The Roman Forum District stands as one of the largest urban archaeological sites in Spain. You are invited to take a stroll through the ancient pavements of Carthago Nova; to explore the different rooms of the thermal baths of the port where its entrance portico with the original flooring; discover how were the banquets in the Roman empire visiting the Building of the Atrium with its high walls and decorations; and to immerse oneself in the mystery cults to the Egyptian gods Isis and Serapis in their sanctuary. In short, a way to immersing oneself in the ancient Roman city learning different aspects of their daily life.
High season (1 July to 15 September)
From Monday to Sunday from 10:00 to 20:00
Mid season (from 15 March to 30 June / 16 September to 1 November)
From Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 19:00 (Holy Week from Monday to Sunday)
Low season (from 2 November to 14 March)
From Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 17:30
The Roman Forum District is closed on the days:
- On January 1 and 6 and December 25.
- January 5, December 24 and 31 only in the afternoon.
**Groups with prior reservation will be given preference at the entrance.
General ticket: 5€
Reduced ticket: 4€
*Purchase on-line, Minors under the age of 12 years, Students up to 25 years, Youth and Youth +, Unemployed, Pensioners, Disabled persons, Family (2 or more adults + 2 or more children under the age of 12 years), Large family and groups of more than 20 people.
- Children under the age of 3 years.
- Official tourist guides.
- Members of the Club Cartagena Puerto de Culturas (except for activities).
Estimated duration: 1 hour
Schedule of guided visits:
- High Season
- Mid Season
- Low Season
Saturday and Sunday - 11:00, 13:00 and 16:00
*Guided hours are subject to change. Consult at the destination.
Rules for Guided Tours (PDF - 422,33 KB)
En esta ruta se conocerán los edificios de ocio y placer del mundo romano como el Teatro, las Termas o los lujosos banquetes dedicados a la diosa Isis en el Barrio del Foro. Al finalizar la ruta, se podrá degustar un plato inspirado en la cocina romana del libro de Apicio.
Tourism for all is one of the primary objectives of the Cartagena Puerto de Culturas. We are working to ensure access to the largest number of visitors. At present, the Roman Forum District offers to its visitors with special needs the following facilities:
- Availability of stair lifts.
- Special toilets.
- Audio-visuals with sub-titles (Spanish and English) for people with hearing disabilities.
- Reduced rate to those with disabilities, presenting official proof at the box office.
- Guide dog access allowed with the corresponding accreditation.
Enjoy your visit with the audio-guide provided by the Roman Forum District. Thanks to the new technologies your visit will be in your own time, free and comfortable. The audio guide is available in 3 languages: Spanish, English and Russian. Its price is 2'50€.
After the conquest of Qart Hadast by General Publius Cornelius Scipio in 209 BC, the city was renamed as Carthago Nova. In a first it was a civitas stipendiaria, that is to say, it was subject to the payment of taxes to the Roman State. Thanks to its natural wealth - espartograss, fishing, silver and lead mines - and to its strategic location in the western Mediterranean, it soon became one of the most important commercial markets of the Roman Empire.
The granting of the colonial status (Cologne Urbs Iulia Nova Carthago) in the year 54 BC marked the beginning of an intense process of urban development that would culminate in the reign of Augustus (63 BC. – 14 A.D.). It was then when the new elites enriched with the trade and mining brought about important developments within the city. A new road network and the new streets formed squares (insulae). They built some of the most important buildings of the first century. The ultimate goal of this transformation was to design a city in the image and likeness of the capital of the empire.
At the end of the second century A.D. there was a demographic and economic decline in the city which affected all private and public buildings, modifying and reducing the urban space to the port area. It was in this area where the development of a new urban renewal took place from the fourth century A.D.
The District of the Roman Forum
The Molinete Hill (arx Hasdrubalis) was, since the 2nd century B.C. organized in terraces occupied by public and private buildings. At the top were the walls that defended the city and a temple. With the urban renewal of the 1st century B.C., at the foot of the hill emblematic buildings were erected for public life such as the forum, with its dynastic temple and the curia.
Between the port and the forum, several rectangular squares were made. In two of these squares there were built what is now known as the Roman Forum formed by a thermal spa with a wide arcaded square, the Atrium building, for the celebration of religious feasts and the Sanctuary of Isis. These buildings perhaps were run by one or more semi-public corporations. The squares of the Molinete were marked by decumans (term used to designate streets running from east to west) and by cardos streets (north-south).
The Roman Baths
This is a thermal bath complex which is accessed by a formidable porticoed courtyard or peristyle with a central open air space paved with bricks arranged in a herringbone fashion, (a technique called opus spicatum). This space not only served as an entrance, but also as a place for meeting and representation of local elites; in fact, it was presided over by a statue that was carrying a cornucopia of Carrara marble topped with a basket of fruit in a clear allusion to the pax romana achieved by Augustus after the end of the civil wars. This horn of plenty is the only element found in the sculpture. In this place, a picture representing a hunter was also found.
These thermal baths were built in the 1st century A.D.along a simple linear axis. They feature a succession of cold rooms (frigidarium), whose function was also as dressing rooms; temperate rooms (tepidarium) where the hypocaust or heating system can still be seen; and warm (caldarium) located below the present street. The complex is completed with another rather small warm room and a space that functioned as a sauna. The thermal baths in antiquity were large complexes that mixed leisure and hygiene, in addition to the cultivation of social, economic and political relations.
The Atrium Building
The atrium building was built in the first century A.D., to be the seat of a religious corporation that was devoted to celebrate ritual banquets in honour of the gods Isis and Serapis, receiving worship in the sanctuary adjacent to it. Over the course of three centuries several alterations led to the modification of its original layout. In its last stage of operation, was transformed into a housing complex with each of the rooms hosting a family. Was in use until the end of the third century or the beginning of the IV, when a fire destroyed the entire block.
With space of more than 2000 m2, it was organized around a courtyard of columns which included the stairway to access the second floor. Open to the central courtyard, were four large rooms in which there are still vestiges of its decorations and where they held banquets with the diners reclining on beds. The building was completed with a hall used for worship that still preserve the mural paintings that mimic marbles and to whose wall an altar is attached for worship, with classrooms flanking the entrance hall and with shops in its front.
The most significant findings in the Atrium Building are paintings with evocations of muses and the god Apollo, a text painted commemorating the reform of the building during the time of the Emperor Elagabalus in the year 218 or the paintings of female masks framed within garlands.
Temple of Isis
Between 2015 and 2016 archaeological excavations were carried out in the area of the Molinete that retrieved another block of Roman Carthage. This block was occupied by a sanctuary dedicated to the Hellenistic and Roman gods Isis and Serapis, according to inscriptions found in the area some years ago and dedicated to both divinities. The sanctuary, perhaps associated with the Atrium Building, had an uninterrupted use from the last third of the first century until the end of the third century, when it ceased to be a sacred space and was reused with an industrial function.
Isolated from the environment and the people outside the cult, by an imposing wall, the sanctuary was presided over by a small temple that housed the sculpture of the Divinity, which is accessed by a staircase and whose façade consisted of four Ionic columns. Around the temple there was an open courtyard with porticoes on three of its sides, on the rear side there were three open chapels to the portico related to the conduct of ceremonies in honour of the divinity and spaces reserved for the priests and the furnishings of the sanctuary.
In the basement of the courtyard, in front of the temple, there were located four vaulted cisterns (Cisterns video) to collect rain water used in the purification rituals performed in the complex, such as the washing of the sculptures.
Between the temple and the chapels there was an oval cistern that stored rain water. This deposit along with other walls was built in the Punic era, at the end of the third century B.C., and was razed for the construction of the shrine toward the last third of the first century A.D.
In 1968, following the demolition of the Civil Guard barracks, a stretch of the Decumano Maximum was found, along with the ovens that heated the tepidarium and Caldarium in the thermal baths, and the remains of a commercial area composed by a portico with shops. They were built in Republican Roman times and remodelled in the IV century A.D. which explains the use of reused materials. The clearest example of this is the inscription dedicated to Numisius Laetus, a powerful family of Carthago Nova, which would be initially in the forum of the colony and relocated to this area to form part of the wall of the hot springs.
The first excavations in the Decuman were carried out under Pedro San Martin Moro, who in 1971 uncovered the first items of value found in the Plaza of the Three Kings. Subsequently, in 1997, the Cartagena Town Hall decided to place a glass dome for a better conservation of the ruins. Cartagena Port of Cultures in 2003 suggested that the facilities be covered and the make the remains more understandable.
With regard to the slope of the Molinete Hill, work began in 1982 with a team of archaeologists led by Miguel Martinez who continued with the excavation of the previous baths, providing new data for the understanding of the remains of the decumans. As from 2008 and up to the present, the excavations have continued across the slope of the hill, led in this case by José Miguel Noguera and Mª José Madrid.
All of these investigations have come together under the management of Cartagena Port of Cultures which has led to the result of an ambitious project that has been recognized with the National Award for Restoration and Conservation of Cultural Property by the Ministry of Culture in the year 2012. The architectural design of this project was carried out by the architects Nicolas Maruri and Andrés Canovas.
The tour of the museums:
- Carthago Nova and the Roman Forum. Situated on the Molinete hill in the context of a Roman urban city setting.
- Audiovisual. Which shows the keys to the urban development of the Molinete hill, from Roman times up to the finding of the remains with the opening of the Barrio of the Roman Forum.
- The thermal baths. Views of the characteristic different spaces of a thermal complex: with cold, warm and hot rooms.
- The peristyle. Arcaded square that served as access to the thermal baths and which still maintains in very good condition the fishbone styled pavement.
- The Atrium building. Visit to the various banquet rooms to admire the height of its walls and its ornamental form.
- Sanctuary of Isis and Serapis. Sacred enclosure dedicated to the oriental gods whose images would be guarded by the priests in the small temple that presides over the space.
- Decuman. In this space, there are parts of the facilities of the thermal baths with an oven and ancillary spaces. In addition, one can walk along the decumanus maximus, the main road crossing the city from east to west.
- Martínez Andreu, M., (1997). “Las termas romanas de la calle Honda”, en Excavaciones arqueológicas en Cartagena, 1982-1988 (MemAMurcia), págs. 11-14.
- VV.AA. (2003). Arx Asdrubalis. Arqueología e Historia del Cerro del Molinete (Cartagena), Murcia.
- VV.AA. (2009). Arx Hasdrubalis. La ciudad reencontrada. Arqueología en el cerro del Molinete, Cartagena. Catálogo exposición.
- VV.AA. (2012). Cartagena Puerto de Culturas. Convirtiendo el pasado en futuro.
- VV.AA. (2016). Barrio del Foro Romano/Roman Forum District / Molinete/Cartagena. Proyecto integral de recuperación y conservación / Recovery and Conservation. [Premio Nacional de Restauración y Conservación de Bienes Culturales 2012] [National Prize of Restoration and Conservation of Cultural Heritage 2012].
- VV.AA. (2016). Cuaderno didáctico Barrio del Foro Romano, Molinete, Cartagena.