Interview with Antonio Rodríguez Colmenero, archaeologist

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Interview made by A. Bernárdez and María X. Rodríguez

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Antonio Rodríguez Colmenero (Lucenza- Ourense, 1936) is an archaeologist, writer and lecturer. He has been in the teaching profession in the Universities of Valladolid, Alacante, Oviedo, Deusto and Santiago de Compostela (in these two last as a professor). He wrote many articles and books related to his speciality subjects, made archaeological excavations in Lugo (square of San Domingos and Square of Ferrol), Chaves, in the roman camp Aquis Querquernis and in other sites. He was responsible of many investigation projects and nowadays he supervises the archaeological group "Larouco" and the magazine of the same name, and he is a member of some associations as the Academy of History and the Galician Academy of Fine Arts and honorary professor of the University of Santiago de Compostela.

ImageThere are three theories about the founding of Lugo: a fort (castro), a holy place or sanctuary and a military camp. Which is the correct one?

We can reject the idea of a fort because there aren’t archaeological remains. It was a holy place, but this doesn’t exclude it was a camp. We have numismatic arguments to defend the idea of a camp (caetra) but we lack conclusive archaelogical proofs of a camp for one or two legions (for example, moats). It was here, at least, a complete legion from 25 to 15 B.C. (VI Victrix). Lugo was a smaller camp from the 1st century A.D. in which a detachment of the VI legion would be stationed to direct the works in the city (carried out by military engineers) in the current area of the Virxe dos Ollos Grandes hospital. Two gravestones with the legend "Legio VI" have been found inside the city.

Relating to the idea of a holy place, the meaning of Lugo would be "clearing in the forest" and it could have been an indigenous naturalistic sanctuary, later assimilated by Augustus. Lucus Augusti would be an official reply of the indigenous one.

You have defended that Lugo was included in a civitas named Copori. Which one was the territory of this people? Which one are the basis to confirm this?

The copori occupied a horizontal strip of territory from Meira until Iria Flavia. In the north they would go around the A Mariña area. It was an interior territory that would arrive near the ocean and with one river port in Iria. Ptolemy, in the 2nd century, wrote that the copori had two cities: Lucus Augusti and Iria Flavia.

You have made some original interpretation regarding the Cantabrian Wars as the moment of incorporation of the Gallaecia to the Roman world. How can you summarize your contribution? Which one are your sources?

Basically my interpretation differs from other authors and in fact I have been requested to public again my classical book ("Augusto e Hispania. Conquista y organización del norte peninsular") following nowadays parameters. I maintain that Cantabria would be the whole North strip from Irun to Fisterra, limited in the interior by the Cantabrian range. The Astur would live in the area of Astorga. The innovation of my theory lies in the demarcation of the geographical space, as it’s shown by the classical sources proofs. Even more, it has been found recently in an archaeological excavation in Turkey an epigraphic reference to the people in the West that mentioned the “galaicos” and not the “cántabros”. This fact, linked to the Medulio incident, makes us think that the resistance group was “galaico” although “cántabro” at that time.

What was the role of Lucus Augusti as city in the urban hierarchy of the Roman world? Can it be considered “provincial capital” as some archaeologists have stated during these last years?

It can be considered provincial capital of the "Hispania Superior Gallaecia" as it proved an inscription found in Italy. This province would last aproximately only twenty years in the 3rd century. But almost always Lucus was capital of a conventus iuridicus.

Which were the constructive stages of Lucus Augusti? Why the differences in the city from the Early Empire to the Late Empire? Why the urban space was moved to the West?

The Roman wall conditioned the constructive stages. What remained outside, it was destroyed and, on the contrary, what remained inside, it was preserved. The urban space moved to the west because of defensive reasons. The area of Recatelo, specially the access to this area by the NW was very difficult to defend because it will need a very big wall and the same happened with the area of O Carme. They actually built the Wall where it was easier to defend the city.

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Which were the motivations to build the Roman wall?

Fear to invasions, what does not mean they really happened. Fear to sea invasions and that once the coast line would have been conquered the invasors would continue to the interior. The people that arrived to the coast from the 5th century onword were the Franks, the Saxons and the Vandals from Carthage. In the Middle Age, they were the Normans. I investigated that in an essay about the sea life related to the Tower of Hercules in A Coruña.

How did Lucus Augusti look like? Which ones were the points of reference in the city?

It was mostly an administrative city, but there was a middle-class population. We can emphasize the big oficial buildings and the forum (one of the biggest ones in Hispania), mansions, houses with thermae, Roman thermae in the interior of the city, near the Cathedral, sanctuaries ans so on. There would be important urban centers in Recatelo and in the decumanus (area of Porta Miñá gate). The heart was in the current neighbourhood near the cathedral, well, really, the heart was the forum, between the current Progreso and Raíña streets.

What are the main archaeological referents of Lucus Augusti? What its importance to the study of the Hispanic Northwest?

The foundational milestone, the forum, the mitreo and the acrostic of Odoarius. Lugo is a reference like capital of the extreme Finisterrae (Conventus Lucensis).

What are the future research lines for the study of the Roman Lugo? Do you think are there yet important aspects to discover?

We should go into the excavation of sites but we haven’t advanced due to economic problems. There are still temples, mansions and part of the forum to discover.

How do you summarize and value the former two decades of archaeological works in Lugo to clarify the reality of Lucus Augusti? Do you think people from Lugo are conscious of the patrimonial wealth of the city?

There were really three decades and they served to define the city and now this knowledge is being completed. Lugo passed from a "wall without city" to a "city with wall". People are being conscious of this wealth, and this contrast with the situation in the eighties when nobody was interested. The esteem is much bigger as it’s proved by the Arde Lucus festival, that, although popular and adulterated, it’s an indicator.

Do you want to add anything more?

Lugo is not only the city, but also the capital of a bigger conventus iuridicus. We should take into account the area that covered till the river Verdugo (Pontevedra) that was the conventus limit .

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