Tar·ra·go·na (tăr'ə-gōʹnə, tä'rä-gōʹnä)
A city of northeast Spain on the Mediterranean Sea west-southwest of Barcelona. A leading town of Roman Spain after the third century B.C., it fell to the Moors in A.D. 714. Population: 110,837.

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      city, capital of Tarragona provincia (province), in the comunidad autónoma (autonomous community) of Catalonia, northeastern Spain. It lies at the mouth of the Francolí River, on a hill (230 feet [70 metres] high) rising abruptly from the Mediterranean Sea. Tarragona is a flourishing seaport, an important agricultural market, and the centre of active tourism, concentrated in some well-known beach resorts. The city also supports the petrochemical industry that is concentrated around it, and Tarragona's port is equipped for handling and transporting millions of tons of oil annually.

      Once the seat of an Iberian tribe, it was captured in 218 BC by the Roman (ancient Rome) generals Gnaeus and Publius Scipio, who improved its harbours and its walls, transforming it into the earliest Roman stronghold in Spain. It was known as Tarraco; Julius Caesar initiated its period of splendour and called it Colonia Julia Victrix Triumphalis to commemorate his victories. A temple was built in honour of the Roman emperor Augustus, who made Tarraco the capital of Hispania Tarraconensis; the so-called Castle of Pilate is supposed to have been his imperial palace. The emperors Hadrian and Trajan endowed Tarraco with power and cultural prestige, while its flax trade and other industries made it one of the richest seaports of the Roman Empire. Its fertile plain and sunny shores were praised by the Roman epigrammatist Martial and its famous wines extolled by the writer Pliny the Elder.

      According to tradition, St. Paul, with the help of St. Thecla, founded the Christian church in Spain at Tarraco in AD 60. The city was razed by the Moors in 714 and remained unimportant until early in the 12th century, when it was recaptured by the Christians. After 1119 Tarragona resumed its new life as an important city of the Spanish kingdom of Aragon, and from it James I organized the conquest of Majorca (1229). Having inherited from Rome an imperial sense of unity, Tarragona has shown stubborn loyalty to the kings of Spain and has been a bulwark against invaders.

      The old quarter, with many houses built partly of Roman masonry, is more than half surrounded by Roman walls and square towers from the time of the empire. Roman ruins include the theatre, amphitheatre, circus (now forming part of the city's archaeological museum), forum, and necropolis and, nearby, an aqueduct, the so-called Tomb of the Scipios, and the Triumphal Arch of Bará. The cathedral (12th–13th century) is transitional between Romanesque and Gothic, with a fine cloister. Tarragona has a pontifical university, a school of arts and crafts, a large technical school, and a paleo-Christian museum with one of the best collections of 4th- and 5th-century Christian documents in Spain. It is also the seat of an archbishop. Pop. (2006 est.) 62,998.

      provincia (province) in the comunidad autónoma (autonomous community) of Catalonia, northeastern Spain. It borders the Mediterranean Sea. With Barcelona, Girona, and Lleida, Tarragona became one of the four component provinces of the autonomous region of Catalonia in 1979. It comprises a coastal plain and a mountainous northwest and interior. Primarily agricultural, Tarragona is noted for its wines, hazelnuts, almonds, olives, tomatoes, fruits, rice, and vegetables. Although the manufacture of textiles, metals, and paper is significant, the petrochemical industry dominates the province's economy. Petrochemical plants are located in Tarragona city (the provincial capital), close to the harbour. There are nuclear power plants in Vandellós and Ascó. Tourism, based on summer seaside resort facilities, centres upon Salou; fishing is practiced in many coastal villages. Aside from Tarragona city, important cities and towns include Vendrell, Valls, Reus, and Tortosa. Area 2,434 square miles (6,303 square km). Pop. (2007 est.) 757,795.

Vicente Rodriguez

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Universalium. 2010.

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