THE ROMAN CITY OF OCURI
The Roman City of Ocuri sits on the limestone hill of Salta de la Mora, in the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park, 1km from Ubrique. With the hill descending sharply on all sides of the site, it enjoys spectacular mountain views and feels completely isolated - a good choice for anyone wanting a more immersive glance into Roman antiquity.
Ocuri´s strategic hillside position indicates that it would have been a particularly important oppidum (walled city), and indeed the remains you can see today are of a monumental scale. The site was discovered at the end of the C18th; local farmer Juan Vegazo bought the land in 1792 to check if the city´s remains still existed, and seeking to draw any comparisons with Pompeii (the excavation of which was just beginning to cause a stir across Europe) . Vegazo diligently carried out much of the excavation himself, finding the inscriptions of emperors Antonio Pius and Commodus, which contained the hitherto unknown name of the city. More recent research places the origins of Ocuri in the C6thBC, but the majority of its remains correspond to the Roman era; the city most likely reached its full splendor in the C2ndAD, once integrated into the Conventus luridicus Gaditanus (an administrative body in the imperial province of Baetica).
The city´s necropolis lies outside the main walls, in accordance with Roman health laws. Its most magnificent building is the Mausoleum (columbrado), a funerary momument containing a series of interior niches (loculi) where ashes were deposited, and which families would visit for mourning. The building may have belonged to a wealthy family, or to a collegium funeraticium (funeral society), thus serving a more public function. It is constructed using the ´opus incertum´ technique of irregularly shaped stones held together with concrete, and is covered with a half-barrel vault, making this perhaps the best preserved mausoleum in Andalucia.
An impressive Cyclopean Wall protects the city from the North. This is an Iberian construction, continually remodeled throughout the ages, of which approximately 20m remains. Its limestone base and moulded ashlars may be Carthaginian, whilst the more monumental entrance that we can see traces of bears the mark of Roman addition in the 1st or 2nd century AD .
Like any Roman town, the central civic space of Ocuri was its Forum: occupying around 1200m2 of the site, we see how homes and communal spaces were divided across leveled terraces. Many of the original paving slabs were removed by Vegazo to accessorize his own home (the remains of which can be seen elsewhere onsite), but the walls of tabernae (shops) are clearly discernible. Artifacts drawn from this space throughout its excavation include numerous buildings tools, and part of a statue of a man/lion hybrid, thought to represent Emperor Commodus.
One of the most complex structures still visible to visitors are the Roman Baths –a 460m2 space indicates their former glory, with walls, pavements, exedra (rooms with benches for socializing) and specus (drainage channels). Many of the multiple cisterns, which provided water to these essential communal spaces, still have their mortar linings intact.
GUIDED TOURS, October - June:
Tuesday to Saturday, at 10.00, 12.00, 16.00.
Sunday at 10.00, 12.00.
GUIDED TOURS, July, August, September:
Tuesday to Saturday at 10.00, 12.00, 18.00.
Sunday at 10.00, 12.00.
Max 30 per group
CLOSED MONDAYS ALL YEAR
General admission (over 6 years old): 2€
Children under 6 (accompanied by adult): Free
School student groups: 1€ per person (not applicable to university students)
Groups of 25+: 1€ per person
It is advisable to book places on the tours in advance, on Tel: 956 464 900.
There is a visitor centre, cafe, toilets, play park and audiovisual room. Most structures on the site have information panels, with QR codes than can be scanned on mobile devices for more information.
Ocuri is 1kn north of Ubrique or 4km west of Benaocaz on the A-374, close to the junction with the A-373. A small road signposted to the left leads to the site - this road is easy to miss, and if you reach the petrol station you will need to retrace your steps to find it.
Parking is available at the Venta Ocuris by the visitor centre; from here, visitors must walk the remaining 1km from the entry gate to the site itself - a bit of a trek, but a wonderful way to take in the view.
Venta Ocuris is a very pleasant venta with terrace and spectacular view over the countryside.