Military camps, other vestiges of the Romanisation of Galicia

The trace of the Roman presence in Galicia is visible throughout the length and breadth of the region in a variety of monuments and archaeological sites. From the walls of Lugo to the milestones that marked the distances of the Roman roads, as well as the remains of baths, villas and other constructions, they form a valuable heritage that reveals the importance of a period also marked by military occupation. This is attested to by the numerous camps that the Roman legions built throughout Galicia to ensure control of the territory and the castrexa population. Some of them have already revealed some of their secrets and many others are still awaiting the moment to bring to light various fragments of the history of this land.

 

Aquis Querquennis

Bande

It is now a century since the first excavations were carried out in this camp located in the heart of the Baixa Limia-Serra do Xurés natural park. Its origins date back to the beginning of the first millennium and to the construction works of the Via Nova, or Via XVIII, the Roman road that linked Bracara Augusta and Asturica Augusta. It occupies an area of around 2.5 hectares and in addition to the facilities to accommodate the military, the site includes a mansion that served as accommodation for travellers passing through and a thermal area. The construction of the As Conchas reservoir in the middle of the last century meant that the site was left under water, but in the 1970s excavations were resumed and the process of restoring it to its former glory began. Declared an Asset of Cultural Interest in 2018, the site is considered to be the most extensively excavated, researched and monumentalised camp of its kind in the Iberian Peninsula. Walking within its walls allows us to imagine how the members of the military unit that occupied it lived (probably around half a thousand soldiers linked to the Legio VII Gemina) and although its useful life was not very long (between the first and second centuries of the first millennium) its mark and its importance are enormous. The Interpretation Centre and the museum built in its vicinity are the unbeatable gateway to a unique place.

 

A Ciadella

Sobrado

Several centuries before the monks settled in the municipality of Sobrado in A Coruña, initiating a relationship so intense that it has ended up linking them, at least unofficially, to the very name of the town council, the Romans had already discovered the importance of this enclave and decided to install the other great camp visible in Galicia today. Located in the vicinity of the road that linked Brigantium and Lucus Augusti, the Via XX, the site housed the members of the Cohors I Celtiberorum, who had previously been quartered in North Africa. Experts place their stay in Sobrado between the beginning of the 2nd century and the middle of the 4th century. Excavations carried out since 1934 have brought to light part of the structures of the enclosure as well as numerous materials (ceramics, coins, glass and various other objects) that have allowed researchers to imagine what life was like within its walls. The camp covered an area of 2.4 hectares and was protected by a wall and a moat, as well as by several guard posts in the surrounding area. After the Romans left, there was a second period of occupation by the civilian population before the end of the first millennium. Today, together with the monastery of Santa María and the artificial lake built by the monks, it is the main tourist and heritage attraction in the municipality of Sobrado.

 

O Penedo dos Lobos

Manzaneda

A Ciadella and Aquis Querquennis are the two campsites already (partially) excavated in Galicia that allow visitors to contemplate part of their structures and walk inside the walls where the Romans lived almost two millennia ago. But in the region there are other sites hidden by the passage of time and the action of nature that are also beginning to show us other images of the past. This is the case of the site located in O Penedos dos Lobos, in the municipality of Manzaneda in Ourense, which according to the first studies carried out on the ground could be older than the two aforementioned camps. The excavations carried out in recent years at this site located in a mountainous area near the winter resort of Cabeza de Manzaneda have allowed experts from the Romanarmy.eu research group in collaboration with the CSIC to conclude that it would be the oldest documented Roman military presence in Galicia, dating back to the 1st century BC. This would confirm that this territory could not have remained on the sidelines of the Cantabrian-Asturian wars, as had been thought until now. 

 

And furthermore…

The latest studies carried out thanks to new remote sensing techniques have made it possible to identify more than a dozen Roman encampments in various other places throughout Galicia. Cova do Mexadoiro (Trazo), Coto do Rañadoiro (Carballedo), A Cortiña dos Mouros (Cervantes), Santa Baia (A Laracha), O Cornado (Negreira), Monte da Medorra and Monte da Chá (Láncara), A Penaparda (A Fonsagrada), O Monte de Ventín (Pol) and Cabeza de Pau (Petín) are some of these settlements that still have a piece of the past to be discovered.

 

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