Not one of the usual Roman cities

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May, 2024

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Conimbriga was a major location on a route that travelled north from Lisbon to Coimbra (in modern terms). It is unusual because it does not demonstrate the Roman ability to stamp on all opposition. The Suevi not only attacked butdestroyed it.
The aettlement had clearly been prosperous. There were numerous houses with mosaic floors, a gymnasium with water and physical exercise facilities. The basis of its prosperity was a combination of agriculrure and trade. Yet there is, right across the middle, a wall built in a hurry for defence.
So urgent was the need that no thought was given to logistics or social requirements. A wall was built across the centre of the city – as near as the ancient world could manage to the Berlin wall but for different reasons. It meant that the principal houses, including the governor’s, were not facing it but backing on to it. All to no avail.
If one can feel sorry for Romans, the fact that parts of houses were conscripted into the defensive wall bears witness. There was a gate with the usual raised block for securing a gate but again, overwhelmed. Perhaps most pathetic was the merchant’s house, that by far outshone the governor’s mansion but fell as did all other features.
Nonetheless one can admire the quality of bulding and decoration. Mosaic floors and painted walls are still to be seen. The central atrium must have been a place of luxurious relaxation. Whatever his business the merchant was more than successful, approaching tycoon standard. Yet all was to be swept away.


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