THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE OF THE ROMAN CITY OF POLLENTIA

The arrival of the Romans on the Island of Majorca in 123 BCE, led by General Quintus Caecilius Metellus, brought about the foundation of the City of Pollentia in Alcúdia. The city is to be found in the north-east of the Island of Majorca, at a strategic elevation situated at the start of the isthmus that separates the current Bays of Pollença and Alcúdia. Its privileged situation enabled its control of the two bays.

The Romans imposed a new political and social order and brought a new culture to the inhabitants of the islands and a new language: Latin. The islands were now under the authority of a new Roman province: Hispania Citerior. The gradual process of substituting the existing Talayotic culture for the imposed Roman culture is known as “Romanisation”.

New urban models were introduced and urban living appeared for the first time. The City of Pollentia has revealed sufficient vestiges and remains to demonstrate that this was a wholly Roman city and that the 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries are when it witnessed its greatest splendour. A clear example of this fact is the existence of the Theatre, an infrastructure that only certain cities could enjoy.

The Excavations

The history of the excavations of Pollentia date back to the first quarter of the 20th century, under the auspices and management of the Societat Arqueològica Lul·liana (Lul·liana Archaeological Society). Since then, many people and institutions have dedicated great effort to unearthing a civilisation that lived approximately two thousand years ago in this region.

Included amongst these were, most notably, the Professors Gabriel Llabrés Quintana and Rafael Isasi in the 20s, and Professor Lluís Amorós in the 40s and 50s. At the end of the 50s, with the creation of the Centro Arqueológico Hispanoamericano (Hispano-american Archaeological Centre) under the patronage of the William Bryant Foundation, a period of stability in the works began when the figures of Arribas, Tarradell and the American W. Woods were notable as heads of excavations.

During the first thirty years, three large houses were excavated in the area of La Portella (that of El Cap de Nina, the Dos Tresors and the Nord-Oest). The plot known as Can Reinés has been identified as the city’s Forum and here there was a Capitolium Temple, two small temples and an arcaded market area.

After the 90s, the W. Bryant Foundation gradually ceased its activity and the Council of Alcúdia, in collaboration with the Consell de Mallorca (Majorca Island Council), furthered the consolidation of the excavated areas, closed off the site and designed a project to incorporate the Forum. All of these actions, together with the new impetus behind the site and the creation of the Consortium of the Roman City of Pollentia at the end of the 90s, have ensured that there is no longer any delay in excavation tasks and that Pollentia occupies the place it so deserves in the History of Majorca.

The vision we have today of Pollentia is quite fragmented, as only a small part of the entire city has been excavated. Initially it was thought that the dimensions of the city were between 10 and 12 hectares, but the archaeological work of recent years has revealed that it must have covered 16 or perhaps more.

The structure of the city

Pollentia was a newly-constructed Roman city, with a grid-style or right-angled layout that organised the design of the streets into angles creating a network of parallel and perpendicular streets, like in other cities in Roman provinces.

Most noteworthy is the arcaded street and the three houses mentioned earlier (area of La Portella) and the Forum, where the buildings used for merchant activity were along with an area for the worship of several gods, represented by various temples.

The water was supplied via an aqueduct that ran from the mountains of Ternelles in Pollença.

There is an imperial necropolis located without the walls as was customary during this period. The need existed, therefore, to defend the city, as the two walled enclosures built during the 3rd and 5th century CE bear witness to, and of which several fragments remain.

The Forum of Pollentia was a public square that was built as the political, social, economic and religious centre of the city. The main buildings were to be found here.

Remains of the Capitolium Temple dedicated to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva (the largest building) can be seen here, and also two small temples dedicated to other deities, as yet unidentified.

One arcaded street and a group of Tabernae (small businesses) formed the commercial part, where there were also other structures amongst which an Aedicula (or small shrine) is of special interest and where the greater part of the archaeological research is taking place at present.

The roman theatre

The Roman theater of Pollentia, built on the side of a hill near the city, dates from the end of the s.I. Until it was unearthed in 1952, the specialists thought it was an amphitheater or a Greek theater, as it was dug into the rock.

 

It preserves part of the basic elements of a Roman theater (slightly different to a Greek one): the stands, the orchestra and the stage. The theater was considered as a unitary building divided into two functional areas: the stands and the stage space, which were separated by the Orchestra. The steps (cavea in Latin) were semicircular, had corridors for the circulation of the spectators and radial stairs. The orchestra was semicircular and welcomed the high magistrates and notables of the city. The scene (scaena) or stage was rectangular and was totally excavated in the rock and a little higher than the orchestra. Also kept the proscaenium, own space for the function, with 5 holes to fit wooden pillars.

 

Later it would be used like necrópolis of the city.

 

In recent years it has revived the theater and in summer, a theatrical show that already has a large number of followers, keeps alive the playful spirit of our ancestors.