Situated in the basement of Metropol Parasol, Antiquarium is a modern, well-presented archaeological museum with sections of ruins visible through glass partitions, and underfoot along walkways.
These Roman and Moorish remains, dating from the first century BC to the 12th century AD, were discovered when the area was being excavated to build a car park in 2003. It was decided to incorporate them into the new Metropol Parasol development, with huge mushroom-shaped shades covering a market, restaurants and concert space.
There are 11 areas of remains: seven houses with mosaic floors, columns and wells; fish salting vats; and various streets. The best is Casa de la Columna (5th century AD), a large house with pillared patio featuring marble pedestals, surrounded by a wonderful mosaic floor – look out for the laurel wreath (used by emperors to symbolise military victory and glory) and diadem (similar meaning, used by athletes), both popular designs in the latter part of the Roman Empire. You can make out where the triclinium (dining room) was, and its smaller, second patio, the Patio de Oceano.
The symbol of the Antiquarium, the kissing birds, can be seen at the centre of a large mosaic which has been reconstructed on the wall of the museum. The other major mosaic is of Medusa, the god with hair of snakes, laid out on the floor. Look out for the elaborate drinking vessel at the corners of the mosaic floor of Casa de Baco (Bacchus’ house, god of wine).References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.