Friday, July 31, 2009

Municipium Augusta Bilbilis

When you have travelled hundreds of kilometers to visit a special monument, museum or event and find the premises closed, it creates a moment of great frustration. This morning, I visited Bilbilis near Calatayud and was welcomed by the above announcement.

Fortunately, almost no tourists find their way to Bilbilis. Furthermore, only a small group of students archaeology was having lunch in the thermen. So me entering the premises, including the theater was not noticed. And I did not touch a stone! To be one of the first visitors to explore a recent excavated Roman theater, gives a thrill. Especially, when the archaeological research is still in progress. As can be seen at this picture.
Originally, Bilbilis was a Celtic-Iberian city inhabited by the ‘Lusones’. It was Romanized during the reign of Augustus and the city became part of the administrative ‘conventus iuriducus Caeseraugusta’. As a fresh municipium – renamed into Augusta Bilbilis - it was transformed significantely; as the city was modified with both a forum and a theater. The theater could contain about 4,500 spectators. The two-stories stage of the theater was decorated by Corinthian columns. Now wrapped up in pur. Whithout being rude, the theater is still a mess.

You could reach the cavea by three valvae, or entrances. In contrast to 'common' practice, this Roman construction was build against the slope of the mountain, making use of the natural circumstances.
In the museum of the near town Calatayud, beautiful finds are exposed. A selection of the pictures I have made you can find here.
Of special interest is one of Bilbilis' famous citizens, Marcus Valerius Martialis. In short epigrams, witty poems he cheerfully satirises city life and the scandalous activities of his acquaintances, and romanticises his provincial upbringing. He wrote a total of 1,561, of which 1,235 are in elegiac couplets. He is considered the creator of the modern epigram. Next message will be dedicated to him.
Roman antiquity and coin expert Joe Geranio tipped me on Bilbilis' coin striking rights and specifically of a coin produced during the reign of Tiberius. A coin which has been obliterated and tells a special story: Look here!

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