Colonia Iulia Augusta Faventia Paterna Barcino

Barcelona's Original Latin Name

Most locals know that Barcelona was founded as Barcino under the Roman Emperor Augustus around 14 AD but very few people know what each of the words in its full Latin title of Colonia Iulia Augusta Faventia Paterna Barcino means.

In this short article, I'm going to analyse Barcelona's original Latin name and this along with other articles in my Roman Barcelona series will give you some insights into the origins of the Catalan capital.

Incidentally, the information below is taken from Enric Calpena's excellent history of the city Barcelona: una biografía.


Colonia: The original Barcelona was a Roman colony made up of people who had arrived from Italy or retired soldiers and their families, who installed themselves in an assigned area and received tax benefits in order to make their occupation easier. Barcino was the only the second colony founded by the Romans in the region after Tarraco, which is modern Tarragona. In the Roman world, being a colony rather than a municipality had many advantages because it was a settlement in a territory that had previously been unoccupied. A colony paid fewer taxes than a municipality and was linked, at least initially, to the army, which in Roman times meant it was directly controlled by the State.On the other hand, this also meant that a colony had less democratic freedom than a municipality, where the inhabitants had more responsibility over how the settlement was run.

Iulia and Augusta: These two words indicate that Barcino had been founded under the auspices of the emperor of the time, whose family name was Julia and who had been named Augustus by the Senate.

Faventia: The meaning of this word is the most difficult to work out and there are a number of interpretations. Some historians have suggested that it might refer to an Iberian settlement that had been located in the same spot until the Romans arrived while others think that it may be a reference to the Roman town ofFaenza, where the original settlers or the main families may have come from originally.

Paterna: This means "of the father" in Latin and was used when a colony had been founded directly by Augustus or by his leading general, Agripa.

Barcino: It is likely that Barcino is the Latin transcription of Barkeno, which was the name of an earlier Iberian settlement and suggests that the Romans wanted to highlight the continuity of the colony rather than completely break with the past.

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