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EMPORION or Emporiae (La Escala or Ampurias) Gerona, Spain.

A Greek trading settlement inhabited by the Phokaians from Massalia, at the end of the Gulf of Rosas on the Costa Brava; it is 3 km from the village of La Escala and 40 km NE of Gerona. It is first mentioned in the Periplus of the Pseudo-Skylax and in Skymnos. Its location has been known from the time of the Renaissance since it gave its name to an entire district, the Ampurdan, was an episcopal see in the Middle Ages, and one of the counties of the Marca Hispanica.

The Greeks originally occupied the small islet of San Martin, now joined to the mainland, which was subsequently known as Palaiapolis (Strab. 3.4.8). They soon spread to the nearby coast and used the mouth of the Clodianus (Fluvia) as a trading port. The town was founded a little after 600 B.C. (date of the foundation of Massalia) and throughout the 6th c. was a mere trading settlement, a port of call on the trade route from Massalia (Marseille), two days' and one night's sail distant (Pseudo-Skylax 3), to Mainake and the other Phokaian foundations in S Iberia which traded with Tartessos. Because it was frankly a mart the Greek settlement grew rapidly, and probably received fugitives from the destruction of Phokaia by the Persians (540) and after the Battle of Alalia (537), also Greeks from Mainake and other cities in the S destroyed by the Carthaginians.

In the 5th c. Massalia declined, and Emporion, which was already independent, became a polis ruled by magistrates; it developed a brisk trade with the Greek towns in S Italy, the Carthaginian towns, and the native settlements in the interior, on which it had a profound Hellenic influence. Emporion then minted its own coins, first imitating those of the towns with which it traded, including Athens and Syracuse, and later creating its own currency in fractions of the drachma. The types were copied from those of both Carthage and Syracuse, and the currency system continued to be separate from that of Massalia until Emporion was Romanized in the 2d c. The 5th-3d c. were those of its greatest wealth and splendor.

The town built temples, foremost among which was that dedicated to Asklepios, for which a magnificent statue of Pentelic marble was imported. Outside the town a native settlement developed, which soon became hellenized. It was called Indika (Steph. Byz.), an eponym of the tribe of the Indiketes. In the course of time the two towns merged, although each kept its own legal status; this explains why, in Latin, Emporion is referred to in the plural as Emporiae. In the 3d c. commercial interests arising from its contacts with the Greek cities in Italy made it an ally of Rome. After the first Punic war the Roman ambassadors visited the Iberian tribes supported by the Emporitani, and in 218 B.C. Cn. Scipio landed the first Roman army in Hispania to begin the counteroffensive against Hannibal in the second Punic war.

The war years were prosperous for the city's trade, but when the Romans finally settled in Hispania, difficulties arose between the Greeks and the native population, which were accentuated during the revolt of 197 B.C. In Emporion itself the Greek and native communities kept a constant watch on each other through guards permanently stationed at the gate in the wall separating the twin towns (Livy 34.9). In 195 B.C. M. Porcius Cato established a military camp near the town, rapidly subdued the native tribes in the neighborhood, and initiated the Roman organization of the country. As the result of the transfer to Tarraco of the Roman administrative and political sector, Emporion was eclipsed and became a residential town of little importance. The silting-up of its port and the increase in the tonnage of Roman vessels hastened its decline. The town became a municipium and during the time of C. Caesar received a colony of Roman veterans.

The Roman town, which was surrounded by a wall, was ruined by the invasion of the Franks in 265 and Rhode became the economic center of the district. However, a few small Christian communities established themselves in Emporion and transformed the ruins of the town into a necropolis which extended beyond the walls. Mediaeval sources claim that St. Felix stayed in Emporion before his martyrdom in Gerona in the early 4th c.

The enclosure of the Greek town has been completely excavated. To the S is a temple area (Asklepieion and temple of Serapis), a small agora, and a stoa dating from the Roman Republican period. It is surrounded by a cyclopean wall breached by a single gate, confirming Livy's description. On top of the Greek town and further inland is a Roman town, ten times larger and surrounded by a wall built no earlier than the time of Augustus. Inside is a forum, completely leveled, on which stood small votive chapels. To the E, facing the sea, are two large Hellenistic houses with cryptoportici, which contained remains of wall paintings and geometric mosaics. Many architectural remains are in the Barcelona Archaeological Museum and in the museum on the site. Among the finds are a statue of Asklepios, a Greek original; the mosaic of Iphigeneia, an archaic architectural relief with representations of sphinxes; Greek pottery (archaic Rhodian, Cypriot, and Ionian; 6th-4th c. Attic, Italic, and Roman). Several cemeteries near the town have also been excavated.


Excavation reports, Anuari de l'institut d'Estudis Catalans (1907-27); J. Puig i Cadafalc, L'Arquitectura romana a Catalunya (1934); A. García y Bellido, Hispania Graeca (1948); M. Almagro, Las fuentes escritas ref erentes a Ampurias (1951); id., Las inscripciones ampuritanas. Griegas, Ibericas y Latinas (1952); id., Las Necropolis de Ampurias (1953-55).


hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Strabo, Geography, 3.4.8
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 34, 9
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