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Numantia

Numantia

[noo-man-shee-uh, -shuh, nyoo-]
Numantia, ancient settlement, Spain, near the Durius (now Douro) River and north of modern Soria. Numantia played a central role in the Celt-Iberian resistance to Roman conquest. Its inhabitants withstood repeated Roman attacks from the time of Cato the Elder's campaign (195 B.C.) until Scipio Aemilianus finally took the city in 133 B.C., after an eight-month blockade, thus completing the conquest of Spain. Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of Roman camps and evidence of settlement dating back to the Bronze Age.

Numantia (Numancia in Spanish) was a town in Hispania (modern-day Spain), which for a long time resisted conquest by Romans in what was known as the "Numantine War." The town was taken and destroyed in 133 B.C. by consul Scipio Aemilianus Africanus after a long and brutal siege. This victory put most of the Iberia under Roman control (although the north of Hispania was not conquered until the end of the Astur-Cantabrian Wars over a century later). This was the first notable military endeavour by Gaius Marius.

Location

The nearest settlement to the ruins of Numantia is the village of Garray in the province of Soria. Garray has grown up next to a bridge across the Duero. It is only a few miles from the small modern city of Soria.

Numantia is preserved as a national monument and is open to the public.

Early history of the site

Numantia was an Iron Age hillfort (in Roman terminology an "oppidum"), which controlled a crossing of the Duero.

Pliny the Elder counts it as a city of the Pelendones,but other authors, like Strabo and Ptolemy place it among the Arevaci people. The Arevaci were a Celtiberian tribe, formed by the mingling of Iberians and migrating Celts in the 6th century BC, who inhabited an area near Numantia and Uxama.

Before their defeat, the Numantines gained a number of victories. For example, in 137 BC, 20,000 Romans surrendered to the Celtiberians of Numantia (population between 4,000-8,000).

Final siege of Numantia

The final siege of Numantia began in the year 134 BC. Scipio Aemilianus, who was a Roman consul at that time, was in command of an army of 30,000 soldiers. His troops constructed a number of fortifications surrounding the city as they prepared for a long siege. Resistance was hopeless but the Numantians refused to surrender and famine quickly spread through the city. After eight months most of the inhabitants decided to commit suicide rather than become slaves. Only a few hundred of exhausted and famished inhabitants surrendered to the victorious Roman legions.

Later history

After the destruction, there are remains of occupation in the 1st century BC, with a regular street plan but without great public buildings.

Its decadence starts in the 3rd century, but with Roman remains still from the 4th century. Later remains from the 6th century hint of a Visigoth occupation.

Excavation and conservation of Numantia

Numantia's exact location vanished from memory, and some theories placed it in Zamora, but in 1860 Eduardo Saavedra identified the correct location in Garray, Soria. In 1882 the ruins of Numantia were declared a national monument. In 1905 the German archaeologist Adolf Schulten began a series of excavations which located the Roman camps around the city. Regular excavations are still going on.

Many objects from the site are on display in the Museo Numantino in the city of Soria, and this museum is also responsible for in situ displays at Numantia.

Development threat to the historic landscape

The landscape of the site is now threatened by plans to develop a new industrial zone (Polígono Industrial de Soria II) nearby.

The province of Soria is sparsely populated and Numantia is mainly surrounded by agricultural land. However, the regional government of Castilla y Leon and the city of Soria have embarked on various projects which have an impact on the landscape surrounding the site of Numantia. Controversy has been aroused by the proposed development of a new industrial estate at El Cabezo, which is adjacent to Numantia and the Roman encampment (and will also affect part of the Romanesque site of Los Arcos de San Juan del Duero). The plan has met widespread opposition from a number of quarters, including the Instituto de España, the Real Academia de la Historia, the Catalan Institute of Classical Archaeology, the Spanish Section of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and a number of Ancient History Departments in Spain. There is a petition to have Numantia declared a World Heritage Site, in the hope that this will persuade the local authorities to reconsider their plans.

Symbolism

The siege of Numantia was recorded by several Roman historians who admired the sense of freedom of the ancient Iberians and acknowledged their fighting skills against the Roman legions. In Spanish culture, it has a meaning similar to that of Masada for Israelis. Miguel de Cervantes (author of Don Quixote) wrote a play about the siege, El cerco de Numancia, which stands today as his most well-known dramatic work. Antonio Machado references the city in his poem Campos de Soria. The poem is an ode to the countryside and peoples of rural Castile. More recently, Carlos Fuentes wrote a short story about the event, "The Two Numantias", in his collection The Orange Tree.

Several Spanish Navy ships have been named Numancia and a Sorian battalion was named batallón de numantinos. During the Spanish Civil War, the Numancia regiment took the town of Azaña in Toledo. To erase the memory of the Republican president Manuel Azaña, they renamed it as Numancia de la Sagra.

The Sorian football team is called CD Numancia.

References

  • Rafael Trevino "Rome's Enemies 4: Spanish Armies 218 BC – 19 BC", Osprey Military, Man-at-arms Series 180, 1992, ISBN 0-85045-701-7

External links

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