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Tarragona gets ready to relive its Roman origins at 'Tarraco Viva' festival

The 21st annual event is designed to tell the stories alongside the archaeology


03 May 2019 12:19 PM


Daniel Wittenberg | Barcelona

Tarragona goes back to its Roman roots this weekend with the beginning of the Tarraco Viva festival – a yearly cultural celebration and historical recreation of the city's ancient heritage.

Named after the capital of Roman Spain, which became the Tarragona of today, the two-week-long event has "The Roman City and The Urban World" as its theme and 140 different activities designed to bring out the life behind the famous ruins, the stories alongside the archaeology.

Traditions and democracy

Following its 20th anniversary last year, the centerpiece of this edition is certain to be the reenactment of the colonial forum – yards away from the exact spot where it stood 2,200 years ago – which aims to give visitors an idea of how the "meeting place and beating heart of the city" worked, simulating business deals, criminal trials, demonstrations, and even an election.

The opening event, an imitation stone-laying ceremony, takes place on Sunday at the city wall ruins. According to the organizer in charge, Magí Seritjol, it marks the perfect starting point "because that was how all Roman cities were founded", while the Minerva Tower that forms part of the surviving fortifications was "the first Roman building on the entire Iberian Peninsula."

The final event, in the midst of the EU and local election campaigns two weeks later, is set to be another focal point. Friends, fake Romans and countrymen will gather for a mock election aimed at explaining how citizens of ancient democracies would vote. (Spoiler: even more men.)

Spreading the knowledge

There will also be gladiator fight simulations, theatrical monologues, Roman cookery workshops and games for children, each with the goal of spreading knowledge of ancient history, allowing participants to reflect on the past, and showing locals the importance of conservation.

The festival started as a series of events organized in 1999 to coincide with Tarragona's (later successful) application for its Roman ruins to be listed by UNESCO. This year's edition has a budget of roughly 380,000 euros, slightly higher than the figure for previous versions.


  • Participants dress up in traditonal Roman attire for last year's opening ceremony

  • Participants dress up in traditonal Roman attire for last year's opening ceremony