The Twelve Tasks of Asterix

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Recently we ventured from Rome across the Alps and into Gallia, where we discovered Roman Gaul: Paving the Way for Modern Europe. We then took an animated journey with Asterix the Gaul!

Today we continue to follow the exploits of Asterix the Gaul as we watch The Twelve Tasks of Asterix!

After a group of Legionaries is once again beaten up by the Gauls, they imagine: “With such huge strength, they can’t be human… they must be gods“.

ulius Caesar is informed, and laughs. He makes a decision with his council and goes to Armorica, to speak with Vitalstatistix. He gives the Gauls a series of 12 tasks, inspired by Hercules (but new ones, since the 12 Labours are outdated).

Vitalstatistix assembles their best warriors, Asterix and Obelix, to do the job. The Roman Caius Tiddlus is sent along with them to guide them and check they complete each task.

If you do not care to watch the film, yet are still interested to know what the Twelve Tasks are then click here.

We hope you enjoyed today’s animated journey and look forward to having you back soon. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Segedunum: The End of the Line

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Last week we looked at Gateshead: A Modern City With Ancient Beginnings. We are continuing our tour of Britannia and the towns & fortifications along Hadrian’s Wall.

Today we head back to Britannia to explore the Roman settlement of Segedunum!

How Segedunum would have looked.
How Segedunum would have looked.

Segedunum was a Roman fort at modern-day WallsendTyne and WearEngland. The fort lay at the eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall (in Wallsend) near the banks of the River Tyne, forming the easternmost portion of the wall.

It was in use as a garrison for approximately 300 years, almost up to 400AD. Today, Segedunum is the most thoroughly excavated fort along Hadrian’s Wall, and is operated as Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum.

Hadrian's Wall at Segedunum
Hadrian’s Wall at Segedunum

The central section of Hadrian’s Wall was erected atop the Whin Sill, a geological formation that offers a natural topographic defense against invaders or immigrants from the north. However at the eastern end of the wall, the main topographic defense was the River Tyne itself, and the very final stretch of the wall ran down from Segedunum fort to the river’s edge.

Remains of the eastern extremity of Hadrian's Wall.
Remains of the eastern extremity of Hadrian’s Wall.

In the Roman Empire, 5 places named Segedunum were known to have existed (1 each in Britannia and Germania and 3 in Gallia). The first element of the name is attested widely in Gaul, Spain, Germany and Italy, and derives from the Indo-European root segh-, which is reflected in various later European languages with similar meanings (Irish seg-,segh- “strength, vigor”; Welsh hy- “daring, bold”; German Sieg “victory”).

As applied to place names, it appears to have had the meaning of “place of strength” or “place of victory”. The subsequent element, -dunum, is a Celtic term widely attested across Britain and Gaul and typically meant a fort. Thus Segedunum probably had the meaning of “strong fort” or “victory fort”.

The name Wallsend comes from Segedunum being at the easternmost end of Hadrian’s Wall. The westernmost end of the wall is at Bowness-on-Solway.

Page from a medieval copy of the Notitia Dignitatum.
Page from a medieval copy of the Notitia Dignitatum.

The name Segedunum is known from the Notitia Dignitatum of the 4th Century, but there is no consensus on its meaning. The various speculations include being derivative of the Celtic words sego (strength) and dunum (fortified place); Romano-British Segedunum (Strong-fort); and Celtic sechdun (dry hill).

The Roman wall originally terminated at Pons Aelius (Newcastle upon Tyne). Work began at Pons Aelius in AD 122 and proceeded towards the west.

Subsequently, in about AD 127, the wall was extended further east. It has been hypothesized that the extension was to protect the river crossing at Pons Aelius, but this is only speculation.

A 4-mile section of the wall east from the fort of Pons Aelius, passing through present-day Byker and ending at the new fort of Segedunum was built. The new section of wall was narrower than the sections previously built, being 7 feet 6 inches on a foundation of 8 feet.

Model of Segedunum
Model of Segedunum

Unlike the rest of the wall, the extension had no vallum. The fort measured 453 feet from north to south and 393 feet from east to west, covering an area of 4.1 acres.

A wide ditch and an earth embankment surrounded the fort on all sides. It had 4 double gates with the east, west and north gates opening outside the wall and only the south gate opening within the wall.

The wall joined to the west wall of the fort just south of the west gate. From the southeast angle of the fort, a 6 feet 6 inches wide wall ran down to the riverbank and extended at least as far as the low water level.

There is evidence that there was an extensive vicus (village surrounding the fort), including the area to the north of the wall.

Roman re-enactors at the Fort.
Roman re-enactors at the Fort.

The original garrison of Segedunum is unknown, but in the 2nd Century the II Nerviorum (2nd Cohort of Nervians) was stationed there. In the 3rd and 4th Centuries the part-mounted IV Lingonum Eq (4th Cohort of the Lingones) occupied the fort, as recorded in the Notitia Dignitatum.

Roman Cavalry
Roman Cavalry

Both units were 600 strong (120 Cavalry and 480 Legionary).

Sometime round about AD 400 the fort was abandoned. For centuries the area remained as open farmland.

Then, in the 18th Century, collieries were sunk near the fort and the area gradually became a populous pit village. Eventually, in 1884, the whole fort disappeared under terraced housing.

Outline of the Fort
Outline of the Fort

In 1929 some excavations were carried out which recorded the outline of the fort, and the local authority marked out this outline in white paving stones. In the 1970s the terraced houses covering the site were demolished.

A section of Hadrian’s Wall was excavated and a reconstruction built in the early 1990s. The Segedunum project began in January 1997 with a series of excavations in and around the Fort.

Reconstructed Bathhouse
Reconstructed Bathhouse

The project then incorporated the construction of the bath house and the conversion of former Swan Hunter shipyard buildings to house the new museum. Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths & Museum opened to the public in June 2000.

The site of the fort now contains the excavated remains of the buildings’ foundation of the original fort, as well as a reconstructed Roman military bathhouse based on excavated examples at Vindolanda and Chesters forts.

Observation Tower
Observation Tower

A museum contains items of interest that were found when the site was excavated, and a large observation tower overlooks the site. A portion of the original wall is visible across the street from the museum, and a reconstruction of what the whole wall might have looked like.

There may have been a statue or monument to mark the very end of Hadrian’s Wall, but if there ever was, it no longer exists. The North Tyneside Council provided accommodation in the newly built Battle Hill Estate for the owners of all the houses demolished when the site was cleared.

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure as we completed our journey across the towns and forts that made up Hadrian’s Wall. Check us out again soon and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Bruce, J. Collingwood. Handbook to the Roman Wall. Harold Hill & Son, 1863. ISBN 0-85983-140-X.

Chamberlin, R. “Hadrian’s Wallsend”. History Today, Volume: 50 Issue: 8. August 2000.

Graham, Frank. Roman Wall, Comprehensive History and Guide (1979). ISBN 0-85983-177-9.

Hogan, C. Michael. “Hadrian’s Wall”The Megalithic Portal, 2007.

Koch, J.T. Celtic CultureISBN 1-85109-440-7.

Rivet, A.L.F.  & Smith, Colin. The Place-Names of Roman Britain. Princeton University Press, 1979. ISBN 0-691-03953-4.

Wainwright, M. “Togas and hot tubs on the Roman way“. The Guardian, 13 June 2000.

The line of Hadrian’s Wall as it exists today Pg1 Segedunum to Pons Aelius

History of Segedunum

Segedunum official site (2007)

“Segedunum: History”, Hadrian’s Wall website

“Segedunum”, roman-britain.org

Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum – official site

Tower of Hercules: Lighting the Night Sky for Close to a Millennia

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Through our many adventures we have crisscrossed Europe and the Middle East. From Britannia to Constantinople and from Dacia to Egypt, we have explored the vastness that was the Imperium Rōmānum.

Throughout the journeys we have uncovered everything from Roman Laws to people of interest to historic places. As we carry on, it’s time to take a closer look at an item that was made for a Roman deity and hero.

For today’s adventure we’re off to Hispania as we uncover the Tower of Hercules!

The Tower of Hercules - Coastal View
The Tower of Hercules – Coastal View

Before we explore the edifice, let’s take a brief look at this Roman hero, Hercules.

Hercules is the Roman name for the Greek divine hero Heracles, who was the son of Zeus (Roman equivalent Jupiter) and the mortal Alcmene. In classical mythology, Hercules is famous for his strength and for his numerous far-ranging adventures.

Hercules of the Forum Boarium (Hellenistic, 2nd Century BC)
Hercules of the Forum Boarium (Hellenistic, 2nd Century BC)

The Romans adapted the Greek hero’s iconography and myths for their literature and art under the name Hercules. In later Western art and literature and in popular culture, Hercules is more commonly used than Heracles as the name of the hero.

Hercules was a multifaceted figure with contradictory characteristics, which enabled later artists and writers to pick and choose how to represent him. Known for his many adventures, one of which became canonical as the “Twelve Labours” took him to the far reaches of the Greco-Roman world.

Needless to say, Hercules had a reputation anywhere that Roman Latin or Greek was spoken. This leads us to Hispania and the Tower of Hercules.

Known in Galician and Spanish as el Torre de Hércules, this ancient Roman lighthouse stands on a peninsula about 1.5 mi from the center of A CoruñaGalicia, in north-western Spain. The almost 1900 year old structure is the oldest Roman lighthouse in use today, and also the oldest existing lighthouse in the world.

towerUntil the 20th Century, the 180 ft tall tower was known by the Latin Farum Brigantium. The Latin word Farum is derived from the Greek pharos for the Lighthouse of Alexandria.

The Tower of Hercules is a National Monument of Spain, and it is the 2nd tallest lighthouse in Spain, after the Faro de Chipiona. Since 27 June 2009 it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the nearby sculpture garden featuring works by Pablo Serrano and Francisco Leiro.

Built or perhaps rebuilt under Trajan, The tower is known to have existed by the 2nd Century AD. The foundations of which are possibly based on a design that was Phoenician in origin.

Solid bronze gate with relief
Solid bronze gate with relief

At its base is preserved the cornerstone with the inscription MARTI AUG.SACR C.SEVIVS LVPVS ARCHTECTVS AEMINIENSIS LVSITANVS.EX.VO, permitting the original lighthouse tower to be ascribed to the architect Gaius Sevius Lupus, from Aeminium (present-day CoimbraPortugal) in the former province of Lusitania, as an offering dedicated to Mars.

The earliest known reference to the lighthouse at Brigantium is by Paulus Orosius in Historiae adversum Paganos written around 415-417:

Secundus angulus circium intendit, ubi Brigantia Gallaeciae civitas sita altissimum farum et inter pauca memorandi operis ad speculam Britanniae erigit (At the second angle of the circuit circumnavigating Hispania], where the Gallaecian city of Brigantia is sited, a very tall lighthouse is erected among a few commemorative works, for looking towards Britannia.)

Plan and elevation from Joseph Cornide (1792)
Plan and elevation from Joseph Cornide (1792)

In 1788, the original 112 ft, 3-story tower was given a neoclassical restoration, including a new 69 ft fourth story. The restoration was undertaken by naval engineer Eustaquio Giannini during the reign of Charles III of Spain, and was finished in 1791.

The Romans who conquered this region of Spain believed it to be, in a figurative sense, the end of the earth, whence its name Finisterra. This region is notorious for shipwrecks, earning it the name Costa da Morte (Coast of Death).

Through the millennia, many mythical stories of the tower’s origin have been told. According to a myth that blends Celtic and Greco-Roman elements, the hero Hercules slew the giant tyrant Geryon after 3 days and 3 nights of continuous battle.

The Tower of Hercules in the Coat of Arms of Corunna
The Tower of Hercules in the Coat of Arms of Corunna

Hercules then, in a Celtic gesture, buried the head of Geryon with his weapons and ordered that a city be built on the site. The lighthouse was set atop a skull and crossbones representing the buried head of Hercules’ slain enemy appears in the coat-of-arms of the city of Corunna.

Another legend embodied in the 11th Century Irish compilation Lebor Gabála Érenn, the Book of Invasions, King Breogán, the founding father of the Galician Celtic nation, constructed a massive tower of such a grand height that his sons could see a distant green shore from its top. The glimpse of that distant green land lured them to sail north to Ireland.

According to the legend, Breogán’s descendants stayed in Ireland and are the Celtic ancestors of the current Irish people. A colossal statue of Breogán has been erected near the Tower.

Breogán and the Tower of Hercules
Breogán and the Tower of Hercules

Early geographical descriptions on the location of Brigantium point out that the town could be actually located in Corunna or in the locality of the modern town of Betanzos. Both in literary accounts as well as in maps, the people from Betanzos claim Brigantium as the founding city and they also believe that the name Betanzos is a phonetical evolution from Brigantium > Breganzo > Betanzos.

The Betanzos tradition claims that the port of Betanzos was getting too small for the larger medieval ships, and that king Alfonso IX of León decided to create a bigger port nearby in the 13th Century. The place he chose was an uninhabited place called Clunia, which later on evolved to Cruña and Coruña, and the place name Clunia is believed to come from the Proto-Celtic root *klou̯ni (cf. Old Irish cluain), meaning meadow.

However, the Coruña tradition maintains that the “port” of Betanzos was way too small for the Roman warships to dock, for example when Julius Caesar visited this area with “more than a hundred trirēmis“. It is demonstrated that Corunna was an important Roman site, as graveyards and other Roman remains have been found in the city center, demonstrating that the site was inhabited from the Roman period the early Middle Ages.

In the left, one of the windows. In the right, the small spiral staircase to reach the last section before the lantern to the outside.
In the left, one of the windows. In the right, the small spiral staircase to reach the last section before the lantern to the outside.

The proponents of Corunna also explain the different name as a change that occurred in the Middle Ages, and point out the fact that the lighthouse, which was called Pharum Brigantium, is placed in Corunna, and at least 16 mi walking distance or a whole day’s journey, from Betanzos.

A medieval watchtower in Segovia also bears the name “Tower of Hercules”.

The results of the excavations of 2009, with the remnants of the base of old exterior wall.
The results of the excavations of 2009, with the remnants of the base of old exterior wall.

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure as we uncovered the world’s oldest lighthouse. Check us out again soon and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Official website

Torredeherculesacoruna.com

Tower of Hercules Visitor Services and Interpretive Center (in English)

UNESCO website

Documentos para estudiar la Torre de Hércules” (in Spanish).

Historical timeline of the Tower of Brigantia”. Galician Flag.

Three Roman Women Show Their Faces for the First Coruñeses”. Que! 19 November 2008.

Torre de Hércules” (in English). Universidade da Coruña.

Tower of Hercules in Segovia”.  Segovia Mint.

Historic Walled Town of Cuenca

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s time to take a look at another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today we’re staying in Hispania as we explore the Historic Walled Town of Cuenca!

Built by the Moors in a defensive position at the heart of the Caliphate of Cordoba, Cuenca is an unusually well-preserved medieval fortified city. Conquered by the Castilians in the 12th Century, it became a royal town and bishopric endowed with important buildings, such as Spain’s first Gothic cathedral, and the famous casas colgadas (hanging houses), suspended from sheer cliffs overlooking the Huécar River.

Taking full advantage of its location, the city towers above the magnificent countryside.

We hope you enjoyed today’s trip and look forward to having you back. Make sure to tell your friends and family about us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Horses of Saint Mark: A Triumphal Quadriga That Traveled

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

If you are like me, then you are a fan of author Dan Brown and his works regarding Harvard Professor Robert Langdon. Having just finished reading Inferno, I am about to go see the movie of the same name.

The book focuses a lot on Florence, but also touches down in Venice. It is the latter location in which we travel to examine a piece of art so amazing that world leaders have stolen it to show their power.

Today we explore the Horses of Saint Mark!outside

The Horses of Saint Mark, also known as the Triumphal Quadriga, is a set of Roman bronze statues of 4 Friesian horses, originally part of a monument depicting a quadriga (a 4-horse carriage used for chariot racing). These 13 foot tall horses were placed on the facade, on the loggia above the porch, of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice, northern Italy after the sack of Constantinople in 1204.

The sculptures date from classical antiquity and have been implausibly attributed to the 4th Century BC Greek sculptor Lysippos, but a date in the 2nd or 3rd Century AD is considered far more probable. The famous Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius in Rome (c. 175 AD) provides a point of comparison.

Septimius Severus (Capitoline Museum)
Septimius Severus (Capitoline Museum)

They were probably created to top a Triumphal Arch (like the Arch of Trajan in Rome) or some other grand building, perhaps commissioned by the Emperor Septimus Severus. They may originally have been made for the Eastern capital of Constantinople, and certainly reached there later.

Although called bronze, analysis suggests that they should be seen as an impure copper (as they are at least 96.67% copper) rather than bronze. The high purity copper was chosen to give a more satisfactory mercury gilding.

Hippodrome of Constantinople
Hippodrome of Constantinople

It is certain that the horses, along with the quadriga with which they were depicted, were long displayed at the Hippodrome of Constantinople. The horses may be the “four gilt horses that stand above the Hippodrome” that “came from the island of Chios under Theodosius II” mentioned in the 8th or early 9th Century Parastaseis syntomoi chronikai (brief historical notes).

The Third Crusade had failed abjectly, and in Western Europe there was little stomach for another go at the Muslims, now firmly in control of the Levant, including Jerusalem and much of the adjacent territory.

The Fourth Crusade saw what might be termed one of the great detours in world military history. Pope Innocent III had become Pope in 1198, and immediately started to preach for a Fourth Crusade (which got underway in October 1202).

Crusaders leaving Venice for the Holy Land
Crusaders leaving Venice for the Holy Land

A largely French force, but also crucially comprising a significant Venetian contingent, set out from Venice for Cairo in Egypt, intending to invest Jerusalem overland through Egypt. Fewer Crusaders than expected had turned up in Venice, whose merchants and bankers had expended a large amount of money and effort preparing for a much larger army.

Venice expected a significant return on its investment. Venice insisted on payment up front of the princely sum of 85,000 silver marks, which the Crusaders only partially managed by beggaring themselves.

Alexios III Angelos
Alexios III Angelos

The result was that when the Crusade sailed, the Venetians were feeling decidedly out of pocket. A displaced prince of Constantinople, Alexius Angelis, seized the opportunity presented by the presence of a large but strapped-for-cash army, and offered money, transport, knights, and control of the Greek Orthodox Church if the Crusaders would but place him back on the Byzantine throne in Constantinople.

So the Crusade detoured to Constantinople. The Venetian transports arrived off Constantinople in late June 1203, with the Crusaders finally entering the city on 13 April 1204.

Capture of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade
Capture of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade

After a siege of many months, the horses were looted by Venetian forces as part of the sack of the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Doge Enrico Dandolo wanted these coveted horses back in Venice to show the Republic’s, and his, power.

To allow them to be transported from Constantinople to Venice, the animals’ heads had supposedly been severed, thus collars were added upon arrival in Venice to obscure said cuts. Once the horses had been deemed ready they were installed on the terrace of the façade of St Mark’s Basilica in 1254.

Portrait of the Four Tetrarchs
Portrait of the Four Tetrarchs

The Triumphal Quadriga was, of course, not the only things taken from Constantinople by the Venetians during the Crusade. Also ending up in Venice were the Portrait of the Four Tetrarchs, built into a corner of the Basilica of San Marco, adjacent to the Porta della Carta.

The Basilica had been consecrated in 1094, and the consciously Byzantine-style of the building reflected the favored status Venice had long enjoyed in its dealings with the Byzantine Empire. Venice was given the title “favorite daughter of Byzantium” in 1000 by Basil II, as such the Venetians’ prided themselves in possessing an edifice which shared the same magnificent architectural design as the ancient basilicas of the Twelve Apostles and of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.

The fall of Venice followed on from the plundering of Rome. There was no frontal attack, but rather Napoleon engineered the rebellion of a number of subject cities on the mainland against their Venetian masters, and the Great Council of Venice finally voted itself into extinction.

The horses remained in Venice until looted by Napoleon in 1797. On Napoleon’s orders, the Four Horses were forcibly removed from the basilica and carried off to France.

They were initially housed in Les Invalides. The horses were next placed on gate piers guarding the entrance to the Tuileries before they finally were used in the design of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel together with a quadriga.

arc-de-triomphe
Arc de Triomphe today with replacement horses

In 1815 the horses were returned to Venice by Captain Dumaresq. Having fought at the Battle of Waterloo and being with the allied forces in Paris, Dumaresq was selected by the Emperor of Austria to take the horses down from the Arc de Triomphe and return them back to St Mark’s in Venice.

For the skillful manner in which he performed this work the Emperor gave Dumaresq a gold snuff box with his initials in diamonds on the lid.

sketchIn addition, Francis Henry Taylor notes in his 1948 book, The Taste of Angels, that the marble facing and incrustation was pried off the exterior of Hagia Sophia to be used as ballast in the Venetian ships before being becoming decoration on the basilica.

The horses remained in place over St Mark’s until the early 1980s, when the ongoing damage from growing air pollution forced their replacement with exact copies. Since then, the originals have been removed from the facade and placed in the interior of St Mark’s for conservation purposes, with replicas in their position on the loggia.

Original Horses
Original Horses

Like many artefacts in museums around the World, the St Mark’s Horses are not simply exquisite objects from a distant past to be admired. They have played an active, symbolic role in Europe’s changing political landscape which make artifacts like these all the more interesting.

st-marks-basilica
St Mark’s Basilica

We hope you enjoyed today’s look at some stunning horses. Hopefully they’ve seen the last of their travels and will retire in Venice in peace.

Till next time Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Anon. The Horses of San Marco Thames and Hudson (an English translation of a 1977 Venetian city government publication).

Arthur, Judge. The Four Horses Rest Inside St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice after Being Plundered from Constantinople in the 13th century. Association For Research Into Crimes Against Art (ARCA). 6 June 2011.

Boissier, Henry. A History of The Boissier-Scobell Families, 1933.

Dowson, Thomas. The Horses of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. Archaeology Travel.com.Henig, Martin (ed), A Handbook of Roman Art, p. 95, Phaidon, 1983, ISBN 0714822140

Houpt, Simon. Museum of the Missing: A history of Art Theft. Sterling Publishing Co,. Inc. p. 32. ISBN 1402728298. Retrieved 18 September 2014.

Byzantium 1200 Hippodrome Boxes

Gallia Cisalpina: A Different Side of Roman Gaul

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

We all know the vastness of what was the Roman Empire. It was so vast that the Empire held large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, Africa and Asia.

Having already taken a look at Roman Gaul last week, we explored Roman Gaul: Paving the Way for Modern Europe. We thought it was time to take a closer look at this expansive mainland region and see just how Rome managed.

Please join us today as we explore Gallia Cisalpina!

Map of Cisalpine Gaul (1608)
Map of Cisalpine Gaul (1608)

Gallia Cisalpina literally means “Gaul hither side of the Alps” (from the perspective of the Romans). This was opposed to Transalpine Gaul (Gaul on the far side of the Alps).

Cisalpine Gaul (Gallia Cisalpina), also called Gallia Citerior or Gallia Togata, was the part of Italy inhabited by Celts (Gauls) during the 4th and 3rd Centuries BC. Conquered by the Roman Republic in the 220s BC, it was a Roman Provincia from c. 81 BC until 42 BC, when it was merged into Roman Italy.

Gallia Cisalpina was further subdivided into Gallia Cispandana and Gallia Transpadana (portions south and north of the Po River, respectively). The Roman province of the 1st Century BC was bounded on the north and west by the Alps, in the south as far as Placentia by the River Po, and then by the Apennines and the Rubicon, and in the east by the Adriatic Sea.

Roman Italia (in green) as organized by Augustus
Roman Italia (in green) as organized by Augustus

In 49 BC all inhabitants of Cisalpine Gaul received Roman citizenship. Eventually the Provincia was divided among 4 of the 11 Regions of ItalyRegio VIII Gallia CispadanaRegio IX LiguriaRegio X Venetia et Histria and Regio XI Gallia Transpadana.

The Canegrate culture (13th Century BC) may represent the principal migratory wave of the proto-Celtic population from the northwest part of the Alps that, through the Alpine passes, penetrated and settled in the western Po Valley between Lake Maggiore and Lake Como (Scamozzina culture). They brought a new funerary practice, cremation, which supplanted inhumation.

Tumulus Culture
Tumulus Culture

It has also been proposed that a more ancient proto-Celtic presence can be traced back to the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age (XVI-XV Century BC), when North Western Italy appears closely linked regarding the production of bronze artifacts, including ornaments, to the western groups of the Tumulus culture. The bearers of the Canegrate culture maintained its homogeneity for only a century, after which it melded with the Ligurian aboriginal populations and with this union gave rise to a new phase called the Golasecca culture, which is nowadays identified with the Celtic Lepontii.

Livy has the Insubres, led by Bellovesus, arrive in northern Italy during the reign of Tarquinius Priscus (7th – 6th Century BC), occupying the area between Milan (Mediolanum) and Cremona (Cenomani). Polybius in the 2nd Century BC wrote about co-existence of the Celts in northern Italy with Etruscan nations in the period before the Sack of Rome in 390 BC.

Ligures
Ligures

The Ligures of the Northern Mediterranean Coast straddling South-east French and North-west Italian coasts, including parts of TuscanyElba Island and Corsica, were tribes also present in Latium and in Samnium. According to Plutarch they called themselves Ambrones, which could indicate a relationship with the Ambrones of northern Europe.

The Veneti were an Indo-European people who inhabited north-eastern Italy, in an area corresponding to the modern-day region of the Veneto. By the 4th Century BC the Veneti had been so Celticized that Polybius wrote that the Veneti of the 2nd Century BC were now identical to the Gauls, except for language.

Battle of the Allia
Battle of the Allia

In 391 BC, Celts “who had their homes beyond the Alps, streamed through the passes in great strength and seized the territory that lay between the Apennine Mountains and the Alps” according to Diodorus Siculus. The Roman Army was routed in the Battle of Allia, and Rome was sacked in 390 BC by the Senones.

The defeat of the combined Samnite, Celtic and Etruscan alliance by the Romans in the Third Samnite War ending in 290 BC sounded the beginning of the end of the Celtic domination in mainland Europe. At the Battle of Telamon in 225 BC, a large Celtic army was trapped, and summarily crushed, between 2 Roman forces.

In the Second Punic War, the Boii and Insubres allied themselves with the Carthaginians, laying siege to Mutina (Modena). In response, Rome sent an expedition led by L. Manlius Vulso with the Senate ordered Scipio with an additional force to provide support.

Battle of Ticinus
Battle of Ticinus

These were the Roman forces encountered by Hannibal after his crossing of the Alps. The Romans were defeated in the Battle of the Ticinus, leading to all the Gauls except for the Cenomani to join the insurgency.

Rome then sent the soldiers of Tiberius Sempronius Longus who engaged Hannibal in the Battle of the Trebia. This also resulted in a Roman defeat, forcing Rome to temporarily abandon Gallia Cisalpina altogether.

Battle of Zama by Cornelis Cort (1567)
Battle of Zama by Cornelis Cort (1567)

The Romans returned only after the defeat of Carthage in 202 BC. Rome conquered the last remaining independent Celtic kingdom in Italy in 192 BC.

Sometimes referred to as Gallia Citerior (Hither Gaul), Provincia Ariminum, or Gallia Togata (Toga-wearing Gaul, indicating the region’s early Romanization). Gallia Transpadana denoted that part of Cisalpine Gaul between the Padus (now the Po River) and the Alps, while Gallia Cispadana was the part to the south of the river.

Probably officially established around 81 BC, the province was governed from Mutina. Here, in 73 BC, forces under Spartacus defeated the Legio of Provincial Governor Gaius Cassius Longinus.

The Rubicon River marked its southern boundary with Italia proper. In 49 BC, with the Lex RosciaJulius Caesar granted to the populations of the province the full Roman citizenship.

Caesar Crossing the Rubicon
Caesar Crossing the Rubicon

By crossing the Rubicon in 49 BC with his battle-hardened legions, returning from the conquest of Gaul, Julius Caesar precipitated the civil war within the Roman Republic which led, eventually, to the establishment of the Roman Empire. To this day the term “crossing the Rubicon” means, figuratively, “reaching the point of no return”.

The province was merged into Italia about 42 BC, as part of Octavian’s “Italicization” program during the Second Triumvirate. The dissolution of the provincial required a new governing law (lex) although its contemporary title is unknown.

The parts of it inscribed on a bronze tablet preserved in the museum at Parma are entirely concerned with arranging the judiciary. The law appoints 2 viri (men) and 4 viri juri dicundo (awarding of contracts), and also mentions a Prefect of Mutina.

VirgilCatullus and Livy, 3 famous sons of the province, were born in Gallia Cisalpina.

The Canegrate culture reflects a late Bronze Age to early Iron Age culture in the Pianura Padana. These areas are now known as western Lombardy, eastern Piedmont and Canton Ticino.

Gallic Phalerae (a type of military decoration) found in Lombardy
Gallic Phalerae (a type of military decoration) found in Lombardy

The population of Canegrate maintained its own homogeneity for a limited period of time, approximately a century, after which they blended with the Ligurian aboriginal populations to create a new culture called the Golasecca culture.

The Culture of Golasecca (9th to 4th Centuries BC) spread between the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age in the areas of northwestern Lombardy and Piedmont, and the Canton Ticino. At the end of the prehistoric period, this was an area where travelers frequently stopped and had contact with the Hallstatt culture to the west, the Urnfield culture to the north and with the Villanova culture to the south.

The Golasecca culture was initially concentrated in the foothills area south of the Alps. It later spread throughout the lakes area and established many settlements representing this original culture, of which the oldest remains found thus far can be dated from the 9th Century BC.

There is some debate whether the Lepontic language should be considered as a Gaulish dialect or an independent branch within Continental Celtic. Apart from Lepontic, the “Cisalpine Gaulish language” proper would be the Gaulish language as spoken by the Gauls invading northern Italy in the 4th Century BC. This is a dialect of the larger Gaulish language, with some known phonetic features distinguishing it from Transalpine dialects, such as -nn- replacing -nd- and s(s) replacing -χs-.

Oldest known Lepontic inscription (from Castelletto sopra Ticino), dated ca. 575 BC
Oldest known Lepontic inscription (from Castelletto sopra Ticino), dated ca. 575 BC

We hope you enjoyed today’s travels and look forward to having you back again soon. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for special additions.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Baldi, Philip. The Foundations of Latin. Walter de Gruyter, 2002.

Boardman, John. The Cambridge ancient history: Persia, Greece and the Western Mediterranean c. 525-479 BC. Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Bossi, Luigi. Della istoria d’Italia antica e moderna. Milano, 1819.

Brouwer, Hendrik H. J. Hiera Kala: Images of animal sacrifice in archaic and classical Greece. Utrecht, 1989.

Dio, Cassius. XLI, 36.

Keppie, LawrenceThe Making of the Roman Army, From Republic to Empire. University of Oklahoma, 1998.

Kruta, Venceslas. The Celts. Thames and Hudson, 1991.

Livy (ed. John Yardley). The Dawn of the Roman Empire. Waldemar Heckel.

Long, George. Decline of the Roman republic: Volume 2. London, 1866.

Micali, Giuseppe. L’Italia avanti il dominio dei Romani. Genova, 1830.

Schmitz, Leonhard. A manual of ancient geography. Philadelphia, 1857.

Snith, William George. Dictionary of Greek and Roman geography: Vol.1. Boston, 1854.

von Hefner, Joseph. Geographie des Transalpinischen Galliens. Munich, 1837.

Gateshead: A Modern City With Ancient Beginnings

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Last week we looked at Condercum: A Roman Fort That Would Become Newcastle Upon Tyne. We are continuing our tour of Britannia and the towns & fortifications along Hadrian’s Wall.

Today we head back to Britannia to explore the Roman settlement of Gateshead!

Modern Gateshead
Modern Gateshead

Gateshead is a town in Tyne and Wear, England, and the main settlement in the Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead. Part of County Durham until the creation of Tyne and Wear in 1974, the town lies on the southern bank of the River Tyne opposite Newcastle upon Tyne.

From these earliest times Gateshead had been at the head of an important road (or gate) from the south that terminated at the Tyne. This would suggest the name of the place is a reference to its location at the head of the gate.

The Swing Bridge and Hilton Hotel at Gateshead occupy Roman sites
The Swing Bridge and Hilton Hotel at Gateshead occupy Roman sites

Gateshead and Newcastle are joined by 7 bridges across the Tyne, including the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. There has been a settlement on the Gateshead side of the River Tyne, around the old river crossing where the Swing Bridge now stands, since Roman times.

The town is known for its architecture, including the Sage Gateshead, the Angel of the North and the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art. Residents of Gateshead, like the rest of Tyneside, are referred to as Geordies.

angel-of-the-north
Angel of the North

Pottery and traces of tenements have been found which existed before Pons Aelius came into being. The first recorded mention of Gateshead is in the writings of the Venerable Bede who referred to an Abbot of Gateshead called Utta in 623.

The Roman fort of Pons Aelius at Newcastle upon Tyne protected a bridge across the Tyne which stood where the Swing Bridge crosses the Tyne today. There is no evidence for a fort on the Gateshead bank but excavations have revealed that there was a small Roman-British civilian settlement in Bottle Bank where Gateshead’s Hilton Hotel stands today.

Romans of Gateshead
Romans of Gateshead

Although there is no evidence, it would seem a reasonable possibility that there was some Roman defensive structure or small fort guarding the southern side of the Roman. If there was such a fort or even a small defensive site, the most likely setting would be the site now occupied by the old Gateshead parish church of St Mary on a high spot close to the edge of the Tyne.

There is one known Roman fort within the Borough of Gateshead. Known as Washingwell Fort, its actual Roman name is unknown, was discovered in 1970 from aerial photograph of crop marks revealed a Roman fort south of Washingwell Farm between Dunston Hill and Whickham.

Route of Dere Street (in blue)
Route of Dere Street (in blue)

The nearby village of Street Gate at Sunniside between Whickham Fell and Blackburn Fell recalls a Roman road connected with this fort. It probably linked Gateshead’s Cade’s Road to the north’s premier Roman highway of Dere Street at Leadgate and may have followed the course of Lobley Hill Road.

From the Roman site of Old Durham, the Old Durham Road followed the course of Cade’s Road. This Roman road ran from the fort at Chester-le-Street (Concangis) to Newcastle (Pons Aelius).

Cade's Road near Middleton One Row
Cade’s Road near Middleton One Row

Gateshead’s Roman road may have partly followed the course of the modern Gateshead High Street. It then crossed the Tyne by means of a Roman bridge upon which some say there was inscribed the emblem of a goat’s head.

Reconstructed West gate at Arbeia Roman Fort
Reconstructed West gate at Arbeia Roman Fort

The Roman bridge was located where the present Swing Bridge stands today. At Wrekenton, Cade’s Road was joined by another Roman road called the Wrekendyke which headed out in a north easterly direction to the Roman fort and supply-port of Arbeia at South Shields.

There is, however, an alternative suggestion that Gateshead means Goats Head, a headland frequented by wild goats. This is supported in the 7th Century writing of the Venerable Bede who described Gateshead under the Latin name of Ad Caprae Caput (Goat’s Head).

Gateshead's old Coat of Arms traditionally featured a goat's head
Gateshead’s old Coat of Arms traditionally featured a goat’s head

Perhaps Gateshead was a headland frequented by wild goats or the site of a totem or emblem with a goat’s head overlooking the Tyne Bridge. Bede referred to Ad Caprae Caput as the site of a monastery belonging in 653 AD to an abbot called Utta, a renowned priest who Bede described as a ‘truthful and serious man’.

We know little about Utta or his monastery but Bede said that Utta’s brother Adda had played a part in converting the people of Mercia (the Kingdom situated in what later became the English Midlands) to Christianity.

Gateshead had the potential to rival Newcastle for as a port it shared a similar riverside setting. However, Newcastle’s wealthy merchants continuously tried to restrict trade on the south side of the river and Newcastle made several attempts to annex Gateshead so that it belonged to Newcastle.

The constant efforts to annex Gateshead usually failed as on each occasion the king ultimately came out in support of the Bishops of Durham. In March 1553, John Dudley Duke of Northumberland finally annexed the town of Gateshead to Newcastle, but the annexation only lasted a few months with Gateshead returning to Durham following the accession of Queen Mary to the throne.

We hope you enjoyed today’s journey and look forward to having you back for further adventures real soon.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

“Cycle Gateshead – Durham Roads”. Cycle-routes.org.

England’s North East.

“Newcastle-Gateshead”. eurocities.eu. eurocities.

Gateshead Local Studies site

History of Gateshead site

“Washing Wells”

Asterix the Gaul

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Recently we ventured from Rome across the Alps and into Gallia. Here we discovered Roman Gaul: Paving the Way for Modern Europe.

Staying on that theme, today we present to you a cartoon film from 1967 entitled Asterix the Gaul!

In the year 50 BC Gaul is occupied by the Romans – nearly. But the small village, Armorica, of Asterix and his friends still resists the Roman Legions.

With the aid of their druid’s magic potion, which gives superhuman strength, these Gauls duke it out with the Romans. Learning of this potion, a Roman Centurion kidnaps the druid to get the secret formula out of him.

We hope you enjoyed today’s throwback adventure. If you haven’t yet done so be sure to check us out on Facebook and Twitter.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!