Starting from Zaragoza , the Ebro is going to progressively accuse the aridity that characterizes what was the easternmost zone of the ancient inland sea of ??salt water. The tributaries become weaker and scarcer, the climate gradually becomes Mediterranean and the soils, ultimately, more dry and unproductive.
The traveler will be able to observe how, as it advances towards Bajo Aragon, the fertility of the soil is practically relegated to the increasingly narrow banks of the Ebro and to the diminished fertile plains of its tributaries on the right.
We say on the right because on the left of the Ebro it does not receive a single tributary river until Mequinenza, where the combined waters of the Cinca and the Segre flow. And between the Gallego and the Cinca / Segre, the dilated los Monegros desert, with its very low annual rainfall, its many salty lagoons and its almost constant outcrops of gypsum and limestone.
The last Iberian tributaries of the right margin, although relatively frequent, are of very low flow (Aguas Vivas, Martín, Guadalope and Matarraña) and their fertile plains, except for the Guadalope, of shriveled and laborious cultivation. This did not prevent, however, that the pre-Roman peoples, especially the Iberians, were strongly attracted to this area, nor for the Romans to dedicate themselves here, as in the Cinco Villas, to the cultivation of large areas of grain.
Although the itinerary to the surroundings of Mequinenza can be covered by both margins of the Ebro, the recommended path is the one that runs on the right, both for running closer to the river as it is marked by places of greater interest. To undertake this route, the traveler must take the national 232 from Zaragoza to Alcañiz and Castellon, known by the people of Zaragoza as Bajo highway Aragon. This is an easy and beautiful road, which crosses towns of deep agricultural tradition -the onions of Fuentes de Ebro are famous among gourmets - and not very away from places that reached deserved historical renown during the Spanish Civil War, with Belchite.
El Burgo, Fuentes and Quinto today offer archaeologists evidence of the preferential preference of pre-Roman peoples and, above all, of the Romans, by these riverside lands of the Ebro.
Also the Arabs, and Moorish carefully cultivated the riverside gardens and left their mark on the Mudejar art of the area, very punished during the Spanish Civil War to be this line of fire of the tragic front of the Ebro.
42 km from Zaragoza is Quinto de Ebro, where the national road separates significantly from the river and you should take the local road that runs along the river course. However, before undertaking this route, the traveler should consider the opportunity to continue on the national road to the next town, AzailaCabezo de Alcala.
The place is accessed by the road that leaves, on the right, at the exit of the town (it is signposted). A short distance from the town, also on the right, rises the cabezo or hillock where the site is located, today excavated almost entirely. It is, in fact, three different cities depending on the different eras and cultures of which their stones were witnesses. The life of the city covers from the Iron Age (XII century before Christ), with an intermediate section in which the enclave was a very important strategic and cultural bulwark of the Iberian people.
The archaeological analyzes allow to conclude that the first settlers of the cabezo were of Indo-European origin, with agricultural and pastoral habits and with the mastery of the iron technique, although not of the pottery of lathe. The primitive town is not well known, although it is supposed to revolve around the arrangement of the houses around a single central street. This primitive town was violently destroyed during the Second Punic War, around 218 BC. It should not have taken long to resume life, however, in the village judging by the archaeological materials found, which demonstrate a rapid restoration and improvement, with fortification, of the city by a town that presents all the specific characteristics of the ibera culture. From this period are the best and most interesting ceramic materials that are preserved in the Museum of Zaragoza and that denote the magnificent economic and cultural splendor of the city, which coined currency of silver and bronze In the last phase of life of this second city there are already traces of a progressive Romanization and that are abruptly interrupted with a new destruction of the town in the course of the wars between Pompeyo and Sertorio (between 76 and 72 before Christ). Finally, the third city was rebuilt and remarkably fortified, remodeling the layout of the streets as they appear today. It was the height of the settlement, from the economic point of view, and archaeologists have been able to determine for this time a rich social, industrial and artisanal life. The great cistern, the monumental burial mound, the public dependencies and, above all, the neat urbanization of the town -with streets marked by wide sidewalks- denote the deep romanization of the city, which was once again and definitely destroyed after the famous city. Battle of Lerida, between Cesar and the troops of Pompeyo, fought in 49 BC.
After the visit to the Cabezo de Alcala, it is necessary to return again to Quinto so that, without reaching the town, take the local road that leaves, on the right, in the direction of Gelsa and La Zaida. On this route, the traveler must be attentive, because after two kilometers of walking there is the bridge that, crossing over the Ebro, leads to Gelsa, distant another 2 kilometers of the detour. Once in Gelsa, you have to take the detour that, on the right, leads, after about 5 kilometers of route, until Velilla de Ebro.
In Velilla, in the dominant part of the town, are the ruins -or if you prefer, the archaeological site- from what was, until the foundation of Zaragoza, the most important Roman colony of the Middle Ebro Valley: Iulia Victrix Lepida, founded on the Iberian population of Celse or Celsa (and hence the name of the current town of Gelsa).
Celse, was an important Iberian enclave framed in the vast territory of the ilergetes. Strabo points out the existence of a solid stone bridge over the Ebro, which archaeologists have not yet been able to certify, and should have constituted an important river port for navigators along the Ebro. It must have been a remarkable knot of terrestrial communications, since there converged the road that linked Ilerda (Lerida) with the Ebro Valley. Given these undoubted attractions of the anchor, the triumvirate Lepido founded there an important colony at the time of romanization, in an upward direction, of the lands of the Ebro. When Lepido falls into disgrace, the colony becomes known as Colonia Iulia Victrix Celsa, languishing its former splendor vertiginously in favor of the newly founded colony Caesaraugusta (Zaragoza), in the second decade before Christ. Even in a partial excavation phase, the town has shown important Roman mosaics and some ceramic and furniture materials, which are currently in the interpretation stage.
At the time of resuming the march following the course of the Ebro, the traveler must arm, from here, a certain dose of patience while sharply sharpens his sense of direction. Until Caspe, the road is not exactly easy or good, although the attractiveness of the landscape more than compensates for the inconveniences of the journey. Here the Ebro begins the most rambling course of its entire route, at the same time that the riverbed begins to become progressively encased in the soft materials of what once was the bottom of the inland sea. The landscape becomes remarkably contradictory, with narrow and fertile banks marking the waters of the river while, a few meters further on, on both banks, the Monegrino desert frames, as if wanting to assimilate it, the Ebro Pass. This is, without a doubt, a landscape hard and exotic in which crystallizes the paradoxical grandeur of the silent and almost sterile passage of the largest river in Spain by the bisectrix of one of the most desolate of its deserts.
And we say almost and not totally sterile because the wise and patient effort of the ribereños of the area - heirs, for sure, of the agricultural tenacity of Arabs and Moors - has managed to keep alive the fertile riverside orchard even after losing the enormous benefit of the incredible hydraulic ingenuity of the wheels or wheels of Cinco Olivas or Rueda Monastery. Cinco Olivas - which still conserves in the Ebro the magnificent diversion dam towards the missing Ferris wheel-, Alborge and Alforque (of undoubted Arabic resonances the last two), adhered to the wide meanders that the Ebro begins to draw here, they are eminently agricultural populations in which the productive habits of the Moors survive.
From Velilla de Ebro, the road leads directly to Sastago, a medieval enclave that once belonged to don Blasco de Alagon in an exchange required by Morella, a town that he had personally reconquered. In the sixteenth century, the town passed under the rule of the Counts of Sastago, one of the seven Houses of Aragon. During the Arab domination, Sastago was an important glass manufacturing center and, until recent times, kept alive the traditional production of knives whose handles were made with the nacre extracted from the numerous mollusks of the Ebro. Also, the town was known in all the surrounding territory for the excellent bill of the typical Aragonese hat -now relegated to the high Aragon valleys of Anso and Echo- also known by the nickname of half cheese cap.
Next to Sastago is the town of Escatron, another important medieval enclave whose social and economic life is profoundly altered by the thermoelectric power station installed in the 50s and which is supplied by the Teruel lignites for combustion and the waters of the Ebro for cooling. The medieval town has been relegated to a second plane since the construction of the new town, elevated on the Ebro channel. However, the economic life and the history of the primitive Scatro knew a splendid life throughout of almost seven centuries, time in which the locality exercised the dominion over the influential Monastery of Rueda, located opposite the town on the other side of the Ebro.
Extracted from the book: Guia para viajar por el Ebro.
© Jose Manuel Marcuello Calvin
If you want to extend your information on Aragon you can begin crossing another interesting route is the Mudejar, Patrimony of the Humanity, also you can extend your cultural knowledge on Aragon examining its municipal and institutional heraldry without forgetting, of course, some of its emblematics figures as Saint George Pattern of Aragon also book of Aragon.
The information will not be complete without a stroll by its three provinces: Zaragoza, Teruel and Huesca and his shines, with shutdown in some of its spectacular landscapes like Ordesa, the Moncayo or by opposition the Ebro.
Fauna | Flora | Geology | Fungi |
Tourism | Mudejar | Goya | Alphabetical Index | Thematic
Ebro river, Aragon, Zaragoza, Saragosa, Mequinenza, Iberian, Romans, Cinco Villas, Belchite
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