Italica, Spain

The city of  Italica, north of modern day Santiponce was founded in 206 BC by the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus in order to settle Roman soldiers wounded in the Battle of Ilipa, where the Carthaginian army was defeated during the Second Punic War.

Italica was the birthplace of the Roman emperor Trajan. Hadrian was generous to his settled town, which he made a colonia; he added temples, including a Trajaneum venerating Trajan, and rebuilt public buildings. Italica’s amphitheater seated 25,000 spectators—half as many as the Flavian Amphitheatre in Rome— and was the third largest in the Roman Empire.

A shift of the Guadalquivir River bed, probably due to siltation— a widespread problem in antiquity that followed removal of the forest cover—left Italica isolated, high and dry. The city started to dwindle as early as the 3rd century. Later Seville grew nearby, and no modern city covered most of Italica’s foundations. The result is an unusually well-preserved Roman city of Hispania Baetica, and unexpected riches in the Museo Arqueologico of Seville, with its famous marble colossus of Trajan. In Italica, cobbled Roman streets are visible, and mosaic floors still in situ. The excavation of Italica began in 1781 and continues.