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Fontes Tamarici
Spanish: Fuentes Tamáricas
La Reana2.jpg
Year1st century BC (1st century BC)
TypePublic fountain, oracle
Dimensions4.5 m × 2 m (15 ft × 6.6 ft)
LocationVelilla del Río Carrión, Palencia, Spain
CoordinatesCoordinates: 42°49′24″N 4°50′45″W / 42.82333°N 4.84583°W / 42.82333; -4.84583

The Fontes Tamarici, in Spanish Fuentes Tamáricas (English: Tamaric Fountains) are three springs located by the geographer and Roman historian Pliny the Elder in classical Cantabria. Since the 18th century they have been identified with the source of La Reana in Velilla del Río Carrión, Palencia, Spain . The first mention of the spring, by Pliny, dates from the time of the Roman conquest of Cantabria. Pliny records that the springs were frequently dry, while other nearby springs continued to flow; he says that the springs being dry was considered to be a bad omen.[1]


It is known that the tamarics cantabri was who inhabited the area from the 3rd century BC. They worshiped waters and the sacred springs. It is not known the exact year of its construction, but it is clear that when the Roman Empire conquered Cantabria (year 19 BC), they found these sources that drew wide attention. The outbreak irregular emptying its waters and unexpected, accompanied by the noise that precedes underground filling, had to be at that time matter of respect and adoration. Possibly they were used as baths, laundry and omen.[2] It has been also suggested that the fountain could be dedicated to a god of the waters, where predictions were made based on their irregular filling and emptying cycle. In the thirteenth century it was built beside a hermitage devoted to John the Baptist, to Christianize the place and delete all relations with pagan rites.[3]

The curse of Pliny

Detail of the original arch still preserved. The other two were rebuilt in the 1980s.

Studies of the naturalist and geographer Pliny the Elder on the lands occupied by the Roman Empire are crucial for knowledge and location of Tamaric Fountains. In his Naturalis Historiae, XXXI, 3, is where he alludes its particularity:

The sources, too, of the Tamaricus, a river of Cantabria, are considered to possess certain powers of presaging future events: they are three in number, and, separated solely by an interval of eight feet, unite in one channel, and so form a mighty stream. These springs are often dry a dozen times in the day, sometimes as many as twenty, without there being the slightest trace of water there: while, on the other hand, a spring close at hand is flowing abundantly and without intermission. It is considered an evil presage when persons who wish to see these springs find them dry: a circumstance which happened very recently, for example, to Lartius Licinius, who held the office of legatus after his prætorship; for at the end of seven days after his visit he died.

Lartius Licinius was a great supporter of the work of Pliny, with his intense desire for knowledge of new discoveries, he visited the spring when it were in their dry phase, and died a week after in 70 AD.[4]


  1. Santa María la Real Todo el románico de Palencia (2015). ISBN:8415072406, p. 132.
  2. Torres Martínez, Juan. El Cantábrico en la Edad del Hierro: medioambiente, economía, territorio y sociedad. Real Academia de la Historia (2011). ISBN:8415069286, p. 463
  3. Palencia Turismo Velilla del Río Carrión. Retrieved 23-04-2016
  4. Pliny XXXI 24: «sicut proxime Lartio Licinio legato post praeturam; post septem enim dies occidit».

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