If you ever visit Zaragoza for the first time, you might fall into a couple of “obvious” assumptions. Firstly, once you spot the town’s bullring you will think “Yes, this is a typical Spanish town”. Secondly, when you cross the main river, called Ebro, you will think “Yes, this is just another Spanish river”.
But Zaragoza is so much more than a pretty Spanish town!
In fact, these two elements, represent nothing more and nothing less than Spain’s Historic origins and also a part of the very beginnings of Europe. Yes, you read it right, and I invite you to keep reading if you want to make the most of your trip to Zaragoza: an eclectic and historic town that will, for sure, leave you astonished.
Zaragoza’s Roman past
Once in Zaragoza you might want to learn a bit about its History and its glorious Roman past.
You will not learn all about Zaragoza’s History because you will read a printed guide nor because you will hire a handsome Spanish guide but you will learn about Zaragoza’s History walking around; Zaragoza has conserved a lot of roman ruins all over the town.
Besides, the Roman reminiscence is very obvious when you visit the old town. Regardless you love Roman architecture or not, you must visit the old town because the smell of the incredible typical tapas coming from the numerous little “tascas” that are scattered around Zaragoza’s old town.
Just to ensure that you definitely learn about Zaragoza’s Roman past, and while you are still in the old town, I recommend you to visit the Museum of the Roman Forum. This is a subterranean route which will lead you to the ruins of Zaragoza’s former Roman town’s center (nowadays, hidden underneath the new town).
After completing this amazing tour you might walk out thinking that you have acquired a fair knowledge about the beginnings of Zaragoza. But even though I absolutely love the Roman Forum I am sorry to say that this exhibition is not telling us everything about the past of this town.
Sadly many books and museums miss important information.
Zaroga’z Iberian prints
The Romanization of Spain is believed to have occurred from the I b.C, just after the Iberian times. Just in case you don’t know about them, the term “Iberians” is the name that the ancient Greek writers gave to the citizens of Iberia (the original and first known Spanish’ civilisation). “Iberia” is also the name that the ancient Greek writers gave to Spain.
In fact the earliest written documentation about Zaragoza is situated around the VI b.c when Greece had some colonies in Spain. Therefore, Enrique Cabrejas -a well respected Spanish historian and writer- suggests that Iberians became Pan-Hellenic before becoming Romans. And this makes sense because the Greeks arrived and influenced Spain way before the Romans did.
You might be thinking “If that is true, where can I find the ruins of this Pan-Hellenic/ Zaragozan civilisation? Well, if you are at the exit of the Museum of the Roman Forum the answer is: very close to you. The Pan-Hellenic “ruin or remain” is not other than the main river called Ebro, and this is only meters away from the Roman Forum.
The origins of the river Ebro’s name
I discovered what I am about to reveal to you when I was looking into the etymological origins of the name “Ebro”, Spain’s most important river.
There are many hypotheses about this, but the one that mostly caught my attention was the one suggested by Enrique Cabrejas. In 2012, Cabrejas managed to decode the ancient Iberian dialect, which had always been considered to be Celtic. This is how he finally understood the origins and meaning of the name “Ebro”.
In the Greek mythology “Europa” was a goddess that got kidnapped by a bull which was not other but the god Zeus disguised. Thus, despite what many people believe; the bull’s idolizing and bullfighting traditions are not originally Spanish but Greek. Here I have revealed why the first assumption was not entirely correct.
And now, you will understand why the river “Ebro” is not just another river.
In the same manner that the Greeks named our land and citizens, they also named our river. The name they choose was “Evros” which means “abundant” and which etymological root comes from the name Europa. The goddess Europa was always represented as being very big and she was in fact a symbol that represented abundance. It is not surprising that the Greeks chose this name to refer to the most abundant and second longest river of Spain.
Something interesting to know is that the letter “V” used to be used as “U”. Now, keep this detail in your mind and read the following word: EVRO.
But have you realized that Zaragoza’s river is called like our actual currency, the EURO? Again, it would not be surprising that the name of our actual currency was chosen due to its etymological meaning.
Now you know why the river Ebro is related to Europe’s origins, but this is not the only reason that lead Cabrejas to hypothesize about the beginnings of our actual continent’s conformation.
Apparently, the Greeks lent us names that belonged to their own regions back in Greece. Therefore there was another river in Tracia called “Ebro”, which is nowadays is called “Maritza”. But more importantly, there was another region in Greece called “Iberia”. Therefore, the space between the two “Iberias” is what could have set the bases for the posterior formation of our continent “Europe”.
Who would have thought that just a river could explain so much about our history?
So when you visit Zaragoza you will be able to observe certain elements with a different perspective!
Article by Oiane de la Mota