Michel Gybels for Time Travel Rome

The Costa Brava on the Mediterranean coast in Spanish Catalunia is best known for its seaside resorts and nightlife and attracts crowds of tourists every summer. Less well known, however, is that there are also interesting archaeological sites and museums to visit there. In the region of Girona, this includes the Greco-Roman site and museum of Ampurias, located near l’Escala on the coast.

A Resort rich in History

Ampurias (in Catalan Empúries; from Ancient Greek Ἐμπόριον, meaning “market”, “port of trade”; in Latin Emporiae); was a Greek and Roman city located in the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula, in the Girona region of Alt Empordà. It was founded in 575 BC by settlers from Phocis as a trading enclave in the western Mediterranean. The Ampurias outlet to the sea was open to all. The reason was that the Iberians, ignorant of navigation, were happy to trade and wanted to buy foreign goods that the ships carried, and to sell the products of their harvests. The interest in trade made the Iberian city accessible to the Greeks. It was later occupied by the Romans, but the city was abandoned in the High Medieval Ages, except for the nucleus of Sant’Marti d’Ampurias which is still populated today. It was presented in 2002 as a candidate for Unesco Heritage World Status.

The archaeological sites of Ampurias are located on the Gulf of Rosas, in the municipality of l’Escala (Girona) and are some of the most important Greek remains in Spain. The area is made up of a sunken plain through which the rivers Ter and Fluvia flow. It is not a single nucleus but three distinct ones: Palaiápolis, Neapolis and the Roman city.

Palaiapolis (Greek παλαιάπολις, “ancient city”) is mentioned by Strabo as the foundation of the Phocians of Massalia (actual Marseille in France), who worshipped the goddess Artemis of Ephesus.  This first colony was established on an island off the coast, which today would be Sant’Marti d’Ampurias.

The term Neapolis (Greek νεάπολις, “new city”) is the term commonly used by the Greeks for the growth area of a city, and was given in this case to designate the settlement located to the south of the Paliapolis, already inland. This settlement was born as a result of the demographic growth that the old city could not support.