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A Roman village to the west of Tarifa, Spain

Baelo Claudia is situated on the northern shore of the Strait of Gibraltar. The town was founded in the end of the 2nd century BC as a result of trade with North Africa. Here, Africa is only some 13 kms (8 miles) to the south.

 It is possible that Baelo Claudia had some functions of governmental administration, but tuna fishing, salting, and the production of garum were the primary sources of wealth.

Before setting out to explore the ruins, we girded our loins, as it were, in a great “chiringuito” right on the beach.


As we were west of Tarfia, this is the Atlantic coast, so it is not as warm as the Mediterranean, and hence, not as developed. A fantastic beach with few people using it.

Once we were suitably “fortified” we went off to visit the ruins. In the very modern museum, by the entrance, there is a model of how the village looked in its prime. On the left side you can see the semi-circular amphitheatre. More or less in the centre is the Forum - a public meeting place and some-time market. Between the Forum and sea were the bath houses and along the south side, nearest to the sea was the area for salting fish and making “garum” - more of that later…..

We entered the town from the east (right hand)  side…..

Baelo Claudia

As we walked into the site, we passed the remains of one of the aqueducts, which brought water down into the town from the distant mountains. Water was a very important part of Roman life - they had a complex system of sanitation and of course the communal baths were very important to them.

The Forum was the centre of activities, serving as a meeting place and sometimes as a market.

The pillars would have supported a roof, making a covered, shady walk-way around the forum.

No doubt there were many more statues than the one remaining one.


It amazes me that these pillars and walls have stood there for some 2,500 years.

Between the Forum and the sea are the bath houses. There were several rooms with varying temperatures. They were heated by a complex system of vents and tunnels running beneath the floor.

As we made our way down to the sea, we came to the area that was used by the fishermen. Tuna were caught as they migrated along the shore and since there was no such thing as refrigeration, much of the catch was preserved by salting.

Another very important product from the fisheries was “Garum”. This is a kind of fermented fish-paste, which was deemed to be a delicacy in Imperial Rome.

Basically it was made from all the off cuts and guts from the fish that were caught. This mess was chucked into these large stone basins and allowed to rot and ferment. One can only imagine the smell that would have been hanging over this area!

Even from the fisherman’s area, the Forum dominates the whole town.

From the fisherman’s area, we made our way up to the amphitheatre. Unfortunately, a lot of the stone from the seating area has been pillaged, presumably for building houses near by. Still, it is remarkable how much has survived for two and  a half thousand years.

A well preserved tunnel leads into the main part of the amphitheatre.

Quite a lot of the structure of the amphitheatre still survives.

To the east of the amphitheatre is one of the housing areas. I imagine this part was the fancier side of town. Not only because of the proximity to the Forum and the amphitheatre, but also because of the size of the enormous stone blocks used in the building of the houses.

As we made our way back up to the museum, we once again passed the remains of the eastern aqueduct. We marvelled once more, the effort that had gone into building this by hand, and the fact it has survived for two and a half thousand years…….

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