Roman Province of Lusitania

The Roman theatre at Mérida, originally constructed in the 1st century BC, with many subsequent additions and renovations throughout antiquity (©Tomás Fano)
The Roman theatre at Mérida, originally constructed in the 1st century BC, with many subsequent additions and renovations throughout antiquity (©Tomás Fano)
Victorious charioteer depicted in a mosaic from Mérida
Victorious charioteer depicted in a mosaic from Mérida
Gory boar hunt depicted in a mosaic in the Villa de las Tiendes, Merida
Gory boar hunt depicted in a mosaic in the Villa de las Tiendes, Merida
‘Los Milagros’ - ‘miraculous’ aqueduct at Mérida
‘Los Milagros’ - ‘miraculous’ aqueduct at Mérida
Young musician with her lute, poignantly depicted on a tombstone from Mérida
Young musician with her lute, poignantly depicted on a tombstone from Mérida
View over the countryside from Medellín
View over the countryside from Medellín
  • Glorious Roman monuments and feats of engineering in Spain and Portugal
  • A unique programme, we also take in prehistoric and medieval sites from the coast at Lisbon into Spanish Extremadura.
  • Led by Roman expert and Hispanophile Dr Andrew Fear.

Mérida, the capital of Roman Lusitania was founded in 25BC by the victorious army of Emperor Augustus. During its imperial glory days, a plethora of grand Roman monuments were erected; many, including the Forum, triumphal arch and amphitheatre, dominate the town to this day.

Whilst the superb evidence of Romanisation here is the focus of our programme, it is enhanced by some spectacular prehistoric and Medieval sites along the way. Our journey takes us from the coast at Lisbon through beautiful countryside; we see prehistoric tombs, Roman towns, and the sites of the 19th century Peninsular War. Andy Fear is an expert on all things Iberian and will bring the vanished world of Roman Lusitania to life.

Themes

  • Romans
  • Prehistory
  • Medieval
  • Historic Churches

Itinerary 2015

Day 1

Fly to Lisbon and drive to our Pousada hotel in Palmela.

Day 2

By ferry to the site of Tróia, the largest fishsauce production centre known from the Roman world. There are some 52 factories here, having around 3000 tanks in which the layers of salt and fish rotted to produce the ubiquitous sauces of the ancient world. Afternoon spent exploring Évora, a former Roman municipium, Ebora Liberalitas Iulia, and now a World Heritage Site. It still has Roman remains, notably the Temple of Diana, but in the late medieval period it was a favourite haunt of Portuguese monarchs.

Day 3

Two major Roman villas - Pisões and São Cucufate. In 2016, we have a specially arranged visit of the palatial remains at the major Roman Villa of Pisões, which is usually closed to the public. São Cucufate has several building phases from the 1st to the 4th centuries AD - the latest of these is, understandably, the most visible, and built on a palatial scale. The major prehistoric site of Os Almendres is the largest group of megaliths in Portugal. Visit Anta Grande do Zambujeiro, the largest prehistoric burial chamber in the Iberian peninsula.

Day 4

Drive to the border town of Badajoz, a town with a Moorish past, famously besieged by the British in 1812 during the Peninsular War. Visit the Alcazaba Museum, with its major collection of warrior stelae, and then continue to Mérida (Roman Emerita Augusta) named after the veterans who were settled here by Augustus.

Day 5

All day exploring Roman Mérida, a simple Spanish provincial town still dominated by the remains of its Roman past. It was important throughout the Roman period and beyond. The Roman remains are outstanding, including the bridge over the River Guadiana, a large amphitheatre, a splendid theatre, a fine circus and the ‘Temple of Diana’. The Archaeological Museum has fine displays of objects, including mosaics.

Day 6

Spend the day in Alcántara, home of one of Spain’s orders of crusading knights, with its remarkable Roman bridge. The old town of Cáceres is a perfectly preserved example of a medieval town. The Roman dam of La Proserpina, which stored water for Roman Mérida to be transported by aqueduct. The Proserpina Dam is one of the best-preserved of Roman date in the world.

Day 7

Visit the castle at Medellín, the birthplace of conquistador and conqueror of the Aztecs, Hernan Cortes. Return to Mérida for further exploration: Visigothic basilica of Sta Eulalia, who was martyred here in AD 304, and was buried beneath the medieval parish church. Nearby is the well-preserved Roman circus.

Day 8

We visit the huge arches of the aqueduct known as Los Milagros, standing over 100 feet high, which brought water from the dam (seen on Day 6) to the city. Drive to Lisbon via the fortress town of Elvas; fly home.

Itinerary 2016

Day 1

Fly to Lisbon and drive to our Pousada hotel in Palmela.

Day 2

By ferry to the site of Tróia, the largest fish-sauce production centre known from the Roman world. There are some 52 factories here in which the layers of salt and fish rotted to produce the ubiquitous sauces of the ancient world. We spend the afternoon exploring Évora, a former Roman town, and now a World Heritage Site. It still has Roman remains, notably, and in the late Medieval period was a favourite haunt of Portuguese monarchs.

Day 3

We have a specially arranged visit of the palatial remains at the major Roman Villa of Pisões, which is usually closed to the public.

We move on to São Cucufate, a Roman villa that was rebuilt on a grand scale with gardens and a small temple. We glimpse the pre-Roman past at the major prehistoric site of Os Almendres, the largest group of megaliths in Portugal. Finally, we visit Anta Grande do Zambujeiro, the largest prehistoric burial chamber in the Iberian peninsula.

Day 4

Today, we drive to the border town of Badajoz, a town with a Moorish past, famously besieged by the British in 1812 during the Peninsular War. We visit the Alcazaba Museum, with its major collection of warrior stelae, we then continue to Mérida (Roman Emerita Augusta) named after the veterans who were settled here by Augustus.

Day 5

Spend all day exploring Roman Mérida, a simple Spanish provincial town still dominated by the remains of its Roman past. It was important throughout the Roman period and beyond. The Roman remains are outstanding, including the bridge over the River Guadiana, a large amphitheatre, a splendid theatre, a fine circus and the ‘Temple of Diana’. The Archaeological Museum has fine displays of objects, including mosaics.

Day 6

We travel to Alcántara, home of one of Spain’s orders of crusading knights, and with a remarkable Roman bridge. Continue to the old town of Cáceres, a perfectly preserved example of a Medieval town. We return to Mérida.

Day 7

We briefly leave the Romans behind to visit the castle at Medellín, the birthplace of conquistador and conqueror of the Aztecs, Hernan Cortés. This afternoon we return to Mérida for further exploration: including the Visigothic basilica of Sta Eulalia, who was martyred here in AD 304, and buried beneath the medieval parish church. We also visit the well preserved Roman circus nearby, where up to 30,000 spectators once gathered to watch the chariots race. We also marvel at the Roman dam of La Proserpina, which stored water for Roman Mérida to be transported by aqueduct.

Day 8

We visit the huge arches of the aqueduct known as Los Milagros, standing over 100 feet high, which brought water from the dam to the city. Drive to Lisbon via the fortress town of Elvas; fly home.

What's Included

  1. Expert Guide Lecturer
  2. Tour Manager
  3. Local Travel - Private a/c coach
  4. Meals - All meals included with water (wine with dinners)
  5. Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in program; tips included
  6. Field Notes
  7. Hotels - 7 nights in handpicked accomodation

Hotel Info

  • 1 night in a 4* hotel in Palmela: in a converted convent attached to a 17th century castle, at the top of the hillside town.
  • 2 nights in a 4* hotel within the walls of the historic center of Évora: converted from the 16th century 'Sepulveda Palace' the rooms are bright and furnished with a modern touch. It has a pleasant garden with swimming pool.
  • 4 nights in a parador, another former convent, in central Mérida: still retaining some of its 18th century structure, this hotel has an attractive small garden and a restaurant with a high vaulted ceiling.

Many of our tours can be linked together to form longer programmes. We are happy to arrange connecting flights and hotels, allowing you to spend as long as you wish exploring the ancient world... See suggestions below:

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2015 Tour Details

Mon 7th September - Mon 14th September

Call for Availability

$3,385

sgl supp: $515

SPA15B

with: Dr Andrew Fear

2016 Tour Details

Sun 4th September - Sun 11th September

Available

$3,090

without flights

sgl supp: $465

SPA16B

Sun 4th September - Sun 11th September

Available

$3,090

without flights

sgl supp: $465

SPA16A

with: Dr Andrew Fear

Guide Lecturer

Tour Managers

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