The Roman City of Ammaia located in the heart of the Natural Park of the Sierra de S.Mamede, one of the most bucolic and wooded places, within walking distance of Dam Apertadura and halfway to Marvão and Castelo de Vide where heritage is built and natural privileged reason for visit, is beginning today to be constantly sought by specialists and culture lovers.
In Marvão, gradual consolidation of Roman power led to the establishment of a substantial Roman town in the 1st century. Ammaia occupied up to 25 hectares, and with a population exceeding modern-day Marvão (5000-6000 inhabitants) Ammaia occupied the site of the present-day parish of São Salvador da Aramenha. The town flourished between the 1st century BCE and the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th century CE.
Ammaia’s location on the river Sever was the west-east waypoint on trading routes, linking towns such as Scallabis (Santarém), Eboracum (Évora), Olisipo (Lisbon) and Miróbriga (Cacém Santiago) to the provincial capital Emerita Augusta (present- Merida day) via Norba Caesarina (Cáceres).
The mountain of Marvão also would have served as a watchtower providing line-of-sight to the vitally-important Roman bridge at Alcántara. Local agricultural production (olives, wine, figs, cattle) was supplemented by horse-breeding, pottery, and mining activity – notably rock crystal and quartz veins from Marvão on the mountain, together with open cast gold mining on the Tagus to the north.
Roman Ammaia saw the development of improved irrigation and terracing across the Marvão mountain. Chestnut cultivation – Replacing the place dominance of oak is likely to have been introduced at this time. Much of the terracing and ancient watercourses on the mountain Marvão date from this era.
Limited excavations at Ammaia in the past two decades covering a mere 3,000 m2 (32.292 sq ft) of the town’s area – have revealed the success, provincial expanding town that included running water, a forum, baths, the bridge over the river Sever (near today’s ‘Old Bridge’), and monumental gates (one gate was removed to Castelo de Vide in the 18th century, yet sadly dynamited in 1890).
The Alentejo region, meanwhile, was criss-crossed with efficient Roman roads, providing links to the wider Empire. Fine wares found at the site Ammaia suggest que Ammaia nobility had access to luxury glassware and jewelery, while archeology has Revealed que marble for the forum was imported from across the Empire. The high quality, for example, of the ‘Mosaic of the Muses’ from a Roman villa in nearby Monforte (4th century BCE) points to the abundant riches to be made to an Alentejo landowner in the Roman era.
Sadly, many artifacts from Ammaia in particular the series of marble sculptures were removed during the 19th and 20th centuries, notably by the Anglo-Portuguese Robinson family. These items are now in collections such as those of the British Museum.
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