Re-evaluating the Iberian northwest in late antiquity

Portass, Robert (2008) Re-evaluating the Iberian northwest in late antiquity. In: Debating urbanism: within and beyond the walls: AD 300–700. Leicester Archaeology Monographs (17). School of Archaeology & Ancient History, University of Leicester, pp. 111-140. ISBN 9780956017925

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Abstract

In late antiquity, Iberia offers us a patchwork of sub-regional variations, some areas hinting towards strong continuities, with others seemingly succumbing to relatively quick and thorough urban breakdown. The northwestern province of Gallaecia, isolated and distant from the Mediterranean heartlands of empire, seems at first sight to present us with a case-study which immediately raises “catastrophist” suspicions, especially in the light of Hydatius’ agonizing account of the end of direct Roman rule in the province. Nonetheless, we would do well to nuance this interpretation in the light of a growing corpus of archaeological work which has now conclusively proven that the Roman cultural and socio-economic imprint in this region was deeper and more complex than was once imagined.
Three cities formed the heart of Roman Gallaecia, each the capital of their respective administrative unit (conventus): Braga (Bracara Augusta), Lugo (Lucus Augusti) and Astorga (Asturica Augusta). Were these islands of Romanitas in a largely indigenous sea? Or were they merely the focal points of a more widespread and deeply felt affinity with Roman authority in the Northwest? This paper will argue that the cities of late Roman Gallaecia do not easily fit within either paradigm; similarly, they resist both of the grand narratives associated with the study of this period: continuity, and decline. Braga seems to have flourished in the late Imperial period; Lugo retained some measure of prosperity and importance; and the fate of Astorga seems to have been intertwined with that of the mining industry for which the northwest was famed.
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The construction of grand sets of city walls around the cities of Bracara Augusta, Lucus Augusti and Asturica Augusta was the most spectacular physical manifestation of a programme of State-directed change in our period. This paper contends that the changes which these cities underwent were the result of a concerted effort to reassert and underline Roman authority and prestige in the region; and that a more nuanced understanding of the process of Romanization is crucial for our efforts to comprehend historical developments in the provinces of Empire.

Additional Information:Proceedings of a conference held at the University of Leicester, 15th November 2008
Keywords:Urbanism, History
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V100 History by period
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (Heritage)
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ID Code:24886
Deposited On:31 Oct 2016 16:35

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