Over twenty centuries ago, Gijón’s capital was Rome. Try speaking of government decentralization in so vast an empire! But Gijón was not just a pin on the map of whichever emperor was in power. The archaeological excavations of the last century starting in the eighties have gradually unearthed the remains of what was a corner of the Roman Empire where the process of Romanization was widely implemented. The results of this process can still be seen thanks to the museums and remains preserved in various parts of the borough.
Perhaps the Campo Valdés Roman Baths are the most popular remains, as they were the first to be studied (1903). Over the years, they have become an interesting museum visited by thousands each year. The museum lies right at the feet of the statue of Emperor Octavius Augustus that seems to watch over his own memory and that of his empire, although the statue itself is modern, dating from 1971. Augustus stands outside the baths, but inside the museum, there is much more for visitors to see that enable them to recreate what life would be like for Roman residents of Gijón. As explained on Gijón’s museums website, “in addition to providing general information about thermae, there is also information on the development of Roman Gijón, the city wall, Gijón’s Roman Baths and their interpretation. The most significant material remains which were unearthed during the excavations are on display in a cabinet running the length of the corridor leading to the site.”
You can also follow the course of Gijón’s Roman wall, which marks the perimeter of Cimavilla, nowadays Gijón’s “high quarter” and the core of the city in Roman times, with the help of the remains that have been unearthed and a sprinkling of imagination. Excavated between 1982 and 1992, it was in fact raised in the Late Roman period and required taking urban-planning protection measures that have allowed the remains that appeared in later digs to be conserved in full view.
The Romans who lived in the outskirts of Gijon left witness of their passing at the Roman Villa of Veranes. This interesting site, where the remains of an agricultural estate on the Via de la Plata was unearthed, boasts a beautiful mosaic, along with a collection of objects found during different digs.
Gijon is a city whose history spans over two thousand years; a history which began on the other side of the bay that now hosts a city of nearly 300,000 inhabitants. Campa Torres is where the traces of the city’s first ancestors can be found, who lived here before Rome and all its power reached them. Campa Torres hill fort is another part of the “black box” in which our collective memory is recorded.