The bombings suffered in Barcelona during the Civil War left the Plaza de la Villa de Madrid of Baarcelona in very poor condition. In 1954, while the repairs were being done, they found the remains of about 85 tombs from the Roman period of the 1st and 2nd Centuries AD. They belonged to members of the middle and lower classes of Barcino (Roman Barcelona); there were even slaves and freedmen.
The dead and the travelers
The tombs were arranged in two rows along a path that passed through the middle.
Romans liked to believe once they passed away they kept in touch with the world of the living. By placing the tombs on the edges of the city’s entrances and exits, this contact was more evident. And as proof of this intention, in one of the epitaphs of the tombs we find an inscription that says: “Hello traveller that you have not ignored me, read to the end, here I am”.
The Funeral Insurance of Romans
To enter the world of the dead, it was necessary to solve the issue in life, something that not everyone could achieve. Thus, those who did not have enough resources to insure a grave at the level of their social condition, signed up for the Collegia Funeratica, associations that received a living fee, that were responsible for burying their members. and provide them with the rite and honors necessary to be able to reach the beyond.
Romans, who took death very seriously, it was strictly regulated everything concerning their cemeteries, the necropolises. In cases of appropriation of foreign burial grounds, the law severely punished them.
Not even death equals men
The Romans, in Republican times, tended to burn or cremate the bodies of the dead, but with the arrival of new religions in the first and second centuries AD, this trend began to change and in the third century AD burial already predominated, especially among the lower classes.
In the case of the necropolis in the Plaza de la Villa de Madrid of Barcelona, you can see how the type of tomb had to do with the social level of the deceased. In this case, the tombs belonged to humble people, middle and lower class, even slaves or freedmen. And it is that in Roman times, social differentiation was so big that not even death could equal men.
The cupae is the predominant type of tomb. When they buried someone on the ground, they put them in a wooden, lead or stone box. They covered it with earth and placed with the cupae on it, an elongated, curved stone. It was painted red or decorated with plant motifs and a space was reserved for the epitaph.
Other more modest burials were made of mounds with shingles and amphorae, and even bodies were found buried without any protection, for the humblest.
The dead at some distance
Roman necropolises could not be inside the city. They had to be located at least 500 steps from the city wall, along the roads. That is why there were different necropolises around the old Barcino, although this is the one that is best preserved, probably because the mud that the Rambla carried when it rained, has protected its conservation.