PLAZA DE ESPAÑA (ÉCIJA’S MAIN SQUARE)
It is the heart of the city, the historical and social centre for leisure in Écija, probably since the 15th century. Plaza de España is located upon important archaeological remains; some of them are to be found in the square itself, such as a Roman pool and pieces of a convent dedicated to Imperial worship which dates back to the 1st century. There have also been some discoveries of Muslim remains belonging to the Arabian city that was settled afterwards in the area.
Since the Medieval Age, it has been a square with Castilian porticos. The perimeter of the square is enclosed by different balconies, such as those belonging to the Church of San Francisco or those in Palaces of Peñaflor and Benamejí, as well as the 19th century façade of the City Hall.
There was originally a Roman temple upon a huge South-oriented podium, where the colonial forum was settled. Behind it there was a monumental pool from the end of the 1st century BC which has remained practically intact until present day.
Inside the pool there have been discoveries of rich architectural, epigraphic and sculptural remains, which can be visited in the rooms of the City Museum of History of Écija. Among the pieces found in the pool we must emphasize a numerous and homogeneous set of “ideal sculpture”, for which a Hadrian chronology has been proposed. The “Wounded Amazon” (which dates back to the period between the years 117 and 138 BC), was also found inside the pool. Its origin is settled in the city of Athens.
Within this set of pieces, which is likely to have decorated the outdoor esplanade located behind the aforementioned Roman temple, the “Sciarra”-type Amazon is noteworthy. This marble-carved Amazon model is the first one to have been found in Hispania. Attributed to Polykleitos or Kresilas, it has remained practically intact until present day, preserving even remains of its original polychromy.
Source: Sergio Gracía Dils, archaeologist of Écija.
ROYAL ALCÁZAR OF ÉCIJA. ARCHAEOLOGICAL AREA “EL PICADERO”Colloquially known as “El Picadero”, this space is settled in the highest area of the city, where we can find Turdetani and Roman remains, as well as the remnants of a Muslim castle, allowing you to observe all the different levels of settlement in Écija, from its origins in the 8th century BC until current day. The remains from the Roman Age are those which have been best preserved.
On the one hand, you can visit the famous and recently damaged mosaic “Dos Caras de Baco” (“the Two Faces of the God Bacchus”, also named Dionysus), which is under restoration. On the other hand, you can also see the progressive discovery of a public Roman building, which presents a fabulous state of conservation.
The Alcázar of Écija started to lose its strategic value during the Almohad age, reason why it was destructed. Still during the 16th century, several documentary evidence was found to preserve the ruins that threatened different sections of the Alcázar, but from the 17th century onwards, it was decided to demolish those parts which threatened the safety of the nearest buildings to the fortress. The situation of abandonment of these defensive structures in the 17th century lead to the construction of a horse riding school in the year 1700, being this the origin of its popular name “El Picadero”. It was continued to be used as such throughout the 19th century until it was finally abandoned in the 20th. By the middle of this century, it started to be occupied by substandard houses, a process that continued without any type of ordering until 1999, when a programme of relocation and restoration of this public space was started.
During these architectural procedures it has been possible to verify that the first registered settlement in Écija corresponds to the Tartessian epoch (around the 8thcentury BC), but a previous moment of settlement can not be dismissed. There have been records of stone structures from the Turdetani period in relation with a hydraulic container aimed at performing rites.
In the year 14 BC, Emperor Augustus founded Colonia Augusta Firma Astigi, location of the old Astigi. This meant an important change in terms of the planning of the city. From the current urban network it is to presume that the old city spread over the base of an octagon-shaped urban plot, according to the criteria followed in the different Roman foundations of this period.
This urban plot has two main axes: the kardo maximus (English: “Cardo”), a name given to a north-south street in Ancient Roman cities; and the Decumanus Maximus, an east-to-west-oriented road. Both types have been archaeologically registered in the city. The Roman structures found in Cerro del Alcázar are, as expected, aligned around these octagonal-shaped plots. They are, furthermore, located in a privileged place: above the city level, eight meters above the forum level and Southeast of it.
Within the medieval Muslim epoch we can clearly differentiate two moments. On the one hand, a little necropolis from the Caliphal age and on the other hand, the construction of a castle belonging to the Almohad rule, a period mostly reflected in the ceramics and not in the architecture, as no type of interior compartmentalization has been found yet outside the fortified enclosure.
It was not until the medieval Christian age when numerous compartimentalizations inside the Plaza de Armas where found, after the settlement of Christian troops in the Alcazaba. The recorded information available actually confirms these theories.
The development and musealisation of a walled enclosure like the Plaza de Armas, displaying a large (5.600m2) and wide-ranging cultural sequence, depends on the in situ consolidation of the structures, its restoration and, obviously, its preservation from climate agents. In this respect, the restoration of structures such as the Turdetani and Roman wall ruins found during excavations has already been carried out. Furthermore, the excavated area was converted into a covered area in 2001-2002, with a total area of 450m2 and publicly accessible thanks to the installation of a series of central and side aisles. The excavations continue to be under-way, revealing the incredibly-preserved famous Roman building and its high-quality paintings and marble sculptures.
CITY MUSEUM OF HISTORY OF ÉCIJA. PALACE OF BENAMEJÍ
In this museum we can visit the interesting collection of metal pieces from the Prehistory, as well as the three warrior stelae or the “Placa de Écija”, a singular piece with Tartessian goldsmithing. Furthermore, splendid Roman mosaics and sculptures such as the “Wounded Amazon” or interesting collections of inscriptions, capitals, mosaics of some materials of domestic use from the Roman and Islamic periods.
THE WOUNDED AMAZON
Among the relevant architectural discoveries found in recent years in the province of Baetica, the “Wounded Amazon” stands out due to its importance, artistic merit and state of conservation. Found in Écija in 2002, it is a statue which dates from the 2nd century AD, a copy of an originally Greek model which dates back from the 4th century.
Among these finds, the replica of the Sciarra Amazon is especially worth emphasizing. It was neither a coincidental nor separate discovery; but it actually was found during the excavations carried out in the city centre of the city of Écija, which is besides the monumental zone of the former Roman city. The new replica is one of an ideal, numerous and varied set of sculptures, which is at present exhibited in the Municipal Archaeological Museum of Écija.
Upon discovery it was possible to realize that the statue had been intentionally hidden at the beginning of the 4th century, as it was protected by slabs of ashlar stone and presenting an acceptable state. There were actually only little breaks in fragile zones such as the feet, the ankles, the left hand or the plinth shaft on which the left forearm leans on. Thanks to the later restoration, it looks nowadays like the whole that it formerly was, except from several finger fragments. It also presents a special feature: the former polychromy can be still appreciated in the hair, eyes, the tunic and the plinth on which the statue stands.
This fact deserves to be taken into account for several reasons: firstly, because certain aspects related to the reconstruction of this copy can be contrasted, thanks to the preservation of the missing elements in the different models; secondly, because it is possible to establish Ecijan replica’s degree of fidelity to the original and thirdly, because depending on the latter, we can value the work made by the copyist, as well as the “artistic approach” they adopted.
MOSAICO DE OCÉANOS (“OCEAN MOSAIC”)
From around the 4th century AD. It is a late-era mosaic that served as the floor of a bedroom in an urban household (a domus of the Roman city of Astigi). In the centre you can observe the head of Oceanus (a beared god with tangled hair) with a jet of water flowing from his mouth, surrounded by four birds perched on the branches of trees, alluding to the four seasons. The figure of Oceanus to a certain degree represents the protection of commercial prosperity and good fortune.
MOSAICO EL DON DEL VINO (“EL DON DEL VINO MOSAIC”)
It is a magnificent polychromatic mosaic from around the 2nd century AD which shows a Dionysian procession and scenes related to the myth of the discovery of wine, a divine gift. It is at present exhibited in the Pavilion of Andalusia during the Expo in 1992.
MOSAICO DE LAS ESTACIONES DEL AÑO (“MOSAIC OF THE SEASONS”)
From the second half of the 2nd century AD or beginning of the 3rd AD. It is a very unique polychromatic mosaic. Each corner represents elements of different seasons of the year.
MOISACO DEL TRIUNFO DE BACO (“MOSAIC OF THE TRIUMPH OF BACCUS”)
From the second half of the 2nd century AD, it is a fragment of a much-larger mosaic whose emblem (the central medallion) represents the god Baccus riding a chariot pulled by male and female centaurs. Around the emblem we can observe allegorical figures representing the four seasons and scenes from Greek mythology.
MOSAICO DE LAS NEREIDAS (“MOSAIC OF THE NEREIDS”)
This mosaic dates from the second half of the 2nd century AD. It is a fragment which represents an ocean scene, notable for its considerable use of glass-blown mosaic tiles (green, blue…).
MOSAICO DEL DOBLE RAPTO (“MOSAIC OF THE DOUBLE ABDUCTION”)
3rd century AD mosaic. A curious double representation of two myths of a double abduction by Zeus-Jupiter: the abduction of Ganymede, showing Jupiter transformed into an eagle, and that of Europa, where he has been transformed into a bull.
More than 80 Roman mosaics have appeared in Écija. Other noteworthy mosaics are the sacrifice of the Queen Dirce, the Triumph of Baccus (exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Sevilla) and a mosaic showing circus scenes.
For more information: museo.ecija.es