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OLISIPO (Lisbon) Estremadura, Portugal.

Mentioned by Ptolemy (2.5), Strabo (3.3.1), Mela (3.1), and Pliny (HN 4.22). Isidore of Seville and the Ravenna Cosmographer call the city Ulyssipona and Olisipona respectively, from which the name Lisbon is derived. A settlement existed here in the Late Palaeolithic Age. Of the topography and history of the Roman city little is known. The site was occupied by the Romans in 138 B.C. The tradition according to which Cato the Censor was in Olisipo in 195 B.C. rests on an inscription now considered unreliable. According to Strabo, in 138 B.C. the consul Decimus Junius Brutus fortified the city, but it is not clear whether he encircled the existing village with fortifications or simply built a permanent castrum beside it. Pliny calls Olisipo Felicitas Julia and is uncertain whether it received this designation from Julius Caesar or Octavian. Also uncertain is the date when Olisipo was granted the status of municipium, mentioned by Pliny and confirmed by inscriptions.

No traces of the network of streets or the circuit of fortifications has been found, but it is likely that Olisipo, like Ebora, Pax Iulia, Egitania, Conimbriga, and other cities of Lusitania, was fortified at least by the end of the 3d or the beginning of the 4th c. The Roman city occupied the S and W slopes of the mountain where the Castelo de S. Jorge was later erected. On the S it certainly extended to the Tejo, and on the W at least to the present-day Rua da Prata, where there were some baths and a temple. The only remains of Roman public buildings are those of a theater and of the baths of the Augustales. The theater lies between Saudade and S. Mamede (Caldas) streets and was built in the time of Nero. Gaius Heius Primus, flamen augustalis, erected the proscenium and orchestra at his own expense. To judge from the representation of Lisbon on the royal pendent seal of 1352, the theater was then still well preserved, but it had disappeared by the time of Renaissance descriptions of Lisbon. In 1798 the proscenium, orchestra, and first seats of the cavea were discovered and a plan was published in 1815. Building again covered the site until recently, and the remains have not yet been completely excavated.

The baths under the Rua da Prata were built in the time of Tiberius, but no traces have been found of the other bath, reconstructed in A.D. 336, on the Rua das Pedras Negras.

Olisipo was supplied with water by an aqueduct about 10 km long which ran from below a dam, the dike of which is preserved. The dike is 50 m long and 7 m thick and is reinforced; part of it still stands 8 m high. The 3d c. A.D. date for its construction is uncertain.


A. Vieira da Silva, Epigrafia de Olisipo (1944); F. de Almeida, “Notícias sobre o teatro de Nero, em Lisboa,” Lucerna (1966) 561-71.


hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Strabo, Geography, 3.3.1
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.22
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