“The Cela spa. Considerations and clarifications”.

Commemorative headstone that was usually associated with Cela.

During the musings and other exercises that have led to these days of responsibility and confinement, I have had the opportunity to return to some of the pending issues that awaited attention on my work table. One of them alluded to the need to dispel the existing confusion with the Fuente de Cela, of shared guardianship between the municipalities of Tíjola and Lúcar. In a generalized way, the mistake of linking the hot springs of implicated Avita with the traditional baths in the raft, which is totally denied if we inquire with interest in the history. I start from the act of good faith in which it is understood that the competent administrations in the conservation, maintenance and protection of this unique treasure, they will always work in favor of a sustainable and coherent use with the particularities that are pronounced in this source of collective wealth, appreciated heritage of our towns and the Almanzora Valley.

In 1909, in the newspaper The independence, C. Bordiu described a series of archaeological finds found both in the payment of Cela, as in other places in the municipality of Tíjola. In his work of informing the Almeria society, wrote the following:

[…]In Cela's payment, of this term, in the clearing works for vine plantations, numerous ancient objects have been found, as are jugs, dishes, amphorae made of flint, etc, etc.. These findings are frequent here in said payment and on the site known for <<Tíjola the old one>>.

Lately the gentlemen of Guevara found in this place a piece of tombstone that they sent to the Rvdo. P. Quiros, to whom it has seemed of great historical value.

On this occasion, a group of young people in tusiastas of this town, have decided to form a commission of historical investigations, that under the direction of the mentioned enlightened Father Rector of the Colegio de Dominicos de Cuevas, will ensure that the precious historical data contained in this region are not lost. This commission is made up of Mr. José Aynat Aynat, D. Cayetano Suarez Sánchez, Don Diego Guevara Caparrós, D. Servando Suárez Saavedra, D. Jose Maria Rodriguez Avalos, D. Francisco Pardo Oller and don Juan Lorita Vela […](1)

The Rvdo. P. Quirós, who is mentioned in the chronicle, is none other than Paulino Quirós, who once restored the Dominican province of Andalusia, the 15 December 1897, He was assigned to the College of the Order in Cuevas de Vera, where he was a language teacher (Spanish, french, latina), of History and Geography. He was the bearer of good knowledge of statistics, of epigraphy and numismatics and great fan of archaeological and historical research. He combined his ecclesiastical and teaching duties, at the same time that he also developed extensive work dedicated to archaeological investigations, discovering the remains of a prehistoric city in Villaricos, adding the enclave of Baria to our Tagilitan Republic, together with Urci or Basti as civitaes of relevance in the Roman period (probably from the 2nd century BC.)

The Aras and the Nymphs

Tagili during the high imperial era it functioned as a Latin municipality, where evergetical activities such as those of implicated Avita, who donates some hot springs for the devotion to the divinity of the Nymphs, as it reads in the altar discovered in 1977 which confirmed the existence in the Res Publica Tagilitana of one of the most powerful families in the Southeast of the peninsula, according to the volume of your donation, which included the delivery of 2.500 denarii for the maintenance of these, along with the land on which it was to be built. Also, to celebrate it offered a supply or banquet, as well as some circus games. Thus, His wealth must have been relevant if we look at R.P.'s calculations.. Duncan-Jones (one of the greatest eminences in the economy of the Roman Empire) for whom evergetas never spent more than one 15 % of their fortunes in these acts. But the detail on which we will have to focus our attention, it is in the final use that the hot springs are destined, offered for hygienic toilets.

Nymphs are "salutiferous" divinities, and thus they were trusted to regain health. Originally in Rome, the Latin divinities of the rivers and sources received the name of Lymphs and the Hellenization of the Roman religion caused their assimilation to the Greek Nymphs.. The Romans believed that part of the healing virtues of water came from divinity.

Prior to the appearance of the well-known ara de implicated Avita a rectangular pedestal of polished white marble was found on all its faces, made during the High Empire, found in the construction works of the road from Villacarrillo to Huércal-Overa, in a place without specifying. This finding was observed by the parish priest Miguel Bolea y Sintas, who collected it in his manuscript entitled "Episcopology and History of Diocese of Almería " of 1890. The ara was missing for some time, which raised quite a few doubts, so much for the dedication, where it appeared "Nympho" instead of "Nymphs”, as by the abbreviation of name. Now, this pedestal is deposited in the Museum of Almería, after being located again while doing sewerage works in Tíjola.

This is found and then lost, pedestal-shaped, Everything indicates that it is dedicated by a freedman of oriental origin (maybe Albania), this being the only time that it appears represented in the Iberian Peninsula. The cult of Nymphs occurs mainly among the lower classes of society, where the large number of freedmen and soldiers stand out. We would find ourselves before a man who thanks these divinities for healing or relief from illness, how well he or a member of his family could have suffered. It is about a dedicator who makes a votive offering, fulfilling a promise in gratitude to the Nymphs after a request that has been made. Thus, we can confirm the existence of a healing spa, so it would be different from the hot springs offered by implicated Avita for the Tagilitan population, whose sole purpose would be hygienic bathrooms.


The hot springs donated by implicated Avita would be found within their properties, with an abundance of water extracted from wells or conducted by hydraulic engineering works, which would cause them to be located very close to where the main population center was located, that covers an area between La Estación and the surroundings of Armuña del Almanzora, without forgetting that they would have easy accessibility, practical and daily for the residents of the municipium. However, To find a place to worship the Nymphs, a series of facilities and settlements are necessary to fulfill these rites., which shows us a totally revealing key: the toponym "Cela", from Latin "cella", means sanctuary or chapel. The altar would be fixed in a small consecrated space or chappell, being sheltered possibly by a fence or a small wall. Currently there is a Hermitage, paid for by the Aynat family, in the area where the bathrooms could be, next to which Roman materials such as bricks appear, Imbrices and Tegulas, affirming the sacred character of this place for the population, possibly from Prehistory, indicative of the remains found in an excavation carried out at the beginning of the last century (an ax and a knife of unpolished flint …etc.), also echoed by correspondent C. Bordiu, with whose chronicle we began this article. Thus, we conclude that in Tagili coexisted in time a thermal water spa (This) and some hot springs (implicated Avita) that were linked to the cult of the Nymphs. From other sources of a thermal nature, like the nearby Sierra Alhamilla or Alhama, that could well have been used in Roman times according to the materials that appear in their surroundings, It has not been possible to find any inscription or any other votive evidence that relates them to the cult of the Nymphs, what makes Cela a unique enclave with its own place in history.

Francisco Javier Fernandez Espinosa.