Roman Holiday: Theodosius and his Spanish Villa

Danny Wood visits Carranque Archaeological Park, near Madrid, recently opened to the public.

The holiday playground for the family of Theodosius the Great, Roman emperor AD 379-95, lies just twenty miles outside Madrid. In 1983 the discovery by a farmer of a mosaic led to the uncovering of one of the most important Roman archaeological sites in Spain. Among the remains, are the oldest Roman basilica in the Iberian peninsular and the Materno Villa with one thousand square feet of intact mosaics. After nearly two decades of excavation, the Carranque Archaeological Park is now open to the public.

The ruins, a couple of miles outside the village of Carranque, follow both sides of a tributary of the Guadarrama river. On one side, the basilica, a small temple and the Materno Villa; on the other, the ruins of a Roman mill, an irrigation system and possibly a second villa. The site was at an important crossroads during the Roman era and according to Geography , Ptolemy’s book on cartography, lies near the still undiscovered Roman city of Titulcia.

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