According to Charles Wuerpel in his ‘The Algarve, Province of Portugal’ Roman occupation in the Algarve was only peripheral despite them being here for more than 500 years. However I suspect he came to this conclusion because so little of their buildings and infrastructure survived following the decline of the imperial power in the 4th century and the conquest by the Visigoths in the 5th century and the Arabs in the 8th century. Ossónoba (Faro) was in fact a large and important city for the Romans and also for the Phoenicians before them, with intense commercial activity taking place in and around its boundaries. An indication of exactly how wealthy the city of Ossónoba would have been can be found a few miles north east in Estoi. In this tiny village are the remains of ‘Milreu’, a luxurious and extensive Roman villa and temple.
The site is thought to have begun life in the first century as a farm house, but by the third century it had been extended to include the classic Roman central peristyle, thermal baths, underground heating and marble sculptures. By the fourth century the site was even more luxurious, with its mosaic floors and the temple. Not exactly what I would call peripheral occupation!
It is believed that the temple was initially used for worship for a water cult, but by the 6th century it had been converted into a Christian place of worship and in the 8th century it became a mosque when the Moors occupied the site.
The white building is 15th century. By this time the Roman structure had collapsed, probably due to an earthquake but the site continued to be used. In fact the farmhouse was occupied right up until the 20th century, and is still used today for art exhibitions. Every visit there has been a different exhibition, which is one of my excuses for writing yet another post on Milreu.
The ruins were ‘rediscovered’ in 1877 by Estácio da Veiga and since 1910 they have been a national monument. Further archaeology was carried in the early 20th century, and in the 21st century the entrance and exhibition hall (not pictured) was built. Unfortunately though despite all of this and its historical importance the site is slowly deteriorating.
As you’ll notice from my photographs and from my comments in both of my previous posts on Milreu the walls and the mosaics are unprotected from the elements and nature. The protection from visitors is also in my view inadequate, and so who knows how much longer they will survive given I have noticed a deterioration in just the past few years. Another reason for sharing it all with you yet again.
My Mum and I were quite dismayed by it all. Both of us would happily pay far more to visit Milreu if it meant there was more adequate protection. It currently costs 2euros for adult (1euro if you are aged over 65years!) which seems ridiculously inexpensive for the beauty and history of this site. However I must admit as much as we both want it better cared for our inner artists were enjoying the flowers amongst the ruins! Which is probably why I was so upset when I thought I had lost all of these photographs. As some of you know from my other blog, I had a near miss with the delete button. Thank goodness for memory card recovery software!