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TitleBracara Augusta
Author(s)Martins, Manuela
Magalhães, Fernanda
KeywordsBracara Augusta
Issue date2021
PublisherL'Erma di Bretschneider
Abstract(s)Augustus founded Bracara Augusta at the end of Cantabrian wars, in 19 BC, most likely between 15 and 13 BC in the political context of reorganizing the Hispanic territories and communities. With very few references in written sources, the new city is mainly known through urban archaeology and by the several dozens of excavations carried out in Braga since 1976. This long archaeological research has uncovered the remains of a vast set of public and private buildings, which also allowed recovering the foundational city layout. Archaeological data has also improved our understanding of the connections of Bracara Augusta with Rome and other Roman provinces and cities, understandable by trade connections and products, as well as the evolution of the city over the centuries with its consequent urban, architectural and socio-economic changes. Excavations have also unearthed necropolises and shed light on the evolution of funerary practices, thus providing relevant data concerning the understanding of Bracara Augusta’s foundational context. The city’s background is understandable in light of both archaeological and epigraphic data, which point out the clear prominence of indigenous population in the occupation, construction and governance of the new ciuitas. Moreover, research carried out in the surroundings revealed the city’s intimate relationship with the periphery and rural area, which was object of land register operations. They defined a mesh of centuriae of 20 square actus that favoured the emergence of villae, a new type of occupation and exploration of agricultural resources that partly coexisted with the indigenous hillforts occupied until, at least, the Flavian era. Available data showed that Bracara Augusta was an ex nouo civil foundation and that it was planned with an orientation N/NNW-S/SSE and E/ENE-W/WSW, coinciding with the one of the centuriae on the rural area. The square city blocks were planned with construction areas of 1 actus (120 ft), including porticos with 12 feet wide, that was the approximate size of secondary streets, however the main ones had twice that size, or 24 feet. The foundational layout projected a rectangular city with the main axis running E/NE-W/SW covering an area of about 30 hectares. Throughout the 1st and 2nd centuries, the city outskirts were filled with sanctuaries, public buildings, artisanal spaces and necropolises. We are aware that Bracara Augusta experienced an early settlement process, certainly prior to 3/2 BC moment at which was documented the existence of a community self-entitled bracaraugustanus referred on monuments dedicated to Augustus or to the members of the imperial family. It seems therefore acceptable to consider that the settlement of the new urban space, erected during the last decade of the 1st century BC, included a high number of indigenous members coming from the castros located in the region. Their presence in the city are perceived by archaeological remains and is understood to have been at the launch of the city’s construction programs, which required significant work force. There are fewer remains from the Augustan period, as the buildings of the time were likely destroyed or altered during subsequent remodelling programs, as the one carried out in the western part of the forum, where, in the late 1st/early 2nd centuries, a theatre was built right next to a public bath building. Contemporary to the theatre must also be the amphitheatre constructed outside the urban area, near the road XVI. Both the Flavian and Antonine construction programs included the building of several thermal buildings, a macellum and a temple or a shrine dedicated to Isis, both sited on the north-eastern outskirts of the city. From the middle of the 1st century onwards, a process of gradual occupation of the blocks by domus is understandable, escalated during the Flavian dynasty. These elite dwellings developed around open spaces (atria, peristyles or courtyards) and several of these elements could coexist in the same house being the spaces around which the different compartments weredistributed. In reality, and despite the fragmentary nature of the remains, a great variety of planning solutions is recognized in the city. The domus may occupy 1 actus, meaning, the quarters’ entire construction area, or just a half of that size. A wide variety of solutions may have been used in order to adapt the buildings to the city’s altimetry variations. On the ground floor and along the streets we recognize shops on the façades opened up to porticos. Although we know that these elite houses were object of sophisticated ornamental programs, the remains associated with the decoration of the walls and floors were very poorly preserved. At the end of the 3rd century, Bracara became capital of the new Gallaecia province. In this moment it was constructed a robust wall with turrets defending an urban area with about 45 hectares. The new status mayexplain the reforms that generally affected the public buildings and the elite domus, as they became more sophisticated, with wider areas, private bathrooms and a refinement in decoration of pavements and stucco. Seat of bishopric in the fourth century onwards, Bracara remain a prosperous productive and commercial city, preserving the trade circuits connecting the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, throughout the 5th and 6th centuries, during the Suevi reign, from 411 until the Visigoth invasion in 585, when the city became dependent of Toledo.
TypeBook part
AccessOpen access
Appears in Collections:UAUM - Artigos (Papers)

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