Category Archives: Places of Interest

Verona Arena (#8)

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Today we continue examining the list of 52 Ancient Roman Monuments which had been claimed as a “must see” by Touropia Travel Experts. The last location we had checked out was #9 – Pula Arena.

Today we’re headed back to Italia as we explore #8 – Verona Arena!

The Verona Arena (ItalianArena di Verona) is a Roman amphitheatre in Piazza Bra in VeronaItaly built in the 1st Century AD. The Verona Arena is the world’s 3rd largest amphitheatre to survive from Ancient Rome.

It is among the best preserved ancient structures of its kind, which is why it is still in use today. Once holding nearly 30,000 people, nowadays, for security reasons, the maximum attendance is 15,000 people.

The building itself was built in AD 30 on a site which was then beyond the city walls. The most solemn monument in Roman Verona, with various orders of tiers of seats and, in the center, an area or arena for gladiator shows, struggles with wild beasts or other events of a popular nature.

It was built with well-squared blocks of marble in the 1st Century AD, between the end of the reign of Emperor Augustus and the start of Emperor Claudius’s reign. The round façade of the building was originally composed of white and pink limestone from Valpolicella.

It is one of the best-conserved monuments of its kind. The perimeter of the current seating stalls is 1283 ft, and including the wing it is 1427 ft.

Inside the Arena di Verona

The amphitheatre is built from 3 concentric circles, of which only 1 side of the external ring remains. It is commonly referred to as the “Wing”. The ludi (shows and games) staged there were so famous that spectators came from many other places, often far away, to witness them.

The tiers of the amphitheatre are all made of Veronese marble. Underneath the tiers there are galleries, cells and passageways (which cannot be visited today) which once served and still serve, in part, for the complex operation of the amphitheatre.

After a major earthquake in 1117 almost completely destroyed the structure’s outer ring, except for the so-called Ala (Wing), the stone was quarried for re-use in other buildings. Nevertheless, it impressed medieval visitors to the city, one of whom considered it to have been a labyrinth, without ingress or egress.

The Roman amphitheater has been used continuously throughout the centuries to host shows and games: gladiator fights during Roman times, tournaments in the Middle Ages and from the 18th Century until the present day the arena is the setting for Verona’s spectacular opera performances. The Arena is the most renowned Veronese monument.

Piazza Bra as seen from the Arena.

Today the Arena is set in the Historical Center and acts as a backdrop for Piazza Bra. But once upon a time, when the Romans built it, the monument was located at the margins of the urban area, outside the circle of the walls.

The Arena summarizes in itself almost 20 centuries of local history. Through time, it has become the very symbol of the city.

The fame that the amphitheatre has enjoyed in the civic consciousness of the Veronese has gradually led the monument to increasingly assume the character of the very symbol of ancient nobility. It is from here that the measures for its conservation, and many deep restorations, originate.

Ciriaco d’Ancona was filled with admiration for the way it had been built and Giovanni Antonio Panteo’s civic panegyric De laudibus veronae, 1483, remarked that it struck the viewer as a construction that was more than human. In 1913, the Arena was finally discovered for what it has become known for today, as the first true and most important open-air opera theatre in the world.

The first interventions to recover the arena’s function as a theatre began during the Renaissance. Some operatic performances were later mounted in the building during the 1850s, owing to its outstanding acoustics.

Performance of Aida by Giuseppe Verdi.

And in 1913, operatic performances in the arena commenced in earnest due to the zeal and initiative of the Italian opera tenor Giovanni Zenatello and the impresario Ottone Rovato. The initial 20th Century operatic production at the arena, a staging of Giuseppe Verdi‘s Aida, took place on 10 August of that year, to mark the birth of Verdi 100 years before in 1813.

Musical luminaries such as Puccini and Mascagni were in attendance of that original performance. Since then, summer seasons of opera have been mounted continually at the arena, except in 1915–18 (for WWI) and 1940–45 (for WWII).

In modern times, at least 4 productions (sometimes up to 6) are mounted each year between June and August. During the winter months, the local opera and ballet companies perform at the L’Accademia Filarmonica.

Setting up the inside of the Verona Arena.

Modern-day travelers are advised that admission tickets to sit on the arena’s stone steps are much cheaper to buy than tickets giving access to the padded chairs available on lower levels. Candles are distributed to the audience and lit after sunset around the arena.

Every year over 500,000 people see productions of the popular operas in this arena. The arena has featured many of world’s most notable opera singers including: Giuseppe Di StefanoMaria CallasTito Gobbi and Renata Tebaldi among others.

A number of conductors have appeared there too. The official arena shop has historical recordings made by some of them available for sale.

In recent times, the arena has also hosted several concerts of international rock and pop bands, among which AdeleElisaLaura PausiniPink FloydAlicia KeysOne DirectionSimple MindsDuran DuranDeep PurpleThe WhoDire StraitsMike OldfieldRod StewartStingPearl JamRadioheadPeter Gabriel, Björk, Muse, Leonard CohenPaul McCartneyJamiroquaiWhitney Houston, Mumford & SonsKissSpandau Ballet and 5 Seconds Of Summer.

In 1981, 1984 and 2010 it hosted the podium and presentation of the Giro d’Italia with thousands packing the arena to watch the prizes being handed out. The opera productions in the Verona Arena had not used any microphones or loudspeakers until an electronic sound reinforcement system was installed in 2011.

On 24 September 2012 Leonard Cohen performed here as part of the First European Leg of his “Old Ideas” World Tour.

On 25 June 2013, Paul McCartney performed at the venue as part of his 2013 Tour.

Architecture of the Verona Arena.

Spandau Ballet played a concert at Verona Arena on 6 July 2015, as part of their Soul Boys Of The Western World Tour.

On 21 September 2015 the operatic pop group Il Volo performed in Verona for their final date of the Grande Amore Tour. The evening was recorded and broadcast by Rai1 and gained a share of 23%.

On May 28th and 29th 2016, the English singer Adele performed in Verona as part of her Adele Live 2016 Tour.

We hope you enjoyed today’s journey to Verona, and look forward to having you join us again soon. Who knows where we’ll wind up next?

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Weiss, Roberto. The Renaissance Discovery of Classical Antiquity, 1969.

Festivals in Italy 2009

“Verona Opera Festival Outfitted with New Audio”. AVTechnology. 7 February 2011.

Verona Arena website (in English)

Arena di Verona”. Verona.com.

Pula Arena (#9)

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Today we continue examining the list of 52 Ancient Roman Monuments which had been claimed as a “must see” by Touropia Travel Experts. The last location we had checked out was #10 – Aqueduct of Segovia.

Today we’re headed back to Dalmatia as we explore #9 – Pula Arena!

Interior of Pula Arena

The Pula Arena is the name of the amphitheatre located in Pula, Croatia. The Arena is the only remaining Roman amphitheatre to have 4 side towers and with all 3 Roman architectural orders entirely preserved.

The amphitheatre in Pula is the 6th largest (of 200 surviving) Roman arena in the world, and one of the best preserved ancient monuments in Croatia. Built between 27 BC – 68 AD, it could seat over 26,000 spectators.

Restored arched walls at Pula.

The Arena was built as the city of Pula became a regional center of Roman rule, called Pietas Julia. The name was derived from the sand that, since antiquity, covered the inner space.

The amphitheatre was originally built in timber during the reign of Augustus (2–14 AD). It was then replaced by a small stone amphitheatre during the reign of Emperor Claudius.

It was built outside the town walls along the Via Flavia, the road from Pietas Julia to Aquileia and Rōma.

In 79 AD Vespasian enlarged the Arena to accommodate gladiator fights, and this was completed in 81 AD under Emperor Titus. This timeline was confirmed by the discovery of a Vespasian coin in the malting.

Exterior

A Christian called Germanus was martyred in the Arena in the 4th Century. The amphitheatre remained in use until the 5th Century, when Emperor Honorius prohibited gladiatorial combats.

It was not until 681 that combat between convicts, particularly those sentenced to death, and wild animals was also forbidden. It was also in the 5th Century that the amphitheatre began to see its stone plundered by the local populace.

Close up view of the interior.

In the Middle Ages the interior of the Arena was used for grazing, occasional tournaments by the Knights of Malta and medieval fairs. By the 13th Century, the patriarch of Aquileia forbade further removal from the Arena.

In the 15th Century many stones were again taken from the amphitheater to build houses and other structures around Pula. Fortunately, though, this practice was stopped before the whole structure was destroyed.

In 1583 the Venetian Senate proposed dismantling the arena and rebuilding it within Venice, but the proposals were rejected. Today, a headstone celebrating the Venetian Senator Gabriele Emo’s opposition to the plan is currently visible on the 2nd tower.

Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Pula.

In 1709, stone was once more taken from Pula Arena, this time for the belfry foundations at Pula Cathedral. This was the last time the Arena was used as a source of stone.

General Auguste de Marmont, as French Governor of the Illyrian Provinces, started the restoration of the Arena. This was continued in 1816 by the Ticinese architect Pietro Nobile, commissioned by the emperor Francis I of Austria.

In 1932, the amphitheatre was adapted for theatre productions, military ceremonies and public meetings. In its present state seating capacity is between 7,000 and 12,500 for all standing events.

Pula Arena as it sits amongst the town.

Today it is used to host a variety of festivals and performances during the summer months.

The arena is used as a venue for many concerts including: Luciano PavarottiĐorđe BalaševićAndrea BocelliPatrizio BuanneJose CarrerasDino MerlinJamiroquaiAnastaciaEros Ramazzoti, Maksim MrvicaNorah JonesZuccheroZdravko ČolićAlanis MorissetteSinéad O’ConnorElton John2CellosStingMichael BoltonSealIl DivoTom JonesGibonniManu ChaoOliver Dragojević, Plácido Domingo, and Leonard Cohen and David Gilmour.

The arena has also been used for cinematic works such as Titus, a 1999 film adaptation of Shakespeare‘s revenge tragedy Titus Andronicus by Julie Taymor.

Medveščak vs. Vienna Capitals played in the Pula Arena.

Two professional ice hockey games were played there on 14 and 16 September 2012. KHL Medveščak, a Zagreb-based Erste Bank Eishockey Liga club, hosted HDD Olimpija Ljubljana and the Vienna Capitals.

The amphitheatre is depicted on the reverse of the Croatian 10 kuna banknote, issued in 1993, 1995, 2001 and 2004.

Reverse of a 10 Kuna banknote.

We hope you enjoyed today’s travel and look forward to having you back again. Be sure to stop by soon for we never know where we’ll end up, or who with.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Džin, Kristina. Mirko Žužić, ed. Arena PulaZagreb: Viza MG d.o.o. Remetinečka cesta 81, Zagreb. ISBN 978-953-7422-15-8.

Mlakar, Stefan. “The Amphitheatre in Pula”. The Archaeological Museum of Istra, 1957.

Turner, J. Grove Dictionary of ArtOxford University Press, 2 January 1996. ISBN 0-19-517068-7.

Arena (Colliseum) of Pula

Archaeological Museum of Istria

Aqueduct of Segovia (#10)

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Today we continue examining the list of 52 Ancient Roman Monuments which had been claimed as a “must see” by Touropia Travel Experts. The last location we had checked out was #11 – Palmyra.

Today we’re headed back to Hispania as we explore #10 – Aqueduct of Segovia!

The Aqueduct of Segovia should more precisely be referenced as an aqueduct bridge. Located in Spain, this aqueduct bridge is a Roman aqueduct and one of the most significant and best-preserved ancient monuments left on the Iberian Peninsula.

As the aqueduct now lacks a legible inscription, the date of construction cannot be definitively determined. Apparently at some point of time an inscription was said to have been located in the structure’s attic (top portion).

Bust of Domitian (Musée du Louvre)

The general date of the aqueduct’s construction was long a mystery although it was thought to have been during the 1st Century AD, during the reigns of the Emperors DomitianNerva, and Trajan. At the end of the 20th Century, the text on the dedication plaque was deciphered by studying the anchors that held the now missing bronze letters in place.

Géza Alföldy determined that Emperor Domitian (AD 81-96) ordered its construction, and the year AD 98 was proposed as the most likely date of completion. However, evidence found in 2016 points out to a slightly later date (112 AD).

Aqueduct at night

The beginnings of Segovia are also not definitively known. The Vaccaei people are known to have populated the area before it was conquered by the Romans.

Roman troops sent to control the area stayed behind to settle there. The area fell within the jurisdiction of the Roman Provincial Court (Conventus Iuridici) located in Clunia.

The principal section of the aqueduct contains 36 semi-circular arches, rebuilt in the 15th Century to restore a portion destroyed by the Moors in 1072. The line of arches is organized in 2 levels, each decorated so that simple molds hold the frame and provide support to the structure.

On the upper level, the arches are 16.1 ft wide. Built in 2 levels, the top pillars are both shorter and narrower than those on the lower level.

The top of the structure contains the channel through which water travels, through a U-shaped hollow measuring 1.8 by 1.5 ft in diameter. The top of each pillar has a cross-section measuring 5.9 by 8.2 ft, while the base cross-section measures 7.9 by 9.8 ft.

Cross-section of the aqueduct

The aqueduct is built of unmortaredbrick-like granite blocks. During the Roman era, each of the 3 tallest arches displayed a sign in bronze letters, indicating the name of its builder along with the date of construction.

Today, 2 niches are still visible on each side of the aqueduct. One of them is known to have held the image of Hercules, legendary hero and founder of the city. The other niche now contains the images of the Virgen de la Fuencisla (the patroness of Segovia) and Saint Stephen.

The aqueduct once transported water from the Rio Frio, situated in mountains 11 mi from the city in the La Acebeda region. It runs 9.3 mi before arriving in the city.

The water was originally gathered in a tank known as El Caserón (Big House), and was then led through a channel to another tower known as the Casa de Aguas (Waterhouse). There it was naturally decanted and sand settled out before the water continued its route.

Aerial view of the aqueduct

Next the water traveled 796 yd on a 1% grade until it was high upon the Postigo, a rocky outcropping on which the old city center, the Segovia Alcázar, was built. Then, at Plaza de Díaz Sanz, the structure makes an abrupt turn and heads toward Plaza Azoguejo.

It is there the monument begins to display its full splendor. At its tallest, the aqueduct reaches a height of 93 ft 6 in, including nearly 19 ft 8 in of foundation.

There are both single and double arches supported by pillars. From the point the aqueduct enters the city until it reaches Plaza de Díaz Sanz, it includes 75 single arches and 44 double arches (or 88 arches when counted individually), followed by 4 single arches.

This yields a grand total of 167 arches in all. The construction of the aqueduct follows the principles laid out by Vitruvius as he describes in his De Architectura published in the mid-1st Century.

Restored portion of the aqueduct

The initial reconstruction of the aqueduct took place during the reign of the King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, known as Los Reyes Católicos (the Catholic Monarchs). Don Pedro Mesa, the prior of the nearby Jerónimos del Parral monastery, led the project.

A total of 36 arches were rebuilt, with great care taken not to change any of the original work or style. In the 16th Century, the central niches and above-mentioned statues were placed on the structure.

On 4 December, the cadets of the local military academy drape the image of the Virgen de la Fuencisla in a flag. Coincidently, that day is also the day of Saint Barbara, who is the patron saint of artillery.

The aqueduct is by far the city’s most important architectural landmark and is the foremost symbol of Segovia, as evidenced by its presence on the city’s coat of arms. It had been kept functioning throughout the centuries and preserved in excellent condition.

It provided water to Segovia until the mid-19th Century. Due to the differential decay of stone blocks, water leakage from the upper viaduct, and pollution that caused the granite ashlar masonry to deteriorate and crack, the site was listed in the 2006 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund (WMF).

Contrary to popular belief, vibrations caused by traffic that used to pass under the arches did not affect the aqueduct due to its great mass. WMF Spain brought together the Ministry of Culture, the regional government of Castilla y León, and other local institutions to collaborate in implementing the project, and provided assistance through the global financial services company American Express.

We hope you enjoyed today’s journey and look forward to having you return soon. If you ever need a place to go that merges the past and present, look no further than Hispania.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Barbacci, Norma. “Saving Segovia’s Aqueduct”ICON Magazine, Winter 2006/2007.

Martín, Aurelio. “El hallazgo de un sestercio cambia la edad del acueducto de Segovia”El País (in Spanish), 31 October 2016.

TURESPAÑA (2006-01-31). “The Segovia Aqueduct in Spain. | spain.info in english”. Spain.info.

“Aqueduct of Segovia”World Monuments Fund.

Aqueduct of Segovia – Information and photos.

The History of the Romans: Every Year

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

From the Foundation of Rome through the Fall of the Byzantine Empire, there has been constant growth and change in what was the Roman Empire. With so much going on, how could you possibly know everything?

That issue gets decided today as we witness the History of the Romans: Every Year!

See the entire history and progression of Roman civilization from the city-state Kingdom all the way to the last Byzantine successor state.

This video was originally published on 31 December 2015, with musical credits of “Majestic Hills”, “Hero Down”, and “Teller of the Tales” all by Kevin MacLeod.

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure, maybe you even learned something new or exciting. We look forward to having you join us again soon.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Travel With Kids – Rome, Vatican City & the Amalfi Coast

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

After traveling with my wife and infant son to see family for Christmas, I got to thinking “What will traveling be like when our boy’s older? Where will we take him to make some wonderful memories?”

Last week we shared Travel With Kids – Rome to showcase all that can be seen and experienced in the Eternal City while traveling with children. We thought that was a good idea and looked for more videos to share.

Today we present to you Travel With Kids – Rome, Vatican City & the Amalfi Coast!

If you enjoyed today’s adventure and want to see more like it, and maybe even about different locations, check out their site here.

We wish you a great 2017 filled with endless possibilities. Come back soon to see what we have in store for you.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Travel With Kids – Venice

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

After traveling with my wife and infant son to see family for Christmas, I got to thinking “What will traveling be like when our boy’s older? Where will we take him to make some wonderful memories?”

We’ve already shared Travel With Kids – Rome and Travel With Kids – Rome, Vatican City & the Amalfi Coast to showcase all that can be seen and experienced in the Eternal City (and Italy‘s coast) while traveling with children. We thought that was a good idea and looked for more videos to share.

Today we present to you Travel With Kids – Venice!

If you enjoyed today’s adventure and want to see more like it, and maybe even about different locations, check out their site here.

We wish you a great 2017 filled with endless possibilities. Come back soon to see what we have in store for you.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Travel Kids – Rome

Welcome to Rome Across Europe and to 2017!

During the course of this holiday season my wife & I have been traveling with our son for the first time. Granted he’s only a year old and we stayed within the United States, it was our first time on a plane as a family.

This got me thinking, what will traveling be like when our boy’s older? Where will we take him to make some wonderful memories?

How will traveling with a child (or children) be? The last time I traveled with children, I was one of the children.

So today, to start a new year, we present to you Travel With Kids -Rome!

If you enjoyed today’s adventure and want to see more like it, and maybe even about different locations, check out their site here.

We wish you a great 2017 filled with endless possibilities. Come back soon to see what we have in store for you.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Kingdom of Soissons: A Rump State of Roman Gaul

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

As of late we have been discovering Gallia (aka Roman Gaul). We’ve already explored most of the Provincia with articles like – Roman Gaul: Paving the Way for Modern Europe; Gallia Cisalpina: A Different Side of Roman Gaul; Provincia Gallia Narbonensis: Our Province; Gallia Aquitania: Home of the Long-haired Gauls; Gallia Belgica: Conquered by Caesar and Founded by Augustus; and Gallia Lugdunensis: Roman Europe’s Major City West of Italia.

Now it’s time to dig a little deeper to uncover a hidden layer within the boundaries of Gallia. Since there’s no time like the present, let’s take a look at the Kingdom of Soissons!

Western and Eastern Roman Empires 476 AD. Kingdom of Syagrius (North-West) within the Western Roman Empire (blue).
Western and Eastern Roman Empires 476 AD. Kingdom of Syagrius (North-West) within the Western Roman Empire (blue).

The Kingdom of Soissons was a rump state of the Western Roman Empire in northern Gaul (present day France) for some 25 years during Late Antiquity. Soissons had formerly been the tribal capital of the Celtic tribe of the Suessiones.

Soissons commanded a broad swathe of territory across the full width of northern Gaul, even though the region became more and more isolated from Italia, with Frankish states to the north and east and the Visigothic Kingdom to the south.

The emergence of the Kingdom of Soissons began when Western Emperor Majorian (AD 457–461) appointed Aegidius as Magister Militum of the Roman Gaul. By the 5th Century AD, the Suessiones had become completely Romanized with Roman government in the area that was centered on Soissons (or Noviodunum as the Romans called it).

Majorian (Flavius Iulius Valerius Maiorianus Augustus)
Majorian (Flavius Iulius Valerius Maiorianus Augustus)

During the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, Emperor Majorian proved to be a little too popular. Majorian constantly took the field in person and lead the failing Roman Army to victories over the Visigoths and Burgundians, which restored Hispania.

Following a revolt in AD 417, the Armoricans were also almost completely independent of Rome. However, Auxerre on the Yonne remained under Roman control along with the new capital of Roman Gaul at Arles.

The northern region also managed to retain a Roman government based at Soissons, although more and more often Rome was being forced to use barbarian Foederati to solve its problems rather than increasingly rare Roman troops.

Divisions of Gaul (481 AD)
Divisions of Gaul (481 AD)

The remaining Roman territory in northwest Gallia was connected with the Roman possessions in the Auvergne, Provence and Languedoc which connected these to Italia. During Majorian’s reign, that corridor was annexed by the Germanic tribes then occupying Gaul, effectively cutting off Aegidius and his citizens from the Empire.

Majorian and Aegidius had recovered the Roman position in most of Gaul, but it would not last. With the death of Majorian at the hands of Ricimer in AD 461, Aegidius’s power and the Roman position in the center and southern provinces deteriorated.

Aegidius was now intent on avenging Majorian’s death, but was prevented from marching on Rome when Ricimer hired the previously defeated Visigoths and Burgundians to serve as a blockade. Aegidius’ troops remained loyal to him, however, and Rome again lost its authority in Soissons, which remained governed by Aegidius.

Allied to Aegidius was Childeric I, king of the Salian Franks of Tournai, and helped him defeat the Visigoths at Orléans in 463. According to Gregory of Tours, Aegidius even ruled the Franks during Childeric’s banishment, but Childeric later returned from exile.

Aegidius died on the Loire in AD 464, and may have been murdered at the orders of one of Childeric’s enemies. Paulus of Angers, the Comes of Aegidius, was killed shortly afterwards on the same campaign.

This left Syagrius, Aegidius’s son, to succeed his rule. The former province of Gallia Aquitania was then annexed by the Visigoths and Burgundians in the years AD 462-477, leaving the remaining Roman Kingdom of Syagrius isolated.

Syagrius during battle
Syagrius during battle

At the same time, in the north of Gaul the Franks were increasing their influence. It is possible that the Groans of the Britons, referring to a Romano-British request for military assistance after the Roman departure from Britain, may have been addressed to Aegidius.

Odoacer
Odoacer

Syagrius governed using the title of Dux (a provincial military commander), but the neighboring Germanic tribes referred to him as Romanorum Rex (King of the Romans). In 476, under the rule of Syagrius, the Kingdom of Soissons failed to accept the new rule of Odoacer who had dethroned the dethroned the last Western Emperor earlier that year.

While both Syagrius and Odoacer sent messengers to the Eastern Roman Empire, the Eastern Emperor Zeno chose to offer legitimacy to Odoacer instead of Syagrius. The Kingdom of Soissons cut all ties with Italy and had no further recorded contact with the Eastern Roman Empire.

Even after 476, Syagrius continued to maintain that he was merely governing a Roman province. The Kingdom of Soissons was in fact an independent region.

Clovis statue at the Abbey Church of Saint-Denis.
Clovis statue at the Abbey Church of Saint-Denis.

Childeric died about 481, and his son Clovis I became the Frankish king. Clovis made continual war against Syagrius, and in the end took over all his territory.

In 486 Syagrius lost the Battle of Soissons to the Frankish king Clovis I and the domain was thereafter under the control of the Franks. Many historians consider this Clovis’ greatest victory.

Syagrius fled to the Visigothic king Alaric II, but the Franks threatened war if Syagrius was not surrendered to them. Syagrius was sent back to Clovis, who had him executed in 487.

Clovis I ruled the Franks until his death in 511. When he died, the Frankish realm was divided into 4 kingdoms, 1 for each of his sons.

Clotaire I received the area formerly ruled by Syagrius. Clotaire himself had been born in Soissons a decade after Syagrius’ death.

The Kingdom of Soissons (486 AD)
The Kingdom of Soissons (486 AD)

By skillful diplomacy, warmongering, and murder of his relatives, Clotaire became the king of all Gaul by 555. When Clotaire died in 561, the Frankish realm further was divided into 3 kingdoms, 1 for each son.

The western kingdom of Neustria continued to be governed from Soissons until all Franks were once more unified under the Neustrian king Clotaire II in 613. Except for the period of 639-673, when a division between Neustria and Austrasia occurred, the Franks remained unified until the Treaty of Verdun in 843.

The Kingdom of Soissons (or the Kingdom of Syagrius) was, in reality, neither ruled by a legitimate king, nor was it considered by its citizens as anything other than a separated province of the Western Roman Empire. However it was a prized piece of land that was coveted by many and which still has us engaged today.

We hope you enjoyed today’s discovery and look forward to having you back again in the new year. Have a safe and happy New Year’s celebration.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Bély, Lucien and Moyon, Angela. The History of France. Google Books. ISBN 978-2-87747-563-1.

Bussey, George Muir; Gaspey, Thomas; and Burette, Théodose. A History of France and of the French People. Google Books.

Frassetto, Michael. Encyclopedia of barbarian Europe. Google Books. ISBN 978-1-57607-263-9.

MacGeorge, Penny. Late Roman Warlords. Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-925244-0.

Domain of Soissons AD 461 – 486”. The History Files.

Gallia Lugdunensis: Roman Europe’s Major Capital West of Italia

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

If you are just joining us, we have been discovering Gallia (aka Roman Gaul) for a few weeks now. We’ve already explored most of the Provincia with articles like – Roman Gaul: Paving the Way for Modern EuropeGallia Cisalpina: A Different Side of Roman GaulProvincia Gallia Narbonensis: Our ProvinceGallia Aquitania: Home of the Long-haired Gauls; and Gallia Belgica: Conquered by Caesar and Founded by Augustus. and Gallia Lugdunensis: Roman Europe’s Major City West of Italia.

Now it’s time to uncover the last layer within the true Roman province that was once Gallia. Without further ado, today we take a look at Gallia Lugdunensis!

Gallia Lugdunensis (shown in orange)
Gallia Lugdunensis (shown in orange)

Part of the Celtic territory of Gaul formerly known as Gallia Celtica, Gallia Lugdunensis was a Province of the Roman Empire in what is now the modern country of France.

As part of Tres Galliae (Three Gauls) called the Gallia Comata, it extended from the capital of Lugdunum (Lyon) northwest to all the land between the Seine and the Loire Rivers to Brittany and the Atlantic Ocean. Gallia Lugdunensis included a Gallo-Roman town called Lutetia Parisiorum, known today as Paris.

In Pliny‘s time, the Segusiani had the title of Liberi (Free). Greco-Egyptian writer, geographer, mathematician, astronomer and astrologer, Claudius Ptolemy, incorrectly placed Lugdunum among the cities of the Aedui calling it Lugdunum Metropolis.

Commentarii de Bello Gallico

In his firsthand account of the Gallic WarsCommentarii de Bello Gallico, Julius Caesar describes his conquest of Gaul (58–50 BC). Caesar distinguished between Provincia Nostra in the south of Gaul, which already was a Roman Province in his time, and the 3 other parts of Gaul (the territories of the Aquitani, of the Belgae, and of the Galli also known as the Celtae).

The territory of the Galli extended from the rivers Seine and Marne in the north-east, which formed the boundary with Gallia Belgica, to the river Garonne in the south-west, which formed the border with Gallia Aquitania.

Augustus

Under Augustus, Gallia Lugdunensis was created by reducing in size the territory of the Galli. The portion between the river Loire and the Garonne was given to Gallia Aquitania, and central-eastern portions were given to the new province of Germania Superior.

The map shows the extent after these reductions. The date of the creation of Gallia Lugdunensis was either between 27 and 25 BC or between 16 and 13 BC, during Augustus’ visits to Gaul.

The area included most of the region that the Greeks, from their colonies on the Mediterranean coast, had called Celtica. As an Imperial Province, Gallia Lugdunensis was deemed important enough to be governed by an Imperial Legatus.

Gallia Lugdunensis (shown in dark red) amongst the Roman Empire.
Gallia Lugdunensis (shown in dark red) amongst the Roman Empire.

The area of Gallia Lugdunensis was too large and strong to lose its individuality. It was also too rural and too far from the Mediterranean to be Romanized as fully and quickly as neighboring Narbonensis.

Even the Celtic language lingered on in forest districts into the 4th Century AD. Said Celtic language even persisted in Brittany into modern times.

Town life, however, grew as was typical of Romanization. The villages of the tribes became practically, though not officially, municipalities, with many of these towns reached considerable size and contained magnificent public buildings.

Nummus of Diocletian

After Diocletian‘s Tetrarchy (AD 296), it was the major province of a diocese confusingly called Galliae (the Gaul provinces), to which further only the Helvetic, Belgian (both also Celtic) and German provinces belonged. With the dioceses of Viennensis (the southern provinces of Gaul), Britanniae (also Celtic) and Hispaniae (the whole Celt-Iberian peninsula) this formed the Praefectura Praetorio (Praetorian Prefecture) also called Galliae, subordinate to the Western Roman Emperor.

The province effectively ceased to exist in AD 486. This was when the Roman General Syagrius was defeated by the invading Franks.

Asterix and the banquet

The fictional unconquered village from the French comic book Asterix is located here. The comic focuses on Asterix and the Roman conquest of Gaul on the Armorican peninsula (modern Brittany).

Lugdunum was a Roman settlement at the junction of the Arar (Saône) and the Rhodanus (Rhône) for which Gallia Lugdunensis was named. It was in the territory of the Segusiani, who were the neighbors of the Aedui.

Aqueduct of the Gier providing water to Lugdunum.

Lugdunum was possibly Roman Europe’s major city west of Italy, and a major Imperial mint. Outside Lugdunum was the Condate Altar, where representatives of the Three Gauls met to celebrate the cult of Rome and Augustus.

In Strabo’s time Lugdunum was the most populous of the Gallic towns after Narbonne. It was a place of trade, and the Roman Governors had a mint there for coining gold and silver.

Its great commercial prosperity was due to its excellent position, and to the viae (ways) which the Romans constructed in several directions from Lugdunum as a center. The place was entitled Colonia Copia Claudia Augusta Lugdunum on some inscriptions, a name probably given to it in the time of the Emperor Claudius.

Pliny the Younger

In the time of Pliny the Younger there were booksellers at Lugdunum, and Pliny’s works might be got there. The city was destroyed by fire in Seneca‘s time.

Shortly thereafter it was restored through the liberality of the Emperor Nero, to whom the inhabitants of Lugdunum remained faithful when Galba revolted. Lugdunum was plundered and again burnt by the soldiers of Septimius Severus (AD 197), after the defeat of the usurper Clodius Albinus near the city.

It was an important position under the later Empire, but the name only occurs occasionally in the scanty historical notices of that time. When Julian was Governor of Gallia, Lugdunum was near being surprised by a body of Alemanni.

We hope you enjoyed our Gallia finale. We look forward to having you back again soon for our next adventure.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Bunson, Matthew. Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire.

Gaius Julius Caesar (Trans. S.A. Handford). The Conquest of Gaul. Penguin, 1982.

Rines, George Edwin, ed. “Cæsar’s Commentaries“. Encyclopedia Americana, 1920.

Wightman, Edith Mary. Gallia Belgica. University of California Press, 1985.

The Cambridge Ancient History, New Ed., Vol. 10. Cambridge University Press, 1970.

Lugdunensis”. Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Lugdunensis”. Bible-History.com

Toledo, Spain: From Roman Toletum to Modern City

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Because of the extent of the Roman Empire there are lots of towns and cities across modern-day Europe. The foundations laid by Rome still echo greatly today, fortunately for all of us.

With so much history and architecture abound there is no doubt how many places or things have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. If you haven’t done so already, check out the sites that we’ve already covered here.

That being said, today we’re exploring a World Heritage Site we’ve done previously as we head on back to Hispania as we uncover Toledo!toledo-spain

Toledo is a city and municipality located in central Spain, it is the capital of the province of Toledo and the autonomous community of Castile–La Mancha. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 for its extensive cultural and monumental heritage and historical co-existence of Christian, Muslim and Jewish cultures (earning it the nickname the City of the Three Cultures).

An elderly Karl V (also known as Don Carlos I of Spain), ruler of the Holy Roman Empire.
An elderly Karl V (also known as Don Carlos I of Spain), ruler of the Holy Roman Empire.

Known as the Imperial City, Toledo was the main venue of the court of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Toledo has a history in the production of bladed weapons, which are now popular souvenirs of the city.

It was also the place of important historic events such as the Visigothic Councils of Toledo. The town was granted arms in the 16th Century, which by special royal privilege was based on the royal of arms of Spain.

Roman historian Livy made mention of then Toletum as urbs parva, sed loco munita (a small city, but fortified by location). Roman General Marcus Fulvius Nobilior fought a battle near the city in 193 BC against a confederation of Celtic tribes including the Vaccaei, Vettones, and Celtiberi, defeating them and capturing a king called Hilermus.

At that time, Toletum was a city of the Carpetani tribe, and part of the region of Carpetania. It was incorporated into the Roman Empire as a Civitas Stipendaria (a Tributary City of non-citizens).

Later Toletum achieved the full status of Municipium under Flavian. With this status, city officials, even of Carpetani origin, obtained Roman citizenship for public service, and the forms of Roman law and politics were increasingly adopted.

At approximately this time were constructed in ToletumRoman Circus, city walls, public baths, and a municipal water supply and storage system.

Circo Romano
Circo Romano

The Circus of Toletum was one of the largest in Hispania, at 1,388 feet long and 330 feet wide, with a track dimension of 1,339 feet long and 282 feet wide. Capable of holding up to 15,000 spectators, games were held in the Circus into the late 4th and early 5th Centuries AD.

Chariot races were held on special holidays and were also commissioned by private citizens to celebrate career achievements. This is quite an indication of an active city life and ongoing patronage by wealthy elites.

inscriptionA fragmentary stone inscription records Circus games paid for by a citizen of unknown name to celebrate his achieving the Sevirate, a kind of priesthood conferring high status. Archaeologists have also identified portions of a special seat of the sort used by the city elites to attend games, called a Sella Curulis.

During Roman times, Toledo was never a provincial capital nor a Conventus Iuridicus. It started to gain importance in Late Antiquity.

There are indications that large private houses (domus) within the city walls were enlarged, while several large vīllae were built north of the city through the 3rd and 4th Centuries.

A Church Council was held in Toledo in the year 400 to discuss the conflict with Priscillianism. Another Council of Toledo was held in AD 527.

The Visigothic king Theudis was in Toledo in AD 546, where he spread a law. This is strong though not certain evidence that Toledo was the chief residence for Theudis.

King Athanagild died in Toledo around AD 568. Although Theudis and Athanagild based themselves in Toledo, it was not yet the capital city of the Iberian Peninsula, as Theudis and Athanagild’s power was limited in extent.

This changed with Liuvigild (Leovigild), who brought the peninsula under his control. The Visigoths ruled from Toledo until the Moors conquered the Iberian Peninsula in the early years of 8th Century (711–719).

Roman Baths underneath Toledo
Roman Baths underneath Toledo

Today the historic center is pierced of basements, passages, wells, baths and ancient water pipes that since Roman times have been used in the city.

Several Councils of Toledo were held in Toledo under the Visigoths. A synod of Arian bishops was held in 580 to discuss theological reconciliation with Nicene Christianity.

Liuvigild’s successor, Reccared, hosted the Third Council of Toledo, at which the Visigothic kings abandoned Arianism and reconciled with the existing Hispano-Roman Episcopate. A Synod held in AD 610 transferred the metropolitanate of the old province of Carthaginensis from Cartagena to Toledo.

At that time, Cartagena was ruled by the Byzantines, and this move ensured a closer relation between the Bishops of Spain and the Visigothic kings. King Sisebut forced Jews in the Visigothic kingdom to convert to Christianity.

Councils of Toledo
Councils of Toledo

This act was criticized and efforts were made to reverse it at the Fourth Council of Toledo in AD 633. The Fifth and Sixth Councils of Toledo placed church sanctions on anyone who would challenge the Visigothic kings.

The Seventh Council of Toledo instituted a requirement that all Bishops in the area of a royal city (aka Toledo) must reside for 1 month per year in Toledo. This was a stage in “the elevation of Toledo as the primatial see of the whole church of the Visgothic kingdom”.

In addition, the Seventh Council declared that any clergy fleeing the kingdom, assisting conspirators against the king, or aiding conspirators, would be excommunicated and no one should remove this sentence. The ban on lifting these sentences of excommunication was lifted at the Eighth Council of Toledo in AD 653, and, for the first time, decisions were signed by palace officials as well as Bishops.

The Eighth Council of Toledo took measures that enhanced Toledo’s significance as the center of royal power in the Iberian Peninsula, and declared that the election of a new king following the death of the old one should only take place in the royal city or wherever the old king died. The Ninth and Tenth Councils were held in rapid succession in AD 655 and 656.

The Election of Wamba as King, by Francisco de Paula Van Halen.
The Election of Wamba as King, by Francisco de Paula Van Halen.

When Reccesuinth died in 672 at his villa in Gerticos (Wamba), his successor Wamba was elected on the spot, then went to Toledo to be anointed king by the Bishop of Toledo, per Council procedure. Wamba carried out renovation works in Toledo in AD 674-675, marking these with inscriptions above the city gates that are no longer extant but were recorded in the 8th Century.

The Eleventh Council of Toledo was held in AD 675 under king Wamba. Wamba weakened the power of the Bishop of Toledo by creating a new bishopric outside Toledo at the Church of Saints Peter and Paul.

This was one of the main churches of Toledo and was the church where Wamba was anointed king, and the church from which Visigothic kings departed for war after special ceremonies in which they were presented with a relic of the True Cross. By creating a new bishopric there, Wamba removed power over royal succession from the Bishop of Toledo and granted it to the new bishop.

The Twelfth Council of Toledo was held in 681 after Wamba’s removal from office. Convinced that he was dying, Wamba had accepted a state of penitence that made him ineligible to remain king.

Saint Julian of Toledo
Saint Julian of Toledo

The Twelfth Council, led by newly installed Bishop Julian confirmed the validity of Wamba’s removal from office and his succession by Ervig. The Twelfth Council eliminated the new bishopric that Wamba had created and returned the powers over succession to the Bishop of Toledo.

The ThirteenthFourteenth, and Fifteenth Councils of Toledo were held in 683, 684, and 688. The Thirteenth Council restored property and legal rights to those who had rebelled against King Wamba in 673.

In 687, Ervig took the penitent state before dying, and the kingship passed to Egica, who was anointed king in Toledo on November 24. In 688, the Fifteenth Council lifted the ban on taking property from the families of former kings, whereupon Egica was able to plunder Ervig’s family properties.

In the late 7th Century, Toledo became a main center of literacy and writing in the Iberian Peninsula. Toledo’s development as a center of learning was influenced by Isidore of Seville, an author and advocate of literacy who attended several church councils in Toledo.

The Royal Library of Toledo
The Royal Library of Toledo

King Chindasuinth had a royal library in Toledo, and at least one Count called Laurentius had a private library. Sometime before 651, Chindasuinth sent the Bishop of Zaragoza, Taio, to Rome to obtain books that were not available in Toledo.

Taio obtained, at least, parts of Pope Gregory‘s Moralia. The library also contained a copy of a Hexameron by Dracontius, which Chindasuinth liked so much that he commissioned Eugenius II to revise it by adding a new part dealing with the 7th day of creation.

Chindasuinth issued laws that were gathered together in a book called Liber Iudiciorum by his successor Reccesuinth in 654. This book was revised twice, widely copied, and was an important influence on medieval Spanish law.

Three Bishops of Toledo wrote works that were widely copied and disseminated in western Europe and parts of which survive to this day: Eugenius IIIldefonsus, and Julian. “In intellectual terms the leading Spanish churchmen of the seventh century had no equals before the appearance of Bede.”

Sketch of Old Toledo
Sketch of Old Toledo

In 693, the Sixteenth Council of Toledo condemned Sisebert, Julian’s successor as Bishop of Toledo, for having rebelled against King Egica in alliance with Liuvigoto, the widow of king Ervig. A rebel king called Suniefred seized power in Toledo briefly at about this time.

Whether or not Sisebert’s and Suniefred’s rebellions were the same or separate is unknown. Suniefred is known only from having minted coins in Toledo during what should have been Egica’s reign.

The Seventeenth Council of Toledo was held in 694. The Eighteenth Council of Toledo, the last one, took place shortly after Egica’s death around 702 or 703.

By the end of the seventh century the bishop of Toledo was the leader of the Spanish bishops, a situation unusual in Europe. The metropolitan Bishops of Toledo had achieved by the last quarter of the 7th Century an authority and a primacy that was unique in Western Europe, which not even the Pope could count on such support from neighboring metropolitans.

Toledo had been matched by no other city in western Europe outside Italy as the governmental and symbolic center of a powerful monarchy. Rising from relative obscurity, Toledo became the permanent governmental center of the Visigothic monarchy and a true capital, whose only equivalent in western Europe was Lombard Pavia.

The Arab general Muza ibn Nusayr whipping his deputy Tarik for disobeying his orders during the conquest of Andalucia and Extremadura.
The Arab general Muza ibn Nusayr whipping his deputy Tarik for disobeying his orders during the conquest of Andalucia and Extremadura.

When Wittiza died around 710, Ruderic became Visigothic king in Toledo, but the kingdom was split, as a rival king Achila ruled Tarraconensis and Narbonensis. Meanwhile, Arabic and Berber troops under Musa ibn Nusayr had conquered Tangiers and Ceuta between AD 705 and 710, and commenced raids into the Visigothic kingdom in 711.

Ruderic led an army to confront the raiders, but was defeated and killed in battle. Apparently this happened due to a betrayal by Visigothic nobles who wished to replace him as king, and who did not consider the Arabs and Berbers a serious threat.

The commander of the invading forces was Tariq bin Ziyad, a Luwata Berber freedman in the service of governor Musa. Tariq, seizing the opportunity presented by the death of Ruderic and the internal divisions of the Visigothic nobles, captured Toledo, in 711 or 712.

The city of Toledo as depicted in the Codex Vigilanus in 976.
The city of Toledo as depicted in the Codex Vigilanus in 976.

Governor Musa disembarked in Cádiz and proceeded to Toledo, where he executed numerous Visigothic nobles, thus destroying much of the Visigothic power structure. Since the king was chosen in or around Toledo, by nobles based in Toledo, and had to be anointed king by the Bishop of Toledo in a church in Toledo, when Tariq captured Toledo and executed the Visigothic nobles, having already killed the king, there was no opposition for Tariq to take over.

Alfonso VI in Seville's Plaza de España despicting the conquest of Toledo in 1085.
Alfonso VI in Seville’s Plaza de España despicting the conquest of Toledo in 1085.

On 25 May 1085, Alfonso VI of León and Castile took Toledo and established direct personal control over the Moorish city from which he had been exacting tribute, ending the medieval Taifa‘s Kingdom of Toledo. This was the first concrete step taken by the combined Kingdom of LeónCastile in the Reconquista by Christian forces.

After Castilian conquest, Toledo continued to be a major cultural center. Its Arab libraries were not pillaged, and a tag-team translation center was established in which books in Arabic or Hebrew would be translated into Castilian by Muslim and Jewish scholars, and from Castilian into Latin by Castilian scholars, thus letting long-lost knowledge spread through Christian Europe again.

Toledo served as the capital city of Castile intermittently, since Castile did not have a permanent capital, from 1085 and the city flourished. Charles I of Spain’s court was set in Toledo, serving as the imperial capital.

Portrait of King Philip II of Spain, in Gold-Embroidered Costume with Order of the Golden Fleece, about 1554 by Titian.
Portrait of King Philip II of Spain, in Gold-Embroidered Costume with Order of the Golden Fleece, about 1554 by Titian.

However, in 1561, in the first years of his son Philip II of Spain reign, the Spanish court was moved to Madrid, thus letting the city’s importance dwindle until the late 20th Century, when it became the capital of the autonomous community of Castile–La Mancha.

Nevertheless, the economic decline of the city helped to preserve its cultural and architectural heritage. Today, because of this rich heritage, Toledo is one of Spain’s foremost cities, receiving thousands of visitors yearly.

During the persecution of the Jews in the late 15th and early 16th Centuries, members of the Jewish community of Toledo produced texts on their long history in Toledo. It was at this time that Don Isaac Abrabanel, a prominent Jewish figure in Spain in the 15th Century and one of the king’s trusted courtiers who witnessed the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, wrote that Toledo was named Ṭulayṭulah by its first Jewish inhabitants.

The Jewish community in 1300.
The Jewish community in 1300.

Abrabanel stated Jews had settled in Toledo during the 5th Century BC, and may have been related to its Hebrew cognate of wandering, on account of their wandering from Jerusalem. Furthermore, Abrabanel said that the original name of the city was Pirisvalle, so-called by its early pagan inhabitants.

However, there is no archaeological or historical evidence for a Jewish presence in this region prior to the time of the Roman Empire. When the Romans originally wrote about Toledo it was a Celtic city, with no mentions of Jews.

Toledo has been a traditional sword-making, steel-working center since about 500 BC, and came to the attention of Rome when used by Hannibal in the Punic Wars. Soon, it became a standard source of weaponry for Roman Legions.

Toledo steel was famed for its very high quality alloy, whereas Damascene steel, a competitor from the Middle Ages on, was famed for a specific metal-working technique.

Swords and Armor in Toledo
Swords and Armor in Toledo

Today there is a significant trade, and many shops offer all kinds of swords to their customers, whether historical or modern films swords, as well as medieval armors and from other times, which are also exported to other countries.

The Puente de Alcántara is a Roman arch bridge in Toledo spanning the Tagus River. The word Alcántara comes from Arabic (al-qanţarah) meaning bridge.

Elevated view of the Puente Alcantara
Elevated view of the Puente Alcantara

Located at the feet of the Castillo de San Servando, it was built by the Romans after they founded the city. In the Middle Ages it was one of the few entrances for pilgrims into the city, and was declared a national cultural monument in 1921.

Don Quixote de la Mancha and Sancho Panza, 1863, by Gustave Doré.
Don Quixote de la Mancha and Sancho Panza, 1863, by Gustave Doré.

To mark the 400th Anniversary of the publication of the first part of Don Quixote, the Council of Communities of Castile–La Mancha designed a series of routes through the region crossing the various points cited in the novel. Known as the Route of Don Quixote, 2 of the pathways designated (sections 1 and 8) are based in Toledo.

Those linking the city with La Mancha Castile and Montes de Toledo exploit the natural route which passes through the Cigarrales and heads to Cobisa, Nambroca Burguillos of Toledo, where it takes the Camino Real from Sevilla to suddenly turn towards Mascaraque Almonacid de Toledo, deep into their surroundings, near Mora, in La Mancha.

Camino de Santiago
Camino de Santiago

This stretch, Mascaraque-Toledo, of the Route of Don Quixote has recently been included in an official way on the Camino de Santiago in Levantine branch with origins in Cartagena, Alicante and Valencia, as both routes are declared a European Cultural Route on this stretch.

toledoWe realize this was more of a historical journey than one exploring the present city of Toledo, but we hope you enjoyed it nonetheless. Be sure to stop by again for you never know what’s next to uncover.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Collins, Roger. Visigothic Spain. Blackwell, 2004.

Kulikowski, Michael. Late Roman Spain and Its Cities. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.

LivyHistory of Rome.

Richardson, John S. The Romans in Spain. Blackwell, 1996.