The Tower of Hercules

The Tower of Hercules is the oldest working lighthouse in the world. Built by the Romans in the 2nd century, it has been protecting ships from the rocky shoreline around A Coruna for thousands of years.

It doesn’t look much like a Roman construction but that is because of the 18th century surrounding walls, which have served to protect it, and the modern electrical beam which can be seen from 32 miles away. Originally, the light would have been produced by a huge oil lamp projected onto a parabolic mirror. The fuel would have been transported up to the top of the tower by an external ramp, which is still represented in the more recent exterior stonework.

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The original architect of the tower, Caius Sevius Lupus from Aeminium, Lusitania (now Coimbra in Portugal) dedicated his work to the God Mars. So why is it known as the Tower of Hercules? It was actually King Alfonso X who connected the ancient myths of Hercules with the city of A Coruna in the 13th century. According to the legend, Hercules defeated the giant Geryon and buried his severed head, declaring that a tower should be built above it and a city established. He named the city Crunia, after a local woman who lived in the area and with whom he had fallen in love. His nephew, Hispan, then completed the tower and topped it with a light that would never be extinguished.

It’s 242 steps to the top of the tower and although the Roman lighthouse was 21m shorter it would still have been quite a climb to keep the lamp burning. Unfortunately, the view today is less than spectacular so I decide to stay at ground level and admire the unusual sculptures in the surrounding park.

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