Unknown Roman city found in northern Spain

(ORDO NEWS) — In the Spanish Autonomous Community of Aragon, near the city of Artieda, archaeologists are excavating a major city from the time of the Roman Empire. The work is complicated by the fact that this place is interesting not only in Roman times.

Experts identified two periods of intensive use of the territory. The first is Roman, IV century AD, the heyday and decline of the empire. The second is medieval, IX-XIII centuries, the beginning and active phase of the Reconquista.

Medieval monuments that form the so-called Skete (hermitage) of St. Peter have been known for a long time: the place is located near the famous pilgrimage Way of St. James (El Camino de Santiago).

This road is laid through France and the north of Spain and leads to the city of Santiago de Compostela, where, as it is believed, the saint is buried.

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Roman mosaic

Legend has it that Charlemagne dreamed of the road of St. James in the form of the Milky Way, the stars of which indicated the direction to the grave of the Christian saint.

It is impossible to establish whether the Frankish emperor dreamed of something similar, but it is known for sure: he led troops through the Pyrenean passes and liberated part of the territory of the Christian kingdoms from the Moors.

Apparently, the section of the pilgrimage route passing through the territory of Aragon was laid on the site of an ancient road.

Scientists have studied the area where the hermitage was located in the Middle Ages, using remote sensing methods. They found under the medieval layer the remains of Roman streets, sidewalks, houses, baths.

Some parts of the buildings have already been cleared. The decorative elements on the capitals (Corinthian) and the specific changes in the attic base (column base) correspond to those adopted in the 1st-2nd centuries AD in the Roman Empire.

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Corinthian capital

A well-preserved mosaic was found in what was most likely part of a public bath. The mosaic is black and white (a white drawing on a black background), it depicts seahorses, on which small cupids ride. The central group is surrounded by shells, scallops, fish and dolphins.

In addition to all of the above, archaeologists were able to clear a complex of structures made of Roman concrete ( opus caementicium ) – this is probably part of the sewer system.

And not far from Artieda, there are the remains of a Roman aqueduct, through which water from the mountains may have flowed into the still-unnamed city.

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Remains of the sewer system

The city, in fact, is still almost nameless – the archaeological site is now called El Fora de la Tuta (El Forau de la Tuta), by analogy with the area. Researchers admit that they have not yet been able to find a Roman name, as well as mention of a large city standing on this site.

The situation is unusual. Archaeologists are confident that everything they have found so far corresponds to a single urban complex built between the 1st and 2nd centuries AD and operated until the 5th century.

The city had infrastructure and public monuments, including baths, a water supply and sanitation system, regular urban planning, and possibly a temple. But no historical sources in which he was mentioned have yet been found.

However, it is possible to assume the approximate fate of an unknown city. At the end of the 4th century AD, the first wave of the Great Migration of Nations passed through Europe. The Goths came to the lands of the already decrepit Roman Empire.

But if the Ostrogoths were attracted by Rome itself and they went to the Apennine Peninsula, then the Visigoths continued their journey to the west, where they later founded the kingdom – on the site of the former Roman province of Aquitaine.

In the 5th century, the Visigoths gradually expanded their kingdom: almost all of Iberia entered it. The once rich province, in which there were many latifundia (large landholdings), attracted not only the Visigoths: Vandals and Alans regularly raided these lands.

The leaders and kings of the barbarians did not want to live in cities, preferring to occupy the luxurious countryside villas of the Romans. Where the power of the empire ceased, the cities gradually fell into decay: there was no one to maintain order in them.

Scientists suggest that during the time of the Visigothic kingdom, the place where a large Roman city once stood became an agricultural area (it is located in the fertile valley of the Aragon River), and already in the Middle Ages, after the conquests of Charlemagne, a small Christian settlement appeared there.


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