Spain became part of the Roman Empire in around 120BC and the Balearics, strategically located between the mainland of the Iberian peninsula and Italy, were a significant part of the Roman occupation. The best-preserved remains from the period are the ruins of the city of Pollentia, located just outside the medieval town of Alcudia. Here, excavations have revealed parts of the residential area and the forum, while the town’s amphitheatre is a short distance away.
The remains of the town lie just outside Alcudia’s ancient walls. The Roman town was founded around 70BC and the initial archaeological finds were made in either the 16th or 17th century (different leaflets produced by the island’s tourist and civic authorities vary). No real attempt at excavation was made, however, until the early 20th century: the first serious dig took place in 1923 and archaeological explorations still continue on the site in summer.
La Portella: The Residential Remains at Pollentia
Closest to the modern town, the residential area of the excavations consists of the foundations and lower walls of three houses, the best preserved of which is the House of the Two Treasures (Casa dels dos Tresors) where the original layout of the property can be seen, with a central atrium surrounded by individual rooms.
The second house, the House of the Bronze Head (Casa del Cap de Bronze) is named for the horse’s head which was found there and is now on display in the museum in the town. The remaining house is least well preserved and underlies what’s left of the third-century walls which have been built over its foundations.
The Forum: Pollentia’s Administrative Centre
A short distance from La Portella is the Forum, the part of the Roman city most recently open to the public. Excavation work here is ongoing and new discoveries are regularly made. The Forum was the centre of Pollentia’s civil, religious and administrative functions as well as being the focal point of the settlement’s commercial activity.
In some parts of the Forum the walls of the buildings have been capped with cement, but it is still possible to gain an idea of what the area would have looked like. The remains of three temples, dating from the first century BC, are visible, along with the foundations of tabernae, which were formerly shops or workshops. Excavations have shown that the forum remains were used in later centuries as a necropolis, or burial ground.
The Teatre Roma: Pollentia’s Amphitheatre
The amphitheatre at Pollensa is around ten minutes’ walk to the south, along a clearly marked path passing among olive, almond and fig trees. Dating from the 1st century, the structure is relatively small for its purpose, with only eight tiers of seats, but its state of preservation is remarkable – in part due to the fact that it is carved out of solid limestone and so could not be dismantled for building stone.
The amphitheatre is in three parts, with the main auditorium facing the stage and the orchestra pit. Like the Forum, this area was later used for burials and the remains of the graves, dug into the solid limestone of the seating area, can still be seen. Today it occasionally reverts to its original purpose, being used in August for open air theatre.
Visiting The Roman Remains at Pollentia
The remains are easily accessible, close to the town of Alcudia and on a main bus route. The site is open daily (except Mondays) all year: from May-September opening hours are 0930-2000, although in winter the hours are shorter, from 1000-1600 Tuesday-Friday and 1000-14000 at weekends. There is an adult admission charge of 3 euro (2010); guided tours are available.