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Ocvri - Ocuri A Roman military town

in Ubrique Municipality in Cádiz Province, Andalucia, Spain
By Nick Nutter | 10 Dec 2019
View from forum Ocvri Mausoleum at Ocuri Cyclopean walls The baths and gymnasium - not yet excavated Podium for Postumia Honorata

In the late 18th century AD a local farmer, Juan Vegazo, discovered Roman ruins on the top of Sierra de Benalfi, a limestone buttress 1.5 kms from and overlooking, Ubrique. He bought the land and started to excavate the ruins, claiming he would make the place as famous as Pompeii. He even built a villa on the foundations of a temple alongside the forum in which he kept many of his finds. Not surprisingly many artefacts, including statuary and coins, were sold to private buyers and their locations are now unknown.

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Ocvri rediscovered

The site was 're-discovered' in the late 20th century. Ubrique Town Council bought the site and, following excavations, it was originally opened to the public in the year 2000 and then closed in 2005. More work was done on the site and the interpretation centre and it re-opened in 2014.

Iberian town Ocuvi

Built on the site of an older, Iberian, settlement, Ocuvi is an example of a Roman military town. It is strategically placed on the route between Carteia (Guadacorte) and Oba (Jimena de la Frontera) to the south and Cicula (Grazalema) and Acinipo (Ronda la Vieja) to the north east and Iptuzi (2 kilometres west of El Bosque), Aznaf and Carissa Aurelia (between Espera and Bornos) to the north west.  Its population would have been between 600 and 1000. A 2 metre wide paved road connected the town with the 'main' Roman road that ran to Grazalema. A 3 kilometre stretch of this road can still be walked between Ubrique and Benaocaz.

Columbarium

Built on the outside of the town walls, as was the norm, is one of the few intact Columbarium or mausoleums in the Iberian peninsula. Originally accessed via a small hatch in the roof the chamber would have been richly decorated, the niches placed around the walls would have contained funerary urns. The access gate used today has been driven through one of the exterior walls. The mausoleum is probably the last resting place of a notable family, the remaining citizens are buried in a crematorium that extends below the mausoleum.

Romans from 1st century AD

The town walls and gate through them show history of the town. The original construction dates back to the 5th century BC, so of Iberian origin. Modifications were made using techniques developed by the Carthaginians, (cushioned sillares). The town was apparently abandoned in the 3rd century BC. The Romans arrived and reconstructed the walls including the gate which dates to the 1st and 2nd centuries AD.

Opus Signinum

Within the town there are the foundations of several houses, an extensive baths area with gymnasium and swimming bath, a forum and four cisterns. Remarkably the cisterns still retain water two thousand years after their construction. This is due to them having been lined with a Roman invention, waterproof cement - opus signinum or opus caementicium. The cisterns are rectangular with rounded corners, a design considered Punic, and stored rainwater. A further and more reliable source of water was via an aqueduct that ran from Benaocaz on the edge of the Sierra.

Postumia Honorata

Evidence of the people that lived in Ocuvi is sparse, mainly due to the activities of farmer Vegazo. However coins have been found that originated in the mints in surrounding towns indicating trading and communication between them. There is also a record of three coins bearing inscriptions including the word Ocuvi, which is where the site obtains its name. All three coins have disappeared. In the forum area Vegazo also found podium on which there were commemorative inscriptions to Emperor Antoninos Pius and Emperor Commodos together with a statue of Commodos dressed in a lion skin. These have also disappeared. One remaining podium carries an inscription to Postumia Honorata.

POSTVMIAE C F
HONORATAE BARBESVLA
NAE SACERDOTI DIVARVM
AVGG .... POS
TVMIVS OPTATVS P EIVS
....
....
IN HONOREM PERPETVVM
MVNICIPII SVI RELIQVIT
PRO MERITIS EIVS ...
....
... ITEMQVE EPVLO DATO
D    D

A Postumia Honorata Barbesulana, hija de Gayo, sacerdotisa de las divinas Augustas ... su padre Postumio Optato .... para honor perpetuo de su Municipio dejo por sus merecimientos .. e igualmente habiendo dado un banquete publico, segun decreto de los decuriones

Postumia Honorata was an Augustan priestess, a native of Barbesula at the mouth of the Guadiaro river at San Roque. Her father, Gayo Postumio Optato was a notable figure who lived in Ocvri. The dedication of the podium ceremony appears to have included a public banquet.

Opening Times at Ocvri

Ocvri can be visited Tuesday to Sunday.
All tours are accompanied and start at:
Tuesday to Saturday: 10:00, 12:00 and 16:00
Sunday: 10:00 and 12:00
Tours do not run when the weather is bad so check before you go:
Tel: 670 241 717 or 956 464 900

Find Ocvri - Ocuri A Roman military town on the map

More articles in the Romans in Andalucia series

Romans in Andalucia - Rome takes over from Carthage
Rome subdues the Iberians 205 BC to 139 BC
Pax Andalucia between 100 BC and 180 AD, the Romanisation of Baetica
Roman Engineering and Building
Roman Industry in Andalucia
Aelia Augusta Italica - a Roman town fit for veterans
Carteia - Carthaginian and Roman ruins
Guide to Baelo Claudia a Roman town on the Atlantic coast
Salinas Romanas Iptuci
Acinipo - a Roman town built for heroes
Lacipo - a forgotten Roman town
Teatro Romano Malaga
The Roman Baths near Manilva
History of Roman Mining in the Rio Tinto area
Mithraism - a Roman mystery
Amphorae, the container of choice for 4000 years
Finca del Secretario - a Roman industrial site
Decline and Fall of the Romans


Return to: Cádiz province
Return to: Cádiz city
Return to: Ubrique town

Museums in Ubrique

Ubrique Leather Museum

Villages in Ubrique

Discover Ubrique, world famous for its leather

Walking in Ubrique

Ubrique to Benaocaz - A Walk up a Roman Road

About the Author

Nick has lived and worked in Andalucia for over 20 years. He and his partner, Julie Evans, have travelled extensively and dug deep into the history and culture, producing authoritative articles on all aspects of the region. Nick has written four books about Andalucia and writes articles for other websites and blogs.

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Submitted by heidi van den berg on 26 Oct 2017
Hello, I think you always have such interesting things about Spain. I love to read it and visit it. Thank you

Reply by Author:

Hi Heidi, Glad you like them. Visit soon.



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