The Roman monument that was Visigoth | Culture

The arches of aqueduct of Los Milagros, in Merida, They do not fall, but their myth as a Roman construction falters. If until now it was believed that this monumental building had been built in the 1st century AD. C. by emperors of the Claudia or Flavia families to supply Augusta Emérita with water, the recent thermoluminescence tests carried out by the Autonomous University of Madrid they delay their factory, at least, to the fourth century, which places its inauguration in the middle of the late period, bordering on the beginning of the Middle Ages.

This aqueduct of 830 meters in length and a height of 25 meters in its highest part have always been considered the paradigm of what is supposed to be a Roman construction. But two laboratory tests carried out in Spain and Germany put him in doubt. Moreover, they locate its construction between the fourth and sixth centuries.

Isaac Moreno Gallo, public works technical engineer, geographer and historian, recalls that the chronology of the fourth and fifth centuries coincides with the administrative reform of Diocletian, at the time that Augusta Emeritus, the current Merida, becomes the capital of the extensive Diocese Hispaniarum, a province that occupied the entire Peninsula and North Africa. The city was remodeled at that time and important urban works were carried out on it, including the aqueduct. "The arches of Los Milagros are long-standing, not fully Roman, and it is very necessary that the competent Administration be the one to carry out new thermoluminescence tests to more accurately identify their constructive moment," says Moreno Gallo.

The analyzes that the Autonomous University has carried out this year are added to others that were carried out in 2011 in Germany and that threw the construction date around the year 560, already in the Visigothic period. According to these results, the building would have its origin in “one of the frequent Visigothic civil wars ”. Moreno Gallo explains it this way: “King Agila took refuge in Mérida around 555 and faced the rebel Atanagildo. But Agila was defeated because the Byzantine troops of Emperor Justinian [who occupied for almost a century a coastal strip that goes from Valencia to Cádiz] supported his enemy. It would not be strange, therefore, that Byzantine architects had intervened in Mérida, after the victory of Atanagildo, to raise the aqueduct with its technology ”.

The Civil Engineer Manuel Durán Fuentes, former Professor of Civil Engineering History at the School of Civil Engineers of A Coruña, believes that the archery of Mérida "presents factories of late period [from the fourth century] for some constructive details" . And he explains: "For example, the use of ripiado [small stones between the ashlars to level the aqueduct] corresponds more to late and ancient times than Roman times." "The presence, in addition, of stone courses alternated with others of brick is not of the first century, as tradition says, but beyond the third, at least."

Durán, who has studied almost all of the Roman bridges in Hispania, also questions other dates on the Peninsula. He gives as an example the bridge of Villa del Río, in Córdoba, over the Salado. "Its factory is not Roman either, although the foundation is, since its archery construction modes have more precedents in the construction of Caliphate times and greater similarities with the oriental construction," he explains.

Moreno Gallo rivets the words of his colleague: “This type of error in the dating of Roman engineering works is very frequent in Spain. Everything ancient, of stone and without documentation, becomes systematically Roman. And this, logically, is not so, even if the strongest tradition supports it. ”

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