gardens and orchards and fields of grain and
enamelled meadows, inferior only to the
famous vega of Granada. To the right the
Rock of the Lovers stretched like a cragged
promontory into the plain.
Washington Irving - Tales of the Alhambra - 1851 Revised Edition
Wall of Plaza del Carmen and a 2010 statue by Jesus Gavira portraying a Muslim family leaving the town
Antequera (Antikeyrah) was recovered from the Moors in 1410 by the
Regent Fernando, who hence is called
El Infante de Antequera. Ford
After a six month siege, the Castilian troops managed to storm the walls of the city through the only weak point in their defences, now the Plaza del Carmen. The attackers had to fill in the moat, demolish the barbican, breach the walls and harass the defenders from the top of mobile wooden towers in order to be able to finally storm the main tower through the use of a huge wooden ladder. Eventually the population surrendered and were exiled to Granada where they founded the neighbourhood Antequerela at the foot of the Alhambra. Today the area is known as Realejo, but it retains two streets named after Antequerela. The Castilians, fearing that the Emir of Granada could try to conquer back the town restored and strengthened its fortifications.
Real Colegiata de Santa Maria la Mayor
The town is clean
and well built. The Colegiata, gutted
by the invaders (the French in 1810), has been partially
The church was built in 1514-1550 and it is one of the first examples of Renaissance style in Andalusia. Its plundering by the French makes more evident the neat design of the interior. The large size of the building indicates that Antequera enjoyed a period of prosperity in the XVIth century.
Artesonado ceilings at Santa Maria la Mayor and at El Carmen (1614)
Antequera has many churches because of the presence of monasteries and nunneries. They were generally designed in the style which was in fashion at the time; the coffered wooden ceilings of Santa Maria la Mayor and El Carmen however were built with a technique known as artesonado which derives from models at Granada; such ceilings can be seen in many Christian buildings of Spain, e.g. in the Throne Hall of Aljaferia at Zaragoza.
Tumulus of Dolmen de Menga (see its interior in the introductory page)
Just outside the town is la Cueva de Mengal, which looks E., and is some 70 ft. deep, it was only examined for the first time in 1842, by Rafael Mitjana, an architect of Malaga. He got the interior cleared out, by assuring the Antiqueran authorities, but not antiquarians, that treasures were buried there. It was long known by the shepherds and neglected; some consider it Celtic, others Druidical. Ford
Antequera Dolmens Site - Located at the heart of Andalusia in southern Spain, the site comprises three megalithic monuments: the Menga and Viera dolmens and the Tholos of El Romeral, and two natural monuments: La Peņa de los Enamorados and El Torcal mountainous formations, which are landmarks within the property. Built during the Neolithic and Bronze Age out of large stone blocks, these monuments form chambers with lintelled roofs or false cupolas. These three tombs, buried beneath their original earth tumuli, are one of the most remarkable architectural works of European prehistory and one of the most important examples of European Megalithism.
From the UNESCO synthesis of the universal value of the Antequera Dolmens Site which in 2016 was added to the World Heritage List.
Dolmen de Menga: carved anthropomorphic inscription
An interesting aspect of Dolmen de Menga is its orientation towards Peņa de los Enamorados, which indicates that the mountain was regarded as a holy site. You may wish to see the megalithic tombs of Mycenae and the corbelled cryptoporticus of Tiryns which were built with techniques similar to those employed at Antequera.
Return to the introductory pages.
Plan of this section:
|Andalusia||Almeria Antequera Baelo Claudia Carmona Cordoba Granada Italica Jerez de la Frontera Medina Azahara Ronda Seville Tarifa|
|Castile||Archaeological Park of Carranque Castillo de Coca Olmedo Segovia Toledo Villa La Olmeda|
|Catalonia||Barcelona Emporiae Girona Tarragona|