For hundreds, thousands of years, the cities of London, Paris, Istanbul, Barcelona, were enclosed behind the stones of Rome. Built during the unstoppable march of the Emperors, these walls remained long after the legions abandoned their cities to the Barbarian tribes of the north. All of them have since been lost to us today, destroyed to the imperatives of urban expansion.
There is one city, however, that has protected this archaeological legacy from decay and destruction: Lucus Augusti – now known as Lugo – centre of Roman military might in the verdant lands of Gaelicia for centuries, symbol of the Eagle Empire for millennia.
Before the foundation of Lucus Augusti, before the smashing down of the Roman fist on this isolated region of Iberia, there existed a Celtish civilisation whose military and economic strength paled in comparison to the legions that flooded the highlands from Rome’s eastern province of Hispania Tarraconensis. Faced with certain defeat, many local leaders capitulated to the representatives of the Emperor Augustus, hoping that subjugation would secure them peace, protection, and integration into the new world order.
There is perhaps no other city that better represents the military might of the Roman Empire than Lugo, and no other wall that better shows the fears and weaknesses that form the foundations of all walls old and new.
– Lives and Times
With the consolidation of Roman might in Lucas Augusti came a period of prosperity and splendour. The gilded classes lived in opulent domus homes decorated with mosaics depicting the terrestrial and the divine, and civic life flourished, centring around the forum, the public baths by the Miño River, and the temples.
But all this wealth, all the opulence of Rome, was at risk in later times of decline. Internal bloodletting and external infringements on Roman territory led the rulers of Lucas Augusti to fortify the city with a monumental wall, even if such a colossal project would mean additional stress on the economic fortunes of the Empire. Once constructed, the wall was a symbol of raw power to all who beheld it from afar, but likewise a symbol of an increasingly insular and insecure society. The wall was a paradox of strength and weakness.
Generations of Lucenses have taken to the wall for pleasure and recreation, its views of the city lights and surrounds making it a perfect place for nocturnal kissing and caressing.
– Lives and Times
Only a few decades after the construction of the wall Lucus Augusti would fall. Its formerly all-powerful rulers – a slave-holding class of indolent elites – would wave the white flag to the invading Suave tribe from the north. The Germanic barbarians did not even need to lay siege upon the fortified city, and some say that the elite of the city were celebrating a feast when the occupiers came, too drunk on sweet wine to organise a resistance.
Since the Roman fall the wall of Lugo has seen centuries of warfare, siege, and decay. 1,700 years of exposure and attack heavily compromised the fortifications structure and stability, and only recent efforts to restore it to its former glory have allowed a full circumnavigation of the ring of stone by foot. Generations of Lucenses have taken to the wall for pleasure and recreation, its views of the city lights and surrounds making it a perfect place for nocturnal kissing and caressing.
There is perhaps no other city that better represents the military might of the Roman Empire than Lugo, and no other wall that better shows the fears and weaknesses that form the foundations of all walls old and new. Lugo’s fortifications are a standing reminder that all empires must meet the same fate, however tall and wide their defences, and however much their emperors echo the arrogance of Julius Cesar’s “veni, vidi, vici”.
Lives and Times…
…Writing on the World Around Us