Numantia in Danger

Neville Morley (University of Bristol) posted an item about the possible damage to Numantia on the Classics List. It's a site I'm very interested in, because this is where Gaius Marius (biography in progress, please feel free to bother agent about it, not me) began his career. Scipio Aemilianus spotted Marius' great military talent at Numantia, and it is also where Marius and Jugurtha first met.

Dr. Morley has written the following in English for the UNED web site, and kindly gave me permission to reproduce it:

Numantia, the city of Arevaci tribe of the Celtiberians in what is now north-central Spain, is famous for its resistance to the Romans in the twenty-year conflict of the Numantine Wars, beginning with the city’s revolt in 154 and ending with its surrender in 133 following an eight-month siege. The majority of Numantia’s inhabitants are said to have committed suicide rather than be captured. As part of the Roman province of Hispania Tarraconensis, Numantia continued to be occupied well into late antiquity. Despite its importance as a symbol of resistance and Spanish identity, its location was forgotten until it was rediscovered in 1860; since the early twentieth century, archaeologists have gradually uncovered areas of the pre-Roman and Roman city and some of the Roman military encampments outside. The surrounding area is equally rich in Celtiberian, Roman and post-Roman remains and sites.

The region government of Castilla y Leon and the city of Soria have embarked on a project for the development of a new industrial site at El Cabezo, which is adjacent to the site of Numantia and the Roman encampment and will affect part of the Romanesque site of Los Arcos de San Juan del Duero. The project will have a devastating impact on the landscape of an area of extraordinary archaeological interest, and raises considerable concerns about the preservation of the sites.

The plan has met widespread opposition from a number of quarters, including the Instituto de España, the Real Academia de Historia, the Catalan Institute of Classical Archaeology, the Spanish Section of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and a number of Ancient History Departments in Spain. A full outline of the project (in Spanish) can be found here.

The Ancient History Department of UNED (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia) has launched a petition advocating that the site of Numantia be given world heritage status.

The success of this move may play a significant role in persuading the local authorities to reconsider their plans. The petition form is again in Spanish, but reasonably easy to understand; the heading DNI stands for ‘Documento Nacional de Identidad’, and non-Spanish citizens should simply enter their country of origin. All lovers of the classics are strongly urged to support this campaign to protect a site of great historical importance.

Neville Morley
University of Bristol, UK

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