Mérida, Spain

Let us go to Mérida, capital of Spain’s Extremadura, founded by the Romans, whose ancient buildings include the Teatro Romano, the Puente Romano, and the stunningly beautiful Temple of Diana.

 

temple-diana-merida

The Roman colony of Emerita Augusta (today’s Mérida) was founded in 25 BC by Emperor Augustus. It was settled by soldiers discharged from two veteran legions of the Cantabrian Wars:  Legio X Gemina and Legio V Alaudae, (Tenth and Fifth Legions). These wars, which Augustus personally supervised, were the final stage of Rome’s two-century long conquest of Hispania; and the ten-year long campaign against the fiercely independent tribes: the Cantabri, Astures, and Gallaeci.

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The Temple of Diana was built as part of the city forum in the first century AD. It stands on an elevated rectangular base. The facade has six granite columns with Corinthian capitals. Archaeologists believe a garden and pond lay beside the temple.

 

 

The attribution of the religious temple to Diana is uncertain.

temple-diana-merida

Soldiers of the Tenth Legion famously followed Julius Caesar in his invasion of Gaul and Britain, and in Greece to subdue Pompey the Great at the Battle of Pharsalus. Later, Augustus, then Octavius, used them at the Battle of Philippi against Julius Caesar’s murderers. The Fifth Legion was also formed by Julius Caesar and fought with him in Gaul. It was the first Roman legion composed of provincial soldiers, as opposed to Roman citizens. and Caesar paid the soldiers with his own resources before the legion was recognized by the Roman Senate.

Fourteen hundred years later the progeny of these soldiers would find their fortunes in the New World as Spanish conquistadors. Their names are known to history: Hernán Cortés, Francisco Pizarro, Gonzalo Pizarro, Juan Pizarro, Hernando Pizarro, and Hernando de Soto to name a few.

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