Sites & cities that bear the name of Augusta Bilbilis

Augusta Bilbilis

Today in : Spain
First trace of activity : ca. 1st century C.E
Last trace of activity : ca. 3rd century C.E

Description : Augusta Bilbilis was a city (or municipium) founded by the Romans in the province of Hispania Tarraconensis. It was the birthplace of famous poet Martial c. 40 AD. The modern town of Calatayud was founded near this Roman site. Recent excavations have uncovered many of the impressive remains visible today which dominate the surrounding area and are testament to the city's rich past. The indigenous Celtiberian settlement of Bilbilis was situated on the heights of Cerro de Bambola and part of San Paterno, lying to the North of ancient Segeda and 60 km SW of the Roman colony of Col. Caesaraugusta (modern Zaragoza) in NE internal Spain. Bilbilis was famous for its metalworking. Neighbouring towns in antiquity Its inhabitants belonged to the group of the Celtic tribes of Hispania Citerior known as the Lusones tribe, of which Bilbilis was their capital. Their earliest coin issue includes a male head facing right, with dolphin to the left of the portrait on the obverse, while the reverse depicts a horseman carrying a spear and the inscription Bilbilis. These date from the late 2nd to the early 1st century BC and a number of these form part of the Iberian coin collection in the British Museum. The first contact between the eventual conquerors of the area, the Romans, and the Lusones occurred around the 2nd century BC, when Quintus Fulvius Flaccus journeyed from the Mediterranean coast of Spain into the hinterland, a region referred to as Celtiberia. It was not until the 1st century, however, that Roman culture, language and customs, gradually began to spread into the hinterland with the indigenous cultures taking on many and varied aspects of Roman life while still maintaining aspects of their own distinct cultures. The development of the city With the pacification of Hispania and the death of Julius Caesar, Augustus embarked on a series of administrative reforms including the Conventus of Bilbilis. The main road from Emerita Augusta to Caesaraugusta passed near and benefitted Bilbilis. The city was given the status of Municipium becoming Augusta Bilbilis and thus enjoyed the many privileges under Roman law, including bestowing Roman citizenship on all its inhabitants. Monumentalisation of civic and urban spaces characterise the Augustan period. Coins were also minted in the city with "Augusta Bilbilis" on the reverse along with the governor's name. There were 10 minted under Augustus, four under Tiberius and one under Caligula. The most intriguing coin is one naming Lucius Aelius Sejanus as consul on which COS (consul) was stamped inside a garland of oak leaves (the corona civica) under Tiberius on the reverse. The town must have flourished with Sejanus as benefactor, but was ultimately hurt with his demise when he was proved to be a traitor. All statues and monuments were subject to "damnatio memoriae" along with the coinage. Most of the coins were of the "as" or semis variety which were filed or stamped to erase his name from memory. Some very rare coins have his name still legible. Dr. Paul L. Maier puts forth a thought-provoking history of how Sejanus played a role in the life of Jesus in his book Pontius Pilate. It seems Sejanus was in a powerful position as co-emperor to appoint Pilate to Judaea as Tiberius was in retirement on the Island of Capri. After Sejanus' fall, his family and supporters were hunted down and eliminated for years to come. This raises the question of why Pilate, a hard and tough governor, caved in under Jewish request to hand over Jesus to be crucified. "You are no friend of Caesar" was all it took. Pilate knew his head was on the block, and he was recalled to Rome two years later to answer charges but Tiberius died as Pilate took the long winter route. The famous and eminent poet Martial was born in Bilbilis in 38–41 AD and romanticised his provincial upbringing. He often praised his own country in his poems, for example the sulphurous springs of Aquae Bilbilitanorum situated approximately 24 km west on the Roman main road which are still used as spas (Alhama de Aragón). One of his finest poems celebrates a visit by his friend and fellow citizen Licinianus to Bilbilis. He moved to Rome when he was twenty-four years old; he stayed there more than thirty-four years and then came back to Bilbilis for three years. Finally, he went back to Rome where he published his last book (10th) and died in the year 104 AD. The city's heyday was the 1st century. It declined rapidly in the 2nd century AD and by the 3rd century it was half-deserted.

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