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