Lesera was the name of the Roman city that stood on the Moleta dels Frares de Forcall. It was a city located on the top of this hill, with impressive views over the area and, according to the studies carried out to date, the only existing city between the large Mediterranean centres of Tortosa (Tarragona) and Sagunto (Valencia). The Romans lived for several centuries in what is now Forcall, in a city of which the first traces were discovered in 1876 and which reveals a period in which the Romans chose this area to live, grow and develop their small society. However, studies carried out by expert archaeologists and historians indicate that this settlement was occupied from two thousand years BC in the Bronze Age and was continuously inhabited until the Andalusian period. Forcall has been, and still is, a witness to human progress.
Let’s rewind to just 50 years ago. In 1977, a German researcher reinterpreted some inscriptions on an ancient stone altar preserved in Morella. A unique vestige that is rarely found with something similar, as it dictated in Latin “res publica leserensis”, which provided the researchers with the name and the place name of the city Lesera. It was also dedicated to the Roman deity Jupiter for the salvation of the emperor Caracalla, who came to power in 212 AD. These facts are contextualised and indicate that Lesera was a city that remained alive until at least 212 AD. In fact, the Roman city of Moleta dels Frares was considered vital for the control of the geography, under a clear idea of recreating on a small scale the great Roman cities but with all the infrastructures and privileges proper to its status. The legal status of a city had nothing to do with the people who lived there, but rather with the importance of its position on the map for the administration and control of the territory. It is understood, therefore, that they should have walls, a forum, a capitol, a temple, a basilica, a market and thermal baths.
Among the remains preserved, despite being a city that has been razed to the ground over the years and the different populations that have been settling and reusing its materials, there are several sections of wall and an access gate. Excavations by archaeologists in recent decades have also brought to light a domus, the urban dwelling of families of a certain economic level. Thus, the fact that the city of Lesera was granted the privilege of becoming a municipality, which also gave it the power to levy taxes, is directly related to the fact that the city was already important at the time. It is no coincidence that it enjoyed so much influence from the territory it dominated from an altitude of 900 metres.
The remains obtained at the site (especially ceramic remains) by scientists, led by the archaeologist Ferrán Arasa in many excavations, give them clues and indications of when this small corner, a witness to human evolution, was populated. From the Final Bronze-Ancient Iron Age, the Iberians, the Roman period and the Caliphate period, from which some ceramic fragments have been found in a farmhouse where part of a necropolis has been exhumed. La Moleta dels Frares summarises a large part of the last two thousand years in a mountain, a look back in time that archaeologists have managed to bring to light for the good of humanity.
A further sign of the imperative need to communicate with the other cities of the Empire was the creation of a chariot road that directly connected the famous Via Augusta with Lesera. This in turn connected Tortosa and Sagunto with the city and the territories they controlled within their domains. In addition, the connection with Lesera also led to what is now Zaragoza (Caesaraugusta). In fact, remains of this connection have been found on the roads, although the bulk of the road has disappeared with the passing of time and has fallen into disuse. This fact has become more relevant over the years due to the fact that it is an unusual case of communications with the interior of the counties, as it was in the 19th century when another direct road was built to Morella and the towns near the city of Els Ports. From 2008 to 2017, Forcall has remembered its past with the Ibero-Roman Fair. In addition, interpretative visits are continually organised to learn about the place, the virtues of the location on the Moleta dels Frares and to look back two thousand years.