About Roman Ruins of Milreu
The Roman Ruins of Milreu (Ruinas Romanas de Milreu) are an important Portuguese archaeological site in the Algarve housing remains dating from the 1st to the 6th centuries AD. A luxurious manor house turned thriving farm in the 3rd century, the Roman complex at Milreu is extensive and includes agricultural buildings, a temple, and a baths complex as well as several well-preserved mosaics.
Roman Ruins of Milreu history
The villa rustica, a large Roman agricultural complex based around a manor house, was inhabited from the 1st century AD. The Roman villa at Milreu differed from similar complexes in that it was particularly luxurious – the buildings were decorated with elaborate mosaics, ancient imperial busts, a temple devoted to a water deity, a beautiful garden as well as a winery and oil processing mills.
By the 3rd century, the house had been reorganised around a large peristyle courtyard containing a grand garden. The complex was continually developed: the entrance was made monumental, the Roman baths were embellished with marine mosaics.
The villa at Milreu reflected the changing periods of the Iberian region, with the temple being transformed into a Christian church after the 6th century and the courtyard was temporarily used as a cemetery during the Muslim occupation. By the 10th century, the villa had been abandoned and the vaults ruined.
The Roman Ruins of Milreu were discovered in 1877 by a Portuguese archaeologist Estácio da Veiga, in particular excavating the lavish mosaics and the wine-processing facilities. In 1992 the property was placed under the protection of the Portuguese Institute for Architectural Patrimony and by 2001, there had been a call to construct a model of the site’s 16th century rural farmhouse which has since been used as an interpretative centre.
Roman Ruins of Milreu today
Today, what is left of this farming complex and later house is visible to the public. A number of the expensive marble sculptures from the site are on display in the nearby Faro Museu Municipal. The highlight of any visit is the Roman temple, as well as the intricate fish mosaicked baths.
At the small museum’s entrance is a scale model of the temple in its glory days. The remnants of an underground heating system and the marble basin to hold cool water within the baths are indicators of the former inhabitants’ wealth and status.
Getting to the Roman Ruins of Milreu
Located just off the N2 highway, the Milreu site is a 10 km drive inland from Faro town centre within the sleepy town of Estói. There is parking on site. Otherwise, the Faro-Estói bus stops at the site.