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AEMINIUM (Coimbra) Beira Litoral, Portugal.

Mentioned by Pliny (HN 4.24) and Ptolemy (2.5) and in the Antonine Itinerary, the name also occurs in an inscription dedicated to Constantius Chlorus. Conimbriga, 16 km to the S, was in the 6th c. the seat of a bishopric in which Aeminium was a parish, but ca. 589 the Bishop Posidonius was transferred from Conimbriga to Aeminium, and part of Conimbriga's population also took refuge there. In the 9th c. Aeminium took the name of Colimbria, a corruption of Conimbriga.

Nothing remains of the Roman monuments of Aeminium except the cryptoporticus under the Museu Machado de Castro. Two arches still standing in the 18th c. in Estrela (next to the present-day government building) were once thought to be remains of a Roman triumphal arch, but they may have been ruins of one of the fortification gates of the 9th c. There were, however, some Roman baths, called in the 12th c. the Baths of the King, in the area where the monastery of Santa Cruz was built. The aqueduct now called Arcos do Jardim seems to have been built in the 16th c. over the ruins of the Roman aqueduct. The Roman road coming from Conimbriga crossed the river E of the present bridge and probably ran alongside the aqueduct. Near the aqueduct was the cemetery. On the Largo da Sé Velha, remains of a Roman building were uncovered, and coins and ceramics were found. Traces of the Roman period in Coimbra are scarce, but the crytoporticus under the Museu Machado de Castro is one of the chief remaining Roman structures of Portugal.

The hillside between the present-day terraces of the cathedrals (Sé Velha and Sé Nova) was the site of the cryptoporticus on which the Romans constructed their forum, a huge artificial platform on two levels. On the upper level, a pi-shaped gallery surrounds another of the same plan. In each arm of the pi three corridors give access from one gallery to the other, and they are also connected at the top. Between the arms of the pi are chambers connected by narrow vaulted passageways. On the lower level were other rooms, higher and more spacious, arranged along a gallery with narrow passageways connecting them. This level was partially destroyed by houses built against it, and later, perhaps when the bishop's palace was reconstructed in the 16th c., the galleries were filled in with rubble. In the debris were uncovered four marble heads, representing a priestess, Agrippina, Vespasian, and Trajan. In the excavations on the site of the present-day church of S. Joâo de Almedina pieces of entablature have been found which can perhaps be attributed to the temple in the forum. The chronology of the complex has not been established, but the suggested dates in the 3d-5th c. are certainly too late.

Among the native sons of Aeminium was the architect Gaius Servius Lupus, builder of the lighthouse of La Coruña in NE Spain.


V. Correia, Obras I (1946); J. M. Bairrão Oleiro, “O criptopórtico de Aeminium,” Humanitas NS 4-5 (1955-56) 151-60P; id. & J. Alarcâo, “Le cryptoportique d'Aeminium,” Les cryptoportiques dans l'architecture romaine (Colloques du C.N.R.S.) (1973) 349-69.


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    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.24
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