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EGITANIA (Idanha-a-Velha) Beira Baixa, Portugal.

On the banks of the Pônsul, ca. 50 km from Castelo Branco. The Roman town existed at least from 16 B.C., when it received a sun dial from Quintus lalius Augurinus. At that time it was governed by four magistrates, all with Celtic names, and was not yet a Roman municipium. Romanization proceeded up to the time of Claudius, when Roman citizenship was conferred on Lucius Marcius Avitus, commander of the ala I Singularium civium Romanorum, stationed here from at least A.D. 41 to no later than 69. Perhaps the mineral wealth of the region justified the presence of a military detachment, which was transferred at least by A.D. 69 to Germany. Egitania became a municipium in the time of the Flavians. Various inscriptions call the city civitas Igaeditanis, Igaeditanorum, or simply Igaeditania. Almost all the Visigoth kings from Recaredo (586-601) to Rodrigo (710-711) minted coins here. The fortifications, preserved in almost their entire circuit, include numerous inscriptions and worked Roman blocks; they date from the end of the 3d or the beginning of the 4th c. A.D.

The cardo corresponds to the present-day Castelo and Guimarães streets; the decumanus to Rua Nova. The mediaeval tower is located on the podium of a Roman temple, perhaps the Temple of Venus, known from an inscription of the first half of the 1st c. A.D. and erected by a certain Modestinus. He may be the Gaius Cantius Modestinus who built a temple in Midões to the Genius of the city and another to Victoria (CIL ii, 401-2). He was probably a citizen of Celtic origin, a wealthy landowner in the region developed by the road from Emerita to Egitania.

The cathedral, which may lie over a temple to Mars, has three aisles; it dates from the 6th or 7th c. but has been much altered. In front of its main door at a lower level which may be that of the original Christian church, was a baptistery. The rectangular basin had two other basins, much smaller and shallower, used for infants.

Outside the walls to the W are traces of a Roman bath. A Roman bridge nearby crosses the Pônsul. The road from Emerita to Egitania, which runs across the bridge, and its extensions to Asturica and Viseu, seem to have been constructed in A.D. 5 or 6, when Augustus set the limits of the civitates of the region: those of the Igaeditani, the Lancienses Oppidani, the Mirobrigenses (Ciudad Rodrigo), Bletisa and Salmantica. Egitania was thus an important road center. But it was also in a region where gold was mined, as is attested by an inscription which Tiberius Claudius Rufus, made a Roman citizen perhaps in the time of Claudius, dedicated to Jupiter to thank the god for 120 pounds of gold.

The finds are for the most part in the local museum. The 200 or more inscriptions constitute the largest collection in Portugal, and include the oldest inscription found in Lusitania: that of Quintus lalius Augurinus already cited.


Fernando de Almeida, Egitania. Arqueologia e História (1956)MPI; id., “O baptistério paleocristão de Idanha-a-Velha (Portugal),” Boletim del Seminario de Estudios de Arte y Arqueologia 31 (1965) 134; id., “Templo de Venus em Idanha-a-Velha,” Actas e Memórias do I Congresso Nacional de Arqueologia II (1970) 133-39.


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