Trajan Arch of Merida - History and Facts | History Hit

Trajan Arch of Merida

Merida, Extremadura, Spain

The Trajan Arch of Merida is a UNESCO listed Ancient Roman granite gateway.

Peta Stamper

20 Apr 2021

About Trajan Arch of Merida

The Trajan Arch of Merida is part of UNESCO’s Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida and is believed to have been a triumphal arch to the Hispanic Emperor Trajan. However, this has been cast into doubt and historians now think it may have been the entry gate to the nearby Temple of Diana. Today, the Trajan Arch of Merida is inconspicuously located on a normal pedestrian street.

Trajan Arch of Merida history

Founded in 25 BC, Emerita Augusta was a Roman Colonia and the provincial capital of Lusitania in present day Spain. The city was founded by Emperor Augustus to resettle Emeriti soldiers from the legions of the Cantabrian Wars and was situated at the intersection of several important provincial routes. Near to the Guadiana River and Prosperpina Dam, Emerita had 3 aqueducts serving a bustling provincial capital.

Located along the Cardo Maximus, Emerita’s main thoroughfare, the Trajan Arch connected to the city’s civic forum with its provincial forum – a forum particularly dedicated to the meetings and business associated with Emerita’s provincial status.

The forum, like many other Roman fora, consisted of a large square with an impressive portico and a large Temple to Diana in the middle. The grand arch was built with granite and originally faced with marble, reflecting the status of the city and lending to the arch’s triumphal function.

Trajan Arch of Merida today

Available to view any time, today the 13.97 metre-high and 5.7 metre-wide arch continues to welcome visitors to the city’s ancient Roman forum. Even without its marble decoration the arch stands tall among Mérida’s modern pedestrianised street. While the arch is attributed to Emperor Trajan, its name is slightly arbitrary as the original commemorative inscription was lost centuries ago.

Looking over the pavement’s rail you can see the hinges that would have closed the monumental doors belonging to the arch. The best time to visit the arch is at nighttime when it is spectacularly lit up from below, testifying to its ancient grandiosity.

Getting to the Trajan Arch of Merida

If using public transport, the arch is a 10 minute walk from Mérida’s train station on the Intercity, MD and REG.EXP lines. For those driving, it is a 2 hour drive along the A-66 from Seville and there is all-day parking at Parking Cervantes, a 6 minute walk away.