Ways of Being and Doing

The Roman Ruins of Milreu in Estoi in the Algarve

Roman ruins of Milreu; Master Fixe Author; CC BY-SA 4.0

The Roman ruins of Milreu, from where you can see the monumental Palace of Estoi, are a complex of great historical value with an urban area that includes the residence and thermal area, a temple and a rustic area, where oil and wine were produced. Colorful mosaic panels, representing geometric shapes and marine fauna, are famous.

The Roman Villa

To the west of the garden of the Palace of Estoi, are the Roman ruins of Milreu where, once upon a time, a kind of Palace was built, known in Roman times as Villae or Villa.

This old Villa (country house) was built by a wealthy and powerful Roman family who chose this area because it is farther from the sea and therefore less subject to incursions and piracy that existed at the time.

In addition to the master's dwelling, it included buildings intended for agricultural exploitation.

The Villa had its own defense zone, walled and certainly guarded by Roman centurions.

The urban and rustic complex, on the left bank of the Rio Seco, would probably have on the right bank an important Roman road that connected Ossonoba (in the basement of Faro) to Pax Julia (Beja).

There would also be a road that connected this Villa de Milreu to the port area of ​​Ossonoba, thus allowing all trade between the Iberian Peninsula and Rome.

It is a house with a peristyle (patio surrounded by a portico) with 22 columns that constitute the center of the social area of ​​the house.

History of the Conquest and Reconquest of the Algarve

Roman civilization expanded out of Rome, constituting the Roman Empire. In this campaign of Roman conquest, the invasion of the Iberian Peninsula began during the Punic Wars.

The Portuguese territory was controlled by the Roman Civilization in the first century after the Birth of Christ.

Bust of Young Roman
Bust of Young Roman; Bextrel, Portugal; CC BY-SA 4.0

The Lusitanian War began in 155 BC and ended in the XNUMXst century AD

This Algarve region had been occupied since the Bronze and Iron Age and, therefore, the Roman construction was done on top of previous structures and there are still traces of these phases.

Roman civilization declined in the XNUMXth century and the invasions of Germanic peoples followed.

With the invasions of the Alanos, Vandals and Suevos and, finally, the Visigoths, the entire Iberian Peninsula was dominated in the XNUMXth century.

There followed the invasion of the peninsula, by the Islamic peoples, from the year 711.

The Reconquista do Algarve takes place in 1249, with the conquest of Faro from the Calado Almóada, by the King of Portugal, D. Afonso III.

Villa Construction Materials

We can see that the materials most used in construction and present in the Roman ruins of Milreu, are Roman cement and brick.

They are materials that are still used today, although Roman cement has characteristics superior to current cement.

Thus, the Opus caementicium (Roman cement) was more resistant to erosion and less likely to create grooves. More resistant to the presence of sea water and more environmentally friendly.

Another widely used material is marble. For the columns it serves as an architectural and decorative element.

Mosaic panels are also used to cover and beautify both the floor and the walls of the house, the temple and the thermal baths.

Baths were a very important part of the well-being of wealthy people. Not only did they have hygienic purposes, but also treatment and socialization.

The representation of marine fauna in the spa mosaics was done in a way that at first glance seems imperfect but, in reality, it was about creating an illusion of movement when they were seen through the water.

Mosaic Marine Fauna Roman Ruins of Milreu
Mosaic Marine Fauna Roman Ruins of Milreu; Bextrel, Portugal; CC BY-SA 4.0

The use of marine motifs throughout the complex can be justified by the proximity to the port area of ​​Ossonoba (Faro) and the fish richness of this area that remains today.

The Baths

They were part of the daily ritual of the Romans.

The spa of Milreu was built in the western part of the house to benefit from sun exposure at the end of the day.

The Romans used a sequence of pools with water at different temperatures. The room with warm baths (tepidarium), hot baths (caldarium) and cold baths (frigidarium).

Frigidarium
Roman ruins of Milreu-Frigidarium; Carole Raddato, Frankfurt, Germany; CC BY-SA 2.0

All these structures were provided with spring water and with pipes that distributed the water to the spas and kitchens.

A furnace, fed with coal or firewood, provided the heat to heat the waters and the floor of the thermal baths, in the area of ​​the caldarium and tepedarium.

The sauna (laconium) was also present.

Workers' Accommodation

The workers, both in domestic support for the Villa, in security and in the productive part, were under the protection of the owner of the complex.

That is why the so-called rustic family, with serfs, slaves and seasonal workers, remained in residences built on the outskirts of Villa de Milreu.

The Temple

Erected in the XNUMXth century, the religious building built in solid brick, was dedicated to the cult of waters and Nymphs.

It was an unmistakable sign of the opulence of Villa de Milreu, since most of the Villas did not have a place built specifically for religious worship.

It is the ex-libris of these Roman ruins of Milreu!

The Temple of Villa de Milreu
The Villa de Milreu Temple; Masterfixe; CC BY-SA 4.0

Rural and Productive Area

The Villa de Milreu in addition to the residential and religious part (the pars urbano) had an area with agricultural facilities (pars rustica).

It was in this rustic country that agricultural products were produced.

In addition to the cattle and orange groves that still exist, structures for the production of wine and olive oil are identified.

The oil press included 5 presses and the oil was conducted through channels and lead tubes for 36 waterpots in the cellars (cellar) where the oil was kept at the ideal temperature and humidity.

Olive oil was used by the Romans for food, body hygiene and lighting.

A tank was also identified for the grape treading and another for the must.

The wine was fermented in tanks and stored in pots.

Wine production seems to have been important, leading to the fact that the wine could be marketed.

Location

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