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marketrent OP t1_iro48f3 wrote

In which Roman cardo-decuman planning of its time, serves to identify a lost site.

>The discovery served to shed light on one of the great historical debates of the area, whereby several different hypotheses had been put forward as to the location of the lost Roman site. “El Carrascal is a completely different location than everyone thought,” says Morón.

>Although Flavia Sabora’s exact location was an enigma, the settlement’s story was not. The Roman author Pliny the Elder, who wrote the Naturalis Historia, described it in the 1st century as an oppidum, or a settlement on a hill. “That is to say, a population of pre-Roman origin, subject to the control of and payment of taxes to Rome,” the UCA researchers wrote in their report of the finding for the Spanish Ministry of Culture. The first population center was established on the hill of Sabora, a defensive position located next to the current town of 1,600 inhabitants. But as Morón notes: “It is very cold there and there is a shortage of water.” With the security provided by the Roman conquest in terms of protection and prosperity, the second variable prevailed, as demonstrated by the request of the two municipal representatives to Emperor Vespasian.


AeonsOfStrife t1_irppx37 wrote

This highlights something wierd to me: why Baetica began depopulation far earlier than most of the Empire. It seems odd given it was not an at risk province, and wasn't valueless for trade, production, taxes, or recruitment until much later.

It seems odd for Britain to continue to prosper while Baetica didn't......


As-sebtawi t1_irquwyc wrote

It was a risk province. There are reports of berber (mauri) raiders that Breached through the defenses at mauretania tingitana and raid the province in the 3rd century as Well as frankish pirates raiding its coasts


Arganthonios_Silver t1_irqy5ug wrote

Yeah that mention in the article is pretty dubious but is not about "depopulation" and for sure not about a definitive process. By our current knowledge we suppose there was a crisis on public urbanism in many baetican cities since late II and during III century, simultaneous to the lost of economic prevalence (almost monopolistic) that Baetica had in western part of roman Empire from Julius Caesar to Antoninus Pius (and the growth of Africa or Syria) and the frequent attacks by the african mauri specially serious since 170s. There was a crisis in Baetica from Marcus Aurelius to Diocletian, for sure, but we ignore its severity and extension and could be perfectly more a stagnation in an immensely wealthy and urbanized province that became "relatively" less prevalent, but still very urbanized and rich, than a true decline. Our knowledge is very limited though, we still ignore even the location of half of the cities in Baetica mentioned by literary sources or epigraphy, over 100 lost or dubious roman cities (most of them probably under unidentified current andalusian towns, more than ruins in the countryside).

To put things in perspective: During all roman period Baetica had triple number of cities than Britannia, in a smaller area. It was the most urbanized "big" region in the western part of the Roman Empire during I and II centuries with the only exception of central Italy. Its economic relevance was so huge that altered the landscape of Rome itself with the creation of Monte Testaccio, created with millions amphorae, vast majority of which came from Baetica. Despite the relative crisis during III century, it seems that Baetica recovered at last decades of that century and remained relatively relevant, wealthy and very urbanized in mediterranean or european contexts until the next splendorous period started: Al-Andalus.

We know that Al-Andalus urbanism was incomparable to any place in Europe. Caliphal Kurtuba was one of the largest cities in the world during IX and X centuries while taifa and Almohad Seville was the second biggest city in Europe during XI and XII centuries after Costantinople, but besides those big cities other hundreds smaller urban centres flourished across southern Iberia and while the great metropolis were matched in some few places, the constellation of minor cities of Al-Andalus and the urbanization rate hardly repeated in any other "big" zone of the world during IX-XIII centuries. Later, despite a relative decline, christian Andalusia remained as the most urbanized place in Europe until XVIII century. At 1600 when Netherlands, the leader among independent countries had only 24% of its population of 1.4 million living in cities over 10,000 inhabitants (19% in Italy, 10-15% in most Iberia, 6% in England), Andalusia with a very similar population than Netherlands had over half, close to 60% living in cities over 10,000 inhabitants.

Even ignoring the detailed evolution of Baetica urbanism from III to VII centuries, it seems highly unlikely that one of the most urbanized places in the roman world at early II century became suddenly deeply "depopulated" and urban centres "crumbled" for centuries, but just to increase again as one of the most urbanized zones in the world during Medieval and Early Modern periods. It's pretty obvious to me that the crisis, if existed, was relative, short and not really deep, allowing the recovery and growth of southern iberian urbanism in the next centuries.


palomet t1_irv58ln wrote

>Monte Testaccio, created with millions amphorae

these brought oil and wine, then broken in pieces that were carefully compacted to minimize space, there were slaves for that


As-sebtawi t1_isku90q wrote

Im pretty sure that the Africa Province was wealthier and more urbanized than baetica. Africa is always cited as the breadbasket of the western empire, and the city of carthage second only to rome


Arganthonios_Silver t1_ismpsp1 wrote

The focus of my comment was not a comparison with other relevant provinces but relativize and contextualize Baetica urban decline mentioned in the article.

However Africa was not significantly wealthier and for sure not more urbanized than Baetica in the specific period I mentioned: from Caesar to Antoninus Pius. During that period Africa was less influential in long distance trade, less relevant culturally or politically and in regard urbanization rate Africa province's was lower at any period (maybe you are confusing "bigger cities" with urbanization, but those are different things). Africa, Syria and other provinces grew exponentially in most contexts on a later period, just when Baetica declined, since late II and during III century CE.

The first roman colony outside Italy was Italica in Hispania Ulterior (later Baetica), the first provincial citizen to reach the position of Consul at late republican times was an "ulterior" too (Cornelius Balbo), the first heyday of provincial latin authors had a clear prevalence of baetic origins (Seneca, Pomponius Mela, Lucan, Columella) and the first emperors with provincial origins also came from Baetica (Trajan, Hadrian). All those examples are consequences of a major political, economic and cultural relevance and specially of an earlier/deeper urbanization and romanization. Baetica and Africa had different relative development peaks during Roman Empire, earlier in Baetica case as it was its relative decline.

In regard urbanization, which means relative relevance of urban life, percentage of total population living in urban centres and not which place has the "biggest cities", Africa despite including a big metropolis as Carthage and other few big cities, had still predominant rural population as many other places of the Empire, which doesn't seem to be so clearly the case for Baetica. Guadalquivir Valley (Baetis river) and the area around the Strait of Gibraltar (fretum gaditanus at roman times, "Strait of Cadiz") had a constellation of middle cities that Africa lacked by our current knowledge and those 200 proper, but moderately sized cities probably concentrated way higher share of provincial population than in most other major provinces in the Empire. Only considering the roman cities in Baetica we already located and studied/estimated their limits, barely half of the total, they extended for close to 4000 purely urban hectares. That's bigger area than Alexandria + Antioch + Carthage + Ephesus, traditionally considered as the largest metropolis of Roman Empire after Rome (in that order, Carthage never was "second only to Rome"). Population density was lower in small or medium cities than in the mentioned metropolis, but still the very dense Baetica urban net could be hardly balanced by its rural population, considering the relatively small area (approx 80,000 km2, much smaller than Africa), the existence of large low density areas (Sierra Morena and Betic mountains, over half of Baetica surface), the dominance of latifundia in the countryside and the lack of dense enough rural settlement, so prevalent in Africa or many other places of the Empire.

We have the mentions in literary sources too. Roman period authors mention more (proper) cities for Baetica, for example geographers lists (Pliny, Strabo, Pomponius Mela) or oldest/higher amount roman colonies and municipia of roman/latin rights than in Africa or any other place outside Italy.

In regard "wealth", Baetica was not only mentioned far more commonly than Africa in literary sources from the period we discuss, but archaeologic data demonstrates Baetica prevalence in some long distance trade contexts on western half of the Empire during I and II centuries CE, not only in the aforementioned Monte Testaccio in Rome, but by the fact the most common foreign amphorae found in Britannia, Germania or Raetia were also from Baetica, transporting products from that southern Hispania province.

Africa on the other hand was not the "breadbasket of Western Roman Empire" and much less alone. The contexts of grain distribution mentioned in literary sources focus on Rome city alone and its Annona system, not normal trade nor territories outside Rome city. Egypt or Sicily were also as relevant for this specific grain route as Africa was. On the other hand we lack the evidence for long distance trade relevance on african products that we have for Baetica in this period (amphorae and their tituli picti, mostly, but also literary or epigraphic mentions), Africa trade would only rise to prevalence later, since late II century.


[deleted] t1_irqg169 wrote



Waffletimewarp t1_irr479k wrote

How many Roman ruins have been lost because some farmer uncovered one and went “Godammit, not another one. Someone get a hammer, I’m not dealing with this again!”


jackp0t789 t1_irr840a wrote

Interestingly enough the US nearly "lost" the location of the battlefield that won it's independence from Britain when people wanted to build golf resorts over it.


Punaholic t1_irrdb7r wrote

There were many Roman camps and settlements in Spain. Some have kept their names, for instance Zaragosa is the current iteration of a Roman camp named after emperor Caesar Agustus (zar-agosta).


dougman7 t1_irsgii9 wrote



sad0panda t1_irsu6yw wrote

Flavor Flavor.

Glad I wasn’t the only one thinking this.