The Via Augusta (formally Via Herculea) is an old Roman road that stretches along the Spanish coast, once joining the cities of Barcino (Barcelona) and Valentia (Valencia). It was renamed after the Emperor Augustus who came to Tarraco (Tarragona) in 27BC and remained there for some time due to ill health. During his time in the city and the following years Tarraco flourished and many buildings were erected such as a temple to Augustus, an amphitheatre and a large forum. Hadrian also visited the city in 122 AD. Unfortunately the Romans were forced out by the Visigoths in 476 and the Muslims in 713 resulting in many of the grand buildings being destroyed and pillaged for their stone.
When I arrive in Tarragona, two millennia later, there is still evidence of the Romans to be found. An impressive aqueduct, known locally as the Devil’s Bridge, spans a distance of more than 200m and the remains of the amphitheatre sit proudly down by the sea. However, some of the best preserved Roman sites can be found outside the city to the north on the Via Augusta, now the N340. I almost miss the first, which sits quietly beside the road obscured by trees and bushes. The Tower of Scipios is a Roman tomb but there is no evidence that anyone of that name was actually buried there. It’s impossible to miss the Arco de Bera though, for the large triumphal arch sits proudly in the middle of the road and being incredibly straight, as Roman roads often are, I can see it well before I reach it. It dates from the 2nd century BC and stands 12 m high.
The many Roman monuments that can be found in the city of Tarragona are now protected by UNESCO for future generations to enjoy and if you look carefully at the walls of the older houses of the city you may find more evidence of the Romans. Latin inscriptions can still be seen on the stones which were pillaged from the ancient sites to build the houses.