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LEGIO (León) León, Spain.

City at the foot of the Cantabrian mountains in Tarraconensis. Its name refers to its status as a camp of the Legio VII Gemina. According to recently discovered inscriptions on tablets from Villalís, the legion was founded in A.D. 68, and was permanently stationed there from 72 until the end of the Empire. It was the main body of the Roman forces in the limes of N Spain and controlled the operation of the mines of the region. The city had the rectangular plan with rounded corners typical of Imperial Roman camps; it was 570 by 350 m, an area of 19 ha. It is strategically located on a hillock well supplied with water between the Bernesga and Torfo rivers.

Excavation is difficult because the modern city is built over the ancient one: the roman strata lie ca. 3-4 m below the surface. The finds have been scanty: the city was apparently only a simple camp, with its greatest development during the reign of Trajan. The double walls, however, are largely preserved: an exterior wall 5.25 m thick, and directly inside it another wall 1.8 m thick with an inside face of well-cut blocks and carefully framed and raised joints. This system was completely covered by the wall now visible. The 1.8 m wall must have been constructed toward the end of the 3d or beginning of the 4th c., in time of peace, carefully and without pressure. However, the outside wall was hastily built of reused material, probably under threat of invasion, towards the end of the 4th or beginning of the 5th c.

The baths are under the present cathedral but, since they were larger than the latter, some parts have been excavated, including three hypocausts separated by walls 1.2 m thick. The piles of the suspensura are square, of brick, and 80 cm high. These baths must have been part of the residence of the Legatus Augusti of the Legio VII, and some stamped bricks seem to indicate that they date from the period of Antoninus Pius.

The Early Christian building of Marialba, recently discovered outside the city, was a church dedicated to the martyrs, the largest in the peninsula and the most important Early Christian building in N Spain. The walls are preserved to a height of 1-2 m, enclosing a space 23.44 by 13.6 m. At one end is a horseshoe-shaped apse 9.55 m in diameter. The church was constructed in two phases, the middle of the 4th c., and the end of the 4th or beginning of the 5th.

There are few other finds in the city: inscriptions, funeral stelai, terra sigillata, and a large number of bricks stamped with various honors obtained by Legio VII.


M. Gómez Moreno, Catálogo Monumental de España. Provincia de León (1925)I; I. A. Richmond, “The Town-walls in Hispania Citerior,” JRS 21 (1931)PI; A. García y Bellido, Nueve Studios sobre la Legio VII Gemina y su Campamento en León (1968)MPI; id., “Estudios sobre la Legio VII y su Campamento en León,” Legio VII Gemina (1970) 569-601PI; T. Hauschild, “Die Märtyrer-Kirche von Marialba bei León,” ibid. 511-23MPI.


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