A Roman camp

Category: Origen de la Ciudad

Around 2000 years ago, during the Roman domination of Iberia, the governor from Hispania Tarraconenses, Servio Sulpicio Galba, that rebelled against Nero, decided to recruit soldiers to create a military group that could help him during the conspiracy. Although his 72 years could cast doubt on his leadership, it did not take long to Galba to gather a legion of 6000 men with cavalry. Then he went over Rome and, after Nero’s suicide, he was proclaimed as Emperor.

Old City Walls

The good luck of Galba was ephemeral: during the next year, he was murdered in the forum by the Praetorians, unhappy with his disastrous policy; but the legion he created left an everlasting mark. Legio Galbaniana was named later on Legio VII Gemina, its members waged war against the Barbarians along the Rhine’s border and, on their way back from Italy, and they set up a walled camp between the rivers Torio and Bernsega, in the Northeast of the peninsula. Next to the camp, a settlement of civilians, relatives of the legionaries, craftsmen and merchants was developed. These are the origins of the city of León, attested from the year 68 AD. A carved stone from a subsequent era, preserved at the San Isidro Museum, testifies the event.

The time went by and the settlement became definitive, thermal baths, pagan temples and entertainment establishments came up. The “Pax Romana” turned the citadel into a fortified town which helped to conquer all the rebellious tribes –the indomitable Astures, in this case- and it ensured the trade of gold and silver, that is to say, the Empire.

Baptismal Font in San Isidro

The old Roman city walls were, several times, destroyed and then rebuild throughout the centuries, as the town itself. The villas of national heroes and the pagan temples represented the foundations of others medieval constructions, but the archeological remains clearly testify the imperial past. The actual city walls that recall the origins of the city were rebuilt by Alfonso V, King of León, by the year 1010, and later on straightened and extended. The ensemble was declared Historical Monument by the year 1931.

The decadence of the Roman Empire and the Barbarian invasions condemned the small town to obscurity. After centuries of dark existence, it is known that the Visigoth King Leovigild added it to his possessions in the year 586. Strengthened by Vitiza, León was, during a lot of time, a prosperous and peaceful place.

But the things changed, and in the VIII century the Visigoth monarchy was overthrown and the Muslims invaded and conquer almost the whole Peninsula, except for some redoubts in the Northern Mountains. From this moment, León became a fundamental enclave during the long process of Reconquista (the Reconquest) that starts in Covadonga (Asturias) in 722 and culminates with the conquest of Granada by the Reyes Católicos (Catholic Monarchs) in 1492.

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