Thursday, 21 September 2017
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ConimbrigaConimbriga is probably the most fascinating Roman town in the Iberian peninsular. It is situated at Condeixa-a-Velha just a 16 kilometres south of Coimbra in Portugal. About 15% of the total area of the Roman City has been uncovered to reveal, houses, baths, a forum, two city walls, an aqueduct and Roman artefacts which are now on display in a museum, which is even better than the excellent museum at Merida in Spain.

If you would like to see a Google satellite photograph of Conimbriga click HERE.

I visited Conimbriga in January 2011, it had been somewhere that I had wanted to see for several years and I was not disappointed. 

There had been an iron age settlement at Conimbriga since about 1000 BC. The Romans were unable to form settlements in the centre of Portugal for some time because of the Lucitani tribe and their leader Viriatus who fought successfully against them for amost ten years, finally in 139 BC Viriatus was killed and his army defeated. The Romans were now very confident of their superior strength and made very little effort to fortify their villas and towns. A wall was built around Conimbriga but it was not very high and it enclosed a large area that would have been difficult to defend.

By the end of the 3rd century AD as a result of instability throughout the Roman Empire and threats of attack from the Swabians from southern Germany a decision was made to build a second perimeter wall inside the original which reduced the area to be defended and the circumference of the wall to be manned in the event of attack by about 40%.

The new inner wall was built about 6 meters high and 3 meters wide with towers and with a walkway along the top. Such was the rush to improve the city's defenses that any public buildings outside the new walls such as the very substantial amphitheatre and the necropolis were demolished and used as a source of prepared stone for the construction of the new wall.

Water was brought to the town via an aqueduct 4 kilometres long from a spring at Alcabideque. The last 150 meters of the aqueduct is still in good condition where it passes through the inner defensive wall to the south baths.

Walking round the town was for me both a thrilling and fascinating experience. Whilst I know nothing of town planning, looking at the drainage, the heating of both air and water, ducting and piping of water throughout the town would I would have thought impress any 21st century town planner. All of which can be seen in the 85 photographs that I took which are in the slide show above.

Most of the rooms in the houses and shops were fairly small, many of the mosaic floors were intact and a few in almost perfect condition. Where floors were not intact the original ducting for heating was exposed with it's brick and stonework ducting, the various baths are in amazing condition with channels for hot and cold water still in place. There are two large houses with their walls up to two meters in height still intact, doorways with brick lintels still in position, both were extremely luxurious and clearly belonged to very important people, one has a water garden with working fountains both have wonderful mosaic floors.

There is a row of small houses of just one room, each having only one door leading onto a street were probably built as shops and workshops.

The museum is without doubt the best in Portugal, I hope that the slide show above will show the wide range of artefacts found at Conimbriga. Some of the pottery is in perfect condition; there are also iron tools, blacksmith's tools, agricultural tools, iron grills, iron nails, terracotta piping, roofing tiles, lead piping, cooking pots, weapons, door hinges, door latches, scissors, locks, a millstone, plates, numerous oil lamps, a flute, belt buckles, spurs and even a horses bit are just some of the things on display; there is also an interesting selection of Roman jewellery.

Conimbriga was taken by the Visigoths in 586 AD after more than 700 years of Roman rule.

Martin Northey - Yachtmaster Examiner/Instructor for Sail and Power

The Iberian Sea School - RYA Sailing, Motor Cruising and Powerboat School
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