View of Acinipo's Roman theatre. SUR
What was the Roman city of Acinipo really like?

What was the Roman city of Acinipo really like?

The settlement on the outskirts of Ronda was of the most important cities in Malaga province and the Andalucía region, and a new research study using state-of-the-art technology will help improve our knowledge of it

Vanessa Melgar

Friday, 3 May 2024, 15:57


What was the Roman city of Acinipo like? Various digs and investigations have been carried out on the archaeological site located in the municipality of Ronda, on the outskirts of the town centre, in the area known as Ronda La Vieja (Old Ronda). Part of the Roman amphitheatre and other remains of buildings such as the thermal baths are still standing on the site.

Now a new study aims to shed light on how our knowledge of the site to date can be put to good use. This is something that Ronda has been trying to develop and exploit for years, especially for tourism. The site passed from central government control in 1984 to ownership by successive regional governments since, and has suffered years of neglect as a result. In more recent times, truth be told, the regional government has shown some interest in recognising the importance and worth of this site. Furthermore, around half a million euros have been allocated to repair the theatre's cavea (a semi-circle of tiered seating) that was being affected mostly by rainwater.


In the past, the site has been totally exposed to plundering of the remains and livestock and more have roamed freely over the site, a situation that has been publicly denounced by many people. Many have also pointed out the general deterioration suffered by all the remains there.

For years Ronda town hall has been planning to promote Acinipo as a major tourist attraction beyond the basic visit that is currently available. The council has now announced that it has applied to the Junta de Andalucía to directly manage the site, in accordance with the model already in place at the local Arab baths.

The study is part of the State Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation (PEICTI) 2021-2023, the main central government instrument for the development and achievement of the objectives of the Spanish Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy (EECTI). It will be financed jointly by the State and the European Union to the tune of almost 91,000 euros and will involve various working groups.

The project has now been presented at the Museum of Malaga and "will analyse archaeologically the genesis, evolution and survival of Acinipo to study the whole process of construction, transformation and abandonment of the Roman city". At the launch they also explained that the study is entitled 'Acinipo in the Roman urban landscape of the Serranía de Ronda: Interdisciplinary research to evaluate its legacy'.

Pilar Corrales Aguilar, professor of Archaeology at the University of Malaga (UMA), explained the main lines of work of the study during the presentation, adding that the aim is to generate "scientific knowledge, but also to enable the creation of networks that improve the sustainability, competitiveness and integration of the region."

conservation and preservation

The conservation and preservation of the archaeological heritage of Acinipo will be promoted as a social, cultural and economic driving force for Ronda and neighbouring towns and villages.

From the point of view of social and economic impact, this project will strengthen the cultural element within the tourism sector, boosting the region's popularity and its food production industry, mostly based on olive oil and wine.

Five lines of research have been established: location and identification of new urban sites; analysis of the known urban spaces (the thermal baths, the theatre and domestic houses); the management of water and waste generated; the Roman city and its commercial buildings; and the structure of its population.

Advanced technologies such as geographic information systems (GIS) will be deployed and 3-D models of the urban landscape and surrounding lands will be created.

One of the most important Roman cities in the province of Malaga and Andalucía

The site of Acinipo, an Asset of Cultural Interest (BIC) under the archaeology category since 2011, houses one of the most important Roman cities in the province of Malaga and the Andalucía region.

It is located at an altitude of 999 metres above sea level (a strategic stronghold in the past), and it is exceptional in nature because it has not been affected by subsequent urban development and is very extensive.

Excavations already carried out reveal that the mesa (plateau) on which it stands was first occupied in the Copper Age, 3,000 BC. In the 9th and 8th centuries BC the site came into contact with the Phoenicians, who had settled on the coast of Malaga. At the end of the 7th century BC it was abandoned before being occupied again during the 5th century, in the Iberian period.

The Roman presence from 206 BC onwards brought about great changes, such as the construction of monumental buildings and the minting of their own coins, leading to the rise of the Roman city of Acinipo, which became a Roman municipality for the following centuries.

The theatre, declared a Historic-Artistic Monument in 1931 and one of the best preserved in Spain, was probably built in the middle of the 1st century BC. It had a diameter of 62 metres, with a grandstand cut from the limestone rock and a stage front built with ashlars (square-cut stone facing) that in the past would have had decorative elements such as sculptures, columns and marble, long lost to plunderers.

Thermal baths have also been discovered at the site, with steps leading into each of three pools. Other finds include the remains of a heating system, two necropolises, urns, funerary offerings and the remains of towers, as well as those of a house with a lararium (a shrine to the gods of that house), among others.

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