A storm uncovers an ancient Roman aqueduct as well as a 16th century road at site of popular tourist beach in Cádiz, Spain

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Photo: Ecemaml CC BY-SA 3.0

In February 2018, a cold wave from Siberia struck Europe, bringing strong winds and snowstorms. While northern and western Europe, including Great Britain and Ireland, faced a significant drop in temperature, the Mediterranean was caught up in raging storms coming from the sea.

In the midst of this mild catastrophe, a strange piece of history was revealed after the storm hit the ancient Spanish seaside city of Cádiz.

The storm removed tons of sand from Cortadura beach, a popular tourist attraction in the city, uncovering the remains of a Roman aqueduct from the 1st century, together with a 16th-century road that eventually ran alongside it.

The city of Cádiz, which would have been known as Gades when the aqueduct was built, has a history dating back 3,500 years and has been a vital port for many civilizations, including the ancient Greeks, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and, of course, the Romans. The city had a well-developed infrastructure during Roman times, for it was the principal city of the Roman colony of Augusta Urbs Julia Gaditana.

Upon the discovery of the aqueduct fragments, local residents hurried to the beach, beating the authorities to it, but the site was soon safe from curious and potentially harmful visitors. Moisés Camacho, president of the Association for the Investigation and Dissemination of Cádiz’s Heritage, told El Pais in an interview concerning the discovery: “We were alerted to the presence of these remains, and to the fact that people were digging in the area, so we went there, warned people to stop what they were doing, and called city officials.”

Police soon showed up with a team of archaeologists to safeguard the stretch of beach that was now laced with ancient pillars and stone bricks. The road is believed to have connected the city of Cádiz with the nearby town of San Fernando in the period between the 16th century and the year 1755, when a catastrophic earthquake hit Lisbon, triggering a tsunami which crashed upon the coast of Cádiz, rendering the road useless.

It was also concluded that the road was possibly built on the foundation of a much older path constructed during the Roman era. Another assumption is that the Roman road ran parallel to this one, and its remains are currently somewhere under the sea.

What makes the aqueduct a priceless archaeological discovery is the fact that two of the fragments belonging to the Roman water supply structure are still joined together with the original mortar, which isn’t so common, considering that it’s almost 2,000 years old.

Although it was revealed quite recently, historians were aware of both the road’s and the aqueduct’s existence from ancient records, but this stroke of luck did the job for them in locating the structures.

By their estimations the aqueduct stretched for more than 45 miles, making it the longest in Spain and one of the longest in the world. It was used for providing water to a settlement in today’s San José del Valle, drawing water from the springs of Tempul.

It is considered to be one of the greatest Roman engineering efforts in Hispania, and proves once again the ingenuity of ancient architects and the durability of their creations. The Romans constructed aqueducts throughout their empire. By the 3rd century A.D., the many aqueducts in the city of Rome meant it could sustain a population growth that would exceed 1 million.

 Nikola Budanovic

The British pilot whose actions triggered the Spanish Civil War

The British pilot whose actions triggered the Spanish Civil War

More than 600,000 people lost their lives in the Spanish Civil War. At its end, in April 1939, General Francisco Franco had won, and he ruled the country for the next 36 years. The war has been described as a struggle between democracy and fascism.

In many cases, historic conflicts are triggered by seemingly insignificant people who by their actions manage to leave a huge impact. One…

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The British pilot whose actions triggered the Spanish Civil War

More than 600,000 people lost their lives in the Spanish Civil War. At its end, in April 1939, General Francisco Franco had won, and he ruled the country for the next 36 years. The war has been described as a struggle between democracy and fascism.

In many cases, historic conflicts are triggered by seemingly insignificant people who by their actions manage to leave a huge impact. One example is the Bosnian Serb anarchist who killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, triggering World War I.

In the case of the Spanish Civil War, an unspectacular British pilot changed history by giving Franco the opportunity to get out of a country unnoticed by authorities and organize his troops. The influence of citizens in the internal affairs of other countries, a practice throughout history, is, then, something to consider. How did it all begin?

Francisco Franco (1892-1975)

One July morning in 1936, Captain Cecil Bebb started his Dragon Rapide aircraft in what was supposed to look like a vacation trip. His passengers were Cecil’s friend, Major Hugh Pollard (a known British intelligence service operative), Diana Pollard, his daughter, and Dorothy Watson, her friend. They took off from Croydon Airport in London and reported that they were flying to the Canary Islands, but their real destination and intentions were much more sinister. The plane was supposed to take Franco from his post on the Canaries and bring him to his loyal troops stationed in Spanish Morocco.

A de Havilland Dragon Rapide aircraft

In February 1936, Franco was banished to the Canary Islands to serve there as a commander of the Spanish forces. His deployment was a form of punishment for his rebellious actions against the Second Spanish Republic. Meanwhile, Emilio Mola (another Spanish nationalist general and the inventor of the term “fifth column”) was plotting the military uprising that led to the Spanish Civil War. He contacted Franco in June the same year, and a military coup was put into motion. In mid-July, the Spanish Army of Africa rebelled, and General Franco was chosen as their leader, but he needed to be there to command them. This is where the British pilot came in.

Franco couldn’t just fly to Africa. If he had taken a Spanish plane, the Spanish government would certainly know about it and stop him. He needed help from the outside. This suspicious plane trip, which was possibly “booked” by the British secret service, was meticulously planned during a casual lunch at Simpson’s restaurant in the Strand.

Franco and other rebel commanders during the Civil War, c. 1936-1939

Hugh Pollard, Cecil’s companion on the plane, was an intelligence officer who was involved in operations during the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921). At one point he was contacted by Douglas Francis Jerrold (editor of the conservative newspaper English Review and also a British intelligence operative) and invited on a lunch together with Luis Bolin, who was the London correspondent of the ABC Newspaper. Bolin later became the main press advisor of Franco, which is probably not a coincidence. During that lunch, Jerrold managed to persuade Pollard to participate in the Franco “expedition.” Pollard then informed his friend and former MI6 colleague, Cecil Bebb, and he accepted.

The de Havilland Dragon Rapide aircraft flew from London on July 11, 1936. When they arrived on the Canary Islands, Franco was already informed and waiting for the British officers to pick him up. The whole journey was undetected by the authorities and Franco was taken to Tetuan, Morroco, on July 19. He immediately began to assemble the Spanish troops and prepare them for the coup.

Although it is obvious that there was some kind of external influence on this awful moment in history, the British involvement hasn’t been confirmed. The British government was officially neutral toward the Spanish Civil War issue during that time. Either the British authorities knew about Cecil’s and Pollard’s actions and sanctioned it, or the men acted on their own for a generous financial reward.

They shall not pass! Republican banner in Madrid reading “Fascism wants to conquer Madrid. Madrid shall be fascism’s grave.” during the siege of 1936–39

In an interview that Cecil made years later, for The Spanish Civil War (1983)a documentary made by Granada television, he said some pretty unbelievable things about his participation in the war: He said that a Spanish man had come to him and asked him if he would like to fly to the Canaries and pick up a rebellious general and help initiate a military coup in Spain. Cecil then told the reporter that the plan sounded like a great adventure to him and he accepted.