(Condeixa-a-Velha) Beira Litoral, Portugal.
About 16 km S of Coimbra, near the
village of Condeixa-a-Velha. The name means oppidum
of the Conii, a tribe which inhabited the region before
the arrival of the Celtic tribe of Saefes some time between the end of the 7th c. and the 5th c. B.C. Conimbriga
was probably entered by Decimus lunius Brutus at the
end of the 2d c. B.C. Not far away is an encampment,
which was perhaps built by Brutus, today almost destroyed by the airfield of Cernache.
Objects from the Roman Republican era at Conimbriga are rare. The first forum is from the Augustan period; next to it simple rectangular houses of Iron Age tradition survived to Flavian times. Pliny (HN 4.21
classifies Conimbriga among the oppida of Lusitania,
and under the Flavians the city received the status of
municipium and the name of Flavia Conimbriga. In the
same period, the forum was replaced by another, different in plan and of larger proportions. Considerable construction took place in the first half of the 3d c. A.D. and there was a notable workshop of mosaic workers. At
the end of the same century or the beginning of the 4th,
the city was fortified; the amphitheater, a public bath
building, and some of the richest houses were left outside; the baths and houses were razed. The latest Roman
coins found in Conimbriga date from 402 to 408 and
are very rare. Rome probably abandoned the region in
the time of Honorius. The Cantabri, perhaps the richest
family in the city, probably took over its government and
defense, but in 465 they became prisoners of the Suevi.
In 468, according to Idatius of Chaves, the Suevi attacked
Conimbriga a second time and partially destroyed it.
The city, however, was not abandoned. By 561 it was
a seat of a bishop; its own prelate Lucentius participated
in the first council of Bracara, but the seat was soon
moved to Aeminium. Many Visigoth coins have been
found (one of Rodrigo minted in 710, the year before
the Arab invasion and the downfall of the Visigoth monarchy), as well as Arab and mediaeval coins. Occupation
of the site may have continued even after the Arab invasion of 711, but the absence of stones with Arab workmanship and of Moslem pottery indicates that it was no more than a hamlet.
Near the E section of the fortifications several buildings have been excavated: a rich residence with private
baths, three other less extensive but luxurious houses,
two public baths, an Early Christian church, and a building which served perhaps as an inn. More recently the
Forum of Augustus has been discovered, the Flavian
forum which replaced it, two insulae of houses and commercial buildings, and some large public baths of Trajan's
time, constructed over others of the early 1st c.
The rich houses are all built around a large peristyle
with a pool: in one of them the pool held more than 400
water jets. Around the peristyle was a portico paved with
mosaics. Two of the larger houses have as a second
central point a small atrium which opened on the sleeping quarters of the house. The mosaics discovered constitute the largest collection in Portugal, although there
are others, at Torre de Palma, for example, more varied
in theme and more carefully executed. The mosaics with
mythological themes represent Perseus, Bellerophon, Acteon, the Minotaur in the labyrinth, and a solar chariot.
Others show hunting scenes or animal life, from aquatic
birds to sea dragons, the elephant, or the camel. The
simplification of some of the Classical themes by leaving
out some of the usual figures (Andromeda is omitted
from the mosaic of Perseus) is characteristic of the local
workshops, which seem to have been particularly active
in the time of the Seven.
Of the public monuments, the oldest remains are those
of the Forum of Augustus. The monument was enclosed on one side by a basilica with three aisles and on
the other by shops. On the N side was the temple, built
over a crypt. This forum was demolished under the
Flavians to make room for another (100 x 50 m) and
the public square was enclosed by two monumental porticos along the E and W sides. On the S side were some
small structures, now ruined, which were probably shops.
The large temple with a double cella, dedicated to Rome
and Augustus, dominated an esplanade at a little higher
level in the N section of the forum. The esplanade was
surrounded by a pi-shaped cryptoporticus with a flat roof
resting on thick pillars, and above the crytoporticus stood
a portico. This forum, which had neither basilica nor
curia, was destroyed at the beginning or middle of the
The amphitheater (94 x 80 m) outside the walls has
not yet been excavated. It dates from the 3d c. A.D. The
cavea rests in part on arcades and in part is cut out of
the rocky hillside. Four public baths of different periods
have so far been discovered in the city. Two of them,
each with a natatio, existed during the 2d and 3d c.; both
have curious circular laconica, and in the center a small
pool, also round, with steps hollowed out of the pavement. At a level higher than the pool, a passageway resting on the hypocaust goes around the room. The water
was brought by an aqueduct, largely underground, from
a large spring ca. 3 km from the city, and was distributed
to the baths and some houses in lead pipes. Water was
channeled even into simple houses in which there are no
traces of paving in mosaic, and which could have belonged only to small industries or small traders.
The Early Christian basilica has a cruciform apse, and
the baptistery a circular basin of a depth unusual in the
7th-8th c., the period to which the building is attributed.
The finds are in a museum at the site.
J. M. Bairrão Oleiro et al., Conimbriga.
Guide to the Museum and the Ruins
Portuguese and French; J. Alarcão et al., “Le culte des
Lares à Conimbriga,” CRAI
(1969) 213-36; R. Etienne
& id., “La chronologie des cryptoportiques à Conimbriga,”
Actas do II Congresso Nacional de Arqueologia, Coimbra
The excavation report will be published in 7 volumes
under the direction of
R. Etienne and J. Alarcão. J. ALARCÃO