Mérida, the capital city of Roman westernmost province of Lusitania and today of the Extremadura region, was founded in 25 BC. It was designed as a colony for emperor Augustus’ veteran soldiers (the emeritus), thereby its Roman name of Emerita Augusta.
It is worth noting that today Mérida preserves more important ancient Roman monuments than any other city in Spain, including a triumphal arch and a theatre, and it is listed as a World Heritage Site.
Continue your walk to the archaeological site where you can visit the Amphitheatre and the Roman Theatre. The amphitheatre hosted, among other events, gladiator games, and it is believed it had the capacity for 15,000 spectators. The theatre’s capacity was smaller, about 6,000 spectators, and today it serves as a venue for a summer festival of Classical theatre.
Because the modern city you see today evolved over centuries and was not built around, but rather on top of the old Roman town, both the Amphitheatre and the Roman Theatre were only discovered a hundred years ago. In fact, Mérida still hides many an un(dis)covered Roman ruin underneath, and building licences are difficult to obtain, and even more difficult to execute. Chances are you will come across some Roman ruins and everything will have to come to a halt.
After leaving the museum, you can visit other monuments on foot, or take the tourist train. A prerecorded message will give you some basic information about the sites you see. It is not a hop-on-hop-off train, so you will end the 20-minute ride where you started it, in front of the main entrance to the Amphitheatre and the Roman Theatre.
Because the train doesn’t take you past all of the monuments worth seeing, we recommend you also visit Diana’s Temple, the Roman Circus, where chariot races took place in front of 30,000 spectators, and the nearby St. Lazarus’ aqueduct.
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