The Roman military camps: Aquis Querquennis

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Leticia Mouriz and Vanesa de la Fuente (Photos: José A. Armesto)

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This camp was built in the Roman imperial period. Its name comes from the people that occupied the area, the quarquerni that would stretch, within the Conventus Bracarensis, by the region of the Baixa Limia in the province of Ourense.

We can emphasize another important Roman camp in Galicia, the one named “ A Cidadela” situated in Sobrado dos Monxes (A Coruña).

Aquis was occupied by a subordinate military detachment of the Legio VII Gemina, that had the headquarters in León. It was built during the reign of Vespasian (69-79 A. D.) and left approximately in the year 120 A. D.

The place was chosen because it’s an easy place to access, with pastures, big amount of firewood and thermal springs. The site is structured as a rectangle with rounded corners and four entrances. The surface it occupies is 25.842 square meters and it has a circular area of about eleven meters wide separating the walls from the other buildings, which was named intervallum.

The site

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Images (c) 2012 Cnes/Spot Image, DigitalGlobe, GeoEye, IGP/DGRF. Map Data  (c) 2012 TeleAtlas

Aquis Querquennis is an archaeological complex that began to be diggen in 1975. It consists of a Roman camp and a village from the same period which was a mansion of the Via Nova linking Bracara and Asturica. Initially both places were interrelated because it’s almost demonstrated that the camp was founded in order to activate the construction of the Via Nova. A few decades later, when the camp disappeared, its structures served to grow the road mansion, the fourth from Braga and 53 miles far from this city. It became the most important of the Quarquernos urban centers as Ptolemy wrote in the middle of the 2nd century.

The military camp

Decimus Junius Brutus and his legionaries crossed the river Limia in 138 A. D. and Octavius Augustus made the final attack in 29 A.D. using an important contingent of troops. With the suicide of the last warriors in Medulio mountain, the complete romanization of Gallaecia began. One of the first signs of this process is the creation of stable military camps to control the last focus of rebellion and the buidings of roads to communicate the new imperial settlements. The legions were responsible for the surveillance and security in the roads.

Into the camp can be seen:

  • Main door (Porta principalis sinistra):
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    it's a great entrance with double way and four doors on which the perimetral adarve of the walls run by.

  • West door (Porta decumana):
    contrary to the main door this has only one way and two successive arcade doors.

Both were razed to the first row of the blocks. The excavation and rebuilding process, very similar in both cases, allowed to make them visible.

Next to West door we find different buildings:
  • The barns (horrea):
    These two buildings were designed to store cereals and other food for human consumption. Both are of similar proportions and identical constructive technique, with support piles, ventilation chimneys and lateral buttresses to halt the grain pressure.
  • The troop barracks:
    Two of these barracks are completely excavated. The first one presents a simple diagram. At the entrance, on the left, it was the centurion’s residence and, then, four double units with communicated compartments, where eight soldiers were accommodated. In the opposite band there are six double units. They were enough to give shelter to eighty soldiers, the ones that formed a century. Each one of these units had, at least, a home in some of the stays and, sometimes, in both. The cover would be made of wood and straw, probably with two slopes. The rain waters would be collected in an interior compluvium, and conducted through a channel to a circular cistern lined of stone and endowed with curb of security. There would exist, in both facades and only in the segments corresponding to the cubicles of the troop, a narrow ambulatory, the cover of which would lean on wooden posts sustained on granite bases, to which all the entrances of the stays would lead to.The second barrack, completely isolated from the first one, with which it confines partially by means of a wall almost surely plugged at that time. The distribution and nature of the occupation environments are similar but this presents some novelties, such as the existence of two confronted rectangular stays, like guard’s bodies or two dividing walls in the wall opposed to the vain of the barrack entrance.
  • The hospital (valetudinarium):
    The plant of this building imitates a typical Roman domus. The rooms, all of them square, are articulated arround a peristyle that surrounds a square patio, delimitated by a wall of over 60 centimeters high.
    The building suffered some detectable alterations along its life, both in the transformation of some stays and in the remodelling of the pavements. From the interior patio run towards the south a drainage channel going up to the decumana doo.
  • Third barrack of the troop and canaba:
    About twenty-five meters from the wall, archaeologists found very fragmentary remains consisting in vestiges of rooms, some of them with a home, and two circular exempt floors, paved with roman tiles, that seemed bases of ovens or funds of ponds. It was thought these buildings belonged to the camp due to the ceramic founded and therefore they could be the remains of a potter stablishment dependent of the camp or the first canaba vestiges (store or barrack usually established near the more or less Roman stable centers of fixed or temporary population and from which traders fulfilled the needs of these groups) that surely had to exi
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    st near the camp.

The road mansion

The ruins we can see today are the vestiges of an establishment innkeeper erected in two different moments. The first one, dating probably from the beginning of the second century of the era, would consist of a large yard with roof supported on large pilasters the basement of which are still upkept. It would have a series of contiguous residential stays.

The second one, probably built in the first decades of the 3rd century, would correspond to the installation of a new building which, partly, would invalidate the old yard with the construction of an external fence with a well in the middle, possibly to keep safe and to water the transport and mount animals. This building, whose paved lobby is still entirely outkept, was flanked by an urban road to which one could descend by a wide stairway with several granitic steps.

 

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