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SEGEDA

 

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The Celtiberians were first mentioned in the classical sources at the end of the III century b. C.; they were identified with the populations living in the inner Iberian peninsula and serving as mercenaries under the Carthaginians.  When, in the II century b. C., the Romans entered in the Ebro valley, the Celtiberians and their region, Celtiberia, were considered the inhabitants of an area in the center of the Iberian mountains and its neighbourhood; this area is called by the scholars “Historical Celtiberia”, due to its mentions in the sources from the early I century a. C., like Pliny and Strabo, or Ptolomaeus in his geographical descriptions in the II century a. C.

 

 

 

As a nation, the Celtiberians were well known in the Antiquity thanks to their skill making iron swords with flexible and resistant blades and thanks to resistance against the Romans and their conquest.  The Celtiberians spoke a Celtic language and lived in walled settings inhabited by peasants who grew, above all, cereals.  They used natural places as sacred sanctuaries; they incinerate their dead and they deposited their dead’s remains in ceramic vessels, usually with their weapons and other household furnishings.  From the IV century b. C., the Celtiberian city-estate arose as political centres where the Celtiberians minted their own coins and they developed the writing using a graphical system called Iberian signarium.

When the Romans arrived to the Iberian peninsula, they started soon to conquest the Ebro valley; so, we know that about the year 195 b. C. Cato commanded a Roman army that dismantled many villas in the Ebro valley, except Segestica, that resisted and the scholars think that it could be our Segeda.  The time of the largest Roman penetration in the Ebro valley took place in the year 188 b. C. with a battle in Calagurris (nowadays Calahorra, La Rioja); as a consequence of this battle, the Roman general Sempronius Graccus founded Gracchurris (now Alfaro, La Rioja) in the year 179 f. C. and he imposed an agreement to the conquered natives; in this agreement only a Celtiberian city is called by its name, Segeda.

 

Iberian signarium.

 

 

 

Segeda is identified with the archaeological sites of Poyo de Mara and Duron de Belmonte de Gracian, between the villages of Mara and Belmonte de Gracian, in the area of Calatayud (province of Zaragoza).  The Celtiberian city had a Celtic name that seems to respond to the meaning of “powerful”, being written in several coins in Iberian signarium with the names of sekaiza/sekaida.  Its importance keeps demonstrated due to the fact that it was the first Celtiberian city that minted its own coins and did it for a longer time than the other cities.  In the year 170 b. C. it still minted coins with its name, in spite of being in a territory conquered by the Romans; this fact implies that Segeda had a special status, some kind of independence or autonomy inside the conquered areas.

Segeda written in Iberian signarium: sekaiza

 

 

 

Related to the coins, Segeda had a complet Roman coin system with silver denarii for the taxes to Rome, together with ases and some bronze units with different values and types.  The fact that other near cities like Bilbilis (in Valdeherrera, Calatayud) or Nertobis (near the modern La Alumnia de Doña Godina) minted coins only in bronze means Segeda was hierarchically over them.  On the other hand, the fact that in a town called Tamusia, located in the modern Extremadura, there were found a large number of bronze coins minted with the name sekaiza/sekaida could mean an emigration of people of Segeda from their native Celtiberia to new territories.

In the year 154 b. C. Segeda built a defensive wall; this fact was considered by the Romans as a casus belli, i. e., as a war cause.  However, in Rome, the consules were not elected until the Idus of March, i. e., the 15th March, the first day in the Roman calendar; this fact supposed a delay in order the consules or other generals could be in command of the Roman army against the Segedians in summer; so, the Romans decided put forward the election of the consules in the 1st January, so that from this year, due to the war against the Segedians, the calendar that reached until our days starts the 127 January.  We know details about this battle and the facts thanks to Appianus Alexandrinus, Iberian Wars 44-45.

 

As from Segeda. (Photo from BURILLO MOZOTA, Francisco: Segeda (Mara-Belmonte de Gracián).  La ciudad celtibérica que cambió el calendario, Zaragoza, 2005

 

 

 

The most ancient archaeological phase in Segeda is located in a hill, the Poyo de Mara, place chosen by the Segedians as centre of their city that was extended to the south and reached up to 12 hectares (29.652 acres).  Segeda was the capital city or the city-estate of a Celtic nation or ethnos called beli, whose territory seems to extend from the middle zone of the Jalon river up to the Aguasvivas river, in the eastern Celtiberia.  At the foot of the hill the titi and other Celtiberian neighbours established, according to the version of Appianus, in an extension of 6 hectares (14.526 acres).  As a whole the archaeological site of Segeda shelters about 17 hectares (about 42.000 acres); this fact is not agree with Appianus’ information, who said that the Segeda’s wall was 40 stadia large (a stadium is equivalent to 185 metres, so the wall was 7,4 kilometres large; with this perimeter the city should shelter 300 hectares).  Other oppida –wall cities- found in the north of Hispania give evidence of more modest size: Emporion, a Greek colony (nowadays Ampurias, Girona), had about 5 hectares; Rhode (now Rosas, Girona), even less; Puig de Sant Andeu (Ullastret, Girona) 11 hectares; Kese, an Iberian city that keeps under Tarraco (Tarragona) could had 10 hectares; Saguntum (naw Sagunt, Valencia) had between 8 and 10 hecatres; and Numantia (near Garray, Soria) only 7,2.  Nevertheless, the 17 hectares in Segeda make of it one of the most important cities in the north of Hispania; together with the minting of coins and the war case against the Romans, it was an evidence of its political importance.

 

 

 

Related to its population, we can say that the city it is not completely excavated and we do not know the number of its houses, so that to apply an average of 4,5 people in every house it is not possible.  The scholars calculated between 1.500 and 2.000 inhabitants in Numantia, i. e., between 208 and 278 inhabitants per hectare; if we apply to Segeda the same calculation, its population was between 3.526 and 4.726 inhabitants.  Other scholars think that in Numantia there were 500 inhabitants per hectare; in that case Segeda should had 8.500 inhabitants.  The information in the classical sources said that it was a Celtiberian coalition with 25.000 men, a number very probable, because the Romans fought with 30.000 soldiers.  The Roman invasion supposed levy in mass between the Celtiberians to fight against them, so that the territory of the arevaci –whose city-estate was Numantia- and those of the beli –whose city-estate was Segeda, together with the alliance and absorption of the titi- reached 125.000 inhabitants; 25.000 of them were the soldiers who fought against the Romans.  According to the extension of these territories, its density of population should be about 3.72 inhabitants per km2 in the II century b. C.

 

 

 

After the Roman victory a peace time started; then, near the Celtiberian Segeda (in the Poyo de Mara) was founded a new city en the near Duron de Belmonte.  The new location had a fosse and a wall and its urbanization was in the Roman style, with right streets, crossed in reticule, spacious houses with mosaics and their walls in stucco.  About the importance of the city we have a testimony: Segeda kept minting its own coins with the Celtiberian name, so that the new city was a continuation of the ancient city and very probably with the same inhabitants. 

 

 

 

The foundation of Segeda II was parallel to the foundation of other cities in the Ebro valley and in the peninsular northeast, within a period of social changes and economical development: new irrigated lands, increase of the agricultural production, intensive extraction of minerals, industries specialized in manufacturing ceramic on a large scale and importation of products.

 

 

 

The development of the new Segeda stopped suddenly soon after its foundation: in the I century b. C., during the period of the Roman civil wars, Segeda took sides of the Quintus Sertorius’ faction; afterwards he was defeated by Cnaeus Pompeius, so that his supporters were defeated and even destroyed; the definitive abandonment of Segeda is dated in this period.

 

 

 

However, we have only a few news in the classical sources about Segeda and the Segedians: together with the already mentioned information from Appianus, we have the followings:  Diodorus Siculus XXXI 39, Strabo III 162 and Florus I 34, 3.

 

 

 

In 2001, the 25th June, the archaeological sites of Segeda were declared Good of Cultural Interest.  Such a denomination was received, undoubtedly, due to its special characteristics: the large Celtiberian cities that we know were inhabited in the Roman age (Numantia, Termes or Uxama, all of them in Soria) or they were founded in a later period (Bilbilis –in Zaragoza- or Segobriga –in Cuenca-), whilst Segeda had two successive sites in two different phases of the city.

 

 

 

As a consequence of the archaeological sites of Segeda two interesting initiatives have been developed: the Foundation Segeda and de Centre of Celtiberian Studies Segeda (click here to see their web http://www.segeda.net/).  Thanks to them there were made a series of interesting activities that try to introduce their studies, their works and the archaeological sites, revitalizing the life in Mara with their Celtiberian Conferences.

The Festivity of the Idus of March (since 2003), the Saturday in March nearest to the 15th, to celebrate the Roman war declaration against the Segedians, offers workshops of Celtiberian writing, minting coins, etc.; at the same time there is a reunion of kraftmen exposing their archaeological reproductions, groups of historical reconstructions, popular lunch and dinner, with a concert of Celtic music around a bonfire.

The Festivity of the Vulcanallia (since 2002), the Sunday in August nearest to the 23rd, offers some workshops, a historical performance of the battle between the Romans and the Segedians; there is also a competition of Celtiberian gastronomy, reproductions of weapons of Celtiberian and Roman age, etc.

Finallly, in September (since 2000), there is a weekend in the archaeological sites that they called “open days” to show to the interested people the excavations made during the summer and an advance of the archaeological discovers, and at the same time there is an exhibition in Mara with a different subject every year.

 

Member of the group "Los Celtíberos"; they make historical reproductions and recreations (click here to see their  web, http://www.losceltiberos.es/). 

(Photo: Roberto Lérida Lafarga 15/03/2008)

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:

- BURILLO MOZOTA, Francisco: Segeda (Mara-Belmonte de Gracián).  La ciudad celtibérica que cambió el calendario, Zaragoza, 2005