The site of the town lies on the slope of a low rise, in the middle of a wide valley floor to the south of the Sierra de Francia. Information on the town seems relatively sparse, although it was a fairly significant ‘municipium‘, as of 74 AD., that lay on what is popularly known as the ‘Ruta de la Plata’ or the ‘Silver Route’, from the Spanish ‘plata’ for silver. In fact it derives from the Arabic ‘al balat‘ for cobbled paving. To the Romans it was the ‘Via Delapidata’ or ‘Paved Stone Way’.
The Via Delapidata was an important road for the Romans. Built along an ancient tin-trading route, it initially gave Roman armies access during the conquest of the local tribes and latterly through linking two key metal resources; the alluvial gold mines of Las Médulas, near Astorgas in Leon, to the north and the copper mines of the Rio Tinto, to the west of Seville, in the south. It was ultimately extended south to Cadiz and north, across the Pyrenees, into France.
The Via Delapidata formed the principle axis of the town, running in a north-south direction. The walled town covers about 15 ha, however there was a considerable adjacent area of housing extending to the northwest outside the wall.Cáparra was at its peak in the C1st and C2nd AD., but by the C4th it was in decline until it’s final abandonment in the C9th.
The unusual square arch (viewed from the west), was built by a wealthy resident of the town in the late C1st. AD.and dedicated to his parents. It sits astride the principle cross-roads with the Via Delapidata running left to right (I think, although the information is hardly clear!)
There is a small visitor’s centre-cum-museum beside the carpark and numerous information boards in Spanish and English are situated at key points around the site. Audio guides are also available. The information, to my mind, is very cursory and really doesn’t do justice to the site, which is a shame.
Alas, despite significant funding from the European Union, it seems there was no money left for decent translations – especially confusing, I’m told, for those who don’t speak Spanish and for whom English is a second language.