OCTOBER 13: Hire car from Carmona to Cordoba

Posted on Feb 12, 2012 in category



An early pickup of a hire car wasn’t without hitches. The car we chose online wasn’t the car offered to us. We soon discovered that our ‘upgraded’ model had little petrol in the tank. This type of petrol policy means that our hire car, nicknamed 'The Bomb', chugged along for many kilometres until run in and refuelled. Despite striking this 'pothole', we were very impressed with Spanish roads and especially the freeways. In this instance, Spanish euro debt went into superbly built infrastructure.


Our first road adventure in ‘The Bomb’ was to Carmona, a short stop on the way to our final destination, Cordoba. Carmona derives its name from Phoenician ‘KAR’ with the Romans and Moors continuing this association by calling it ‘Carmo’ and ‘Qarmuna’ respectively. In 206 B.C. the Carthaginians lost control of Carmona and it gained municipium status. Julius Caesar once remarked that Carmona was a ‘beautiful town’. Both the Romans and the Moors placed great importance on Carmona as evidenced by the strengthening of Carmona’s defensive walls. A thriving ceramic business had evolved in Carmona during the Julio-Claudian era judging by the many kiln sites discovered in Carmona (by A.D.2001 there were 7 excavated). See:




Parking on the pavement of Avenida Jorge Bonsor (in honour of one of the site’s earliest archaeologists) was tight but the sight of Carmona’s amphitheatre soon rewarded us.  Dating from the 1st century B.C., the amphitheatre was excavated in 1885 by Juan Fernández López and George Bonsor.



Only a shell remains of Carmona’s amphitheatre


Directly opposite the amphitheatre was the necropolis. Again, largely the work of the above 19th century archaeologists, the necropolis has a series of Tartesian funerary monuments dating to the 7th century B.C. but it was mainly in use circa. 2nd century B.C. – A.D. 1st century.


Changes in funerary practices are evident in the necropolis with a central pit with tumulus (earth mound cover) used in the Tartesian period, inhumation characteristic of the earlier 2nd century B.C. Roman period with the body placed in a bent-double position with the head facing to the east and finally, cremation became commonplace from the beginning of the Roman Imperial period (end of 1st century B.C.). Family burial chambers called hypogea (carved out of the rock) was another Roman Imperial period feature. Finally, by the end of A.D. 1st century, individual cremation/burial pits had replaced family tombs.  Some of these were massive like the ‘Tomb of Servilia’.




The vaulted tomb and sarcophagus of Servilia is behind this huge hypostyle courtyard. BIG!



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     The ‘Circular Mausoleum’ with many niches hewn from the rock to house the ancestors’ urns


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            The ‘Tomb of the Elephant’ was also a sanctuary to the worship of Cybele and Attis.


A large section of eight tombs have been protected by a tiered awning with excellent signage depicting the layout of each tomb and a photo of the tomb today. This is an excellent conservation project although there are still many tombs unprotected from the elements (including curious tourists like myself climbing down ladders!) in the approximately 8 hectares site.


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Good archaeological practice demands that conservation methods follow excavation. A small awning over a tomb entrance is yet to be placed on to these four concrete posts. Ingenious idea!






Informative signage that satisfies tourists’ curiosity is the way to go!

Less people marching up and down tombs’ stairs.




The ‘Tomb of Postumius’ combined internments and cremations.

Frescoes adorn its walls that were signed by C. Silvanus.




A creative urn from Carmona’s necropolis


“All aboard the ‘Bomb’!” for Cordoba; but, why not stop at Écija on the way? Écija is only 85 kilometres from Seville so the temptation to see the town won over. What a town! It is a town full of architectural gemstones. Like Carmona, Écija was well placed on the Via Augusta (Roman road) to share in the empire’s wealth especially in the olive oil trade. Julius Caesar rewarded the town for its loyalty by granting colony status, ‘Colonia Iulia Augusta Firma Astigitana’ or Astigi. In 1998, the Town Council decided to finish a car park project despite it unearthing a vast section of Roman Astigi which included a forum. 


The town to its credit is in the process of upgrading a magnificent Mudejar palace,

‘El Palacio de Benameji’.  Small collections of local antiquities and artifacts found during the restoration were on display.




An 18th century Mudejar restoration project


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The bull cult existed in Bronze Age Iberian culture      A Bronze Age inscription – one of many in Spain





Georg Braun; Frans Hogenberg: Civitates Orbis Terrarum, 1572 (edition of 1593)
Herzogin-Anna-Amalia-Bibliothek, Weimar (public domain). Wool was becoming a lucrative industry for Écija and southern Spain.




A marble sculpture of a Roman soldier found in the forum excavations (A.D.1st-2nd centuries)




The ceramic industry in this region was producing some 85% its own vessels by the mid 1st century B.C. but economic growth in the late Augustan and Tiberian principates saw the industry truly flourish in volume. These were substantial kilns catering for Roman civilian markets as well as Atlantic and Mediterranean military markets in northwest Spain and along the Germanic limes or borders of the Rhine (E. Garcia Vargas, 2010).





Above is one of the gems of Écija – ‘Palacio de Peñaflor’ (XVI century)


Note the frescoes and long single wrought iron veranda.




Siesta time in the ‘Palacio de Justicia’




Ornate ceiling of the above municipal building (1931)


Cordoba was a capital for the Romans and Moslems of the Umayyad dynasty who fled Damascus in the 8th century A.D.  They remained in Corboda until A.D.1031. During this heyday of tolerance Cordoba prospered with people enjoying over 900 baths and a royal library that held 400,000 books at a time in Europe when the largest Christian library had only 400 manuscripts.  Cordoba was not quite an oasis of religious tolerance because Jews and Christians did have some restrictions like a poll tax, inability to hold some public offices and marry Moslems. Yet, relative to other parts of Europe, Cordoba’s Jewish community was on cloud 9. Later, Averroes the Muslim and Rabbi Moses Maimonides the Jew (A.D.1135–1204) argued philosophically in Cordoba’s new regime to continue this successful pluralist society. Both were eventually banished.


See: YouTube movie trailer for the doco ‘Out of Cordoba’ for a modern twist on the legacy of these two scholars



 Brief Summary of Periods of Islamic Rule in Spain:

I. Al-Andalus (A.D. 711-56)

·         Berber expansion, period of conquest and consolidation


II. Independent Umayyad Emirate (A.D. 756-929)

·         Cordoba established as the capital by Abd al Rahman I


III. Umayyad Caliphate (A.D. 929-1031)

·         Abd alRahman III (caliph


IV. Taifa Kingdoms or ‘emirates’ (1031-1090)

·         Rival ‘emirs’ weakened Islam in Spain

·         At one stage numbered 21 emirates


V. Almoravides (1091-1146) and Almohades (1146-1269)

·         Almoravides, Berbers from North Africa unified most of the emirates

·         Cordoba fell to Christians in A.D 1236


VI. Nasrid Kingdom of Granada (1235-1492)

·         Last of the Islamic kingdoms


See: http://www4.gvsu.edu/wrightd/HNR215%20and%20216C/Muslim%20Jewish%20Chronoly.htm



The Cordoba mezquita or mosque/cathedral and its surrounding urban area including the Roman bridge over the Rio Guadalquivir became a World Heritage site in 1984 (mosque) and surrounds (1994). A Roman temple to Janus was originally built on the site and it was followed by a conversion into a Christian church by the Visigoths called ‘San Vincente Basilica’.


In A.D. 784 Abd al-Rahman I (A.D.822-852) destroyed the Christian church in order to construct his new mezquita. Later, sacred pilgrimmage relics of an original copy of the Koran and an arm bone of the prophet Mohammed were placed in the mosque. Additions were made to the mosque over 200 years with it being the finest of 1,000 mosques in Cordoba. In A.D. 1236 the King of Castile, Ferdinand III, conquered the Moors and secured Cordoba for Christianity.


The most impressive features of the Mezquita are the giant double arches (lower arches are horseshoe arches) and the labyrinth of 856 columns to support them. There were originally 1,293 columns.




Jasper, marble, onyx and granite are used in columns


Concerns for the conservation of the Mezquita were raised by UNESCO’s World Heritage report in 2006 mostly in regard to the one million tourists who visit each year and the impact of heavy traffic in the area. We noticed many pedestrian-only streets in Cordoba.



‘Mihrab’ or a domed shrine of Byzantine mosaics, which is part of Cordoba’s Mezquita,

built by Al Hakam II (A.D. 961-76).



‘Orange Tree Courtyard’ (15th century) and ‘Torre del Alminar’

(A.D. 951 minaret with Baroque belfry), make an impressive entrance to Cordoba’s Mezquita.




The West Wall entrance with several gates one being ‘Puerta de la Leche’ or Milk Gate.

Poor mothers left their babies here in the hope of a better life for them.




Cordoba’s 16-arched Roman restored bridge with pedestrian traffic only (1st century B.C.)




Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos (King Alfonso XI in A.D.1328)


Cordoba’s Alcazar went unexplored as closing time beat us. Our hotel was close to Taberna San Miguel ‘Casa El Pisto’, a legendary Cordovan tavern for artists and bullfighters. Traditional, no-fuss food is served here. For a traditional bull’s tail recipe see:







A menu in English would be wonderful. If only I looked at their website before we visited.





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