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Lusitania Romana. Origin of two Peoples
Museu Nacional de Arqueologia




National Museum of Archaeology

The Roman province of Lusitania, an administrative entity created more than 2,000 years - between 16 to 13 BC – is, perhaps, one of the least known by historiography, despite being one of the most interesting, due to its geographical location in the Roman Empire, as finis terrarum, the diversity of peoples that inhabited it, the existing local resources, and the political significance of its creation. The capital was the colony Augusta Emerita, a city founded ex nihilo, in 25 BC, by the emperor Augustus, who instructed his son in law, Marcus Agrippa, to create and distribute land to the veterans (emeritus) of two legions, mainly italics, who joined the military contingents involved in the pacification wars of the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula, held in the 20s of the first century BC against the Astures and Cantabrians peoples.

Located in a strategic point of the Guadiana River, the capital of this province articulated the circulation between another province, the Betic (now Andalusia), the lands from the Peninsular Northwest and the ones from the meridional axis toward the Atlantic coast and its port, Olisipo. Augusta Emerita, unlike the other two capitals of the Roman Hispania (Tarraco, now Tarragona, and Carthago Nova, today’s Cartagena) had no direct exit to the sea, hence Olisipo, today’s Lisbon, as well as the rest of the network of major cities deployed along the Tagus and Sado rivers - Scalabis (Santarém), Salacia (Alcácer do Sal) and Cetóbriga (Setúbal) – mainly constituted a complex of entrance and exit "doors" to the great Ocean sea.

With the "atlantization" of the Empire, from the Emperor Claudius government, given the need to support military contingents involved in the conquest of Britain and the communication with Germania Inferior, the finisterra position of Lusitania changes, being transformed into an articulation space on the sea route between the Mediterranean and northern stops. Lusitania became essential in the creation of a genuine Atlanticum Nostrum that the Romans added to their Mare Nostrum, the Mediterranean.

This Roman province then occupied a significant part of Portugal’s territory, between the Douro and the Algarve, the current Spanish Extremadura and a small area of Andalusia. History decided that this territory, geographically, politically and administratively unified by the Romans, remained divided into two nations for centuries: Portugal and Spain. Therefore, this exhibition’s main objetive is to disclose this Roman Lusitania from a selection of archaeological assets of undeniable importance.

Like all projects, this one also has its history. In 1998, José María Álvarez Martínerz, one of the current commissioners, along with Adília Alarcão, director of the Museu Monográfico de Conimbriga at the time, created the first draft of a script, resumed and expanded in 2013, and now presented to the public in the format for which it was designed: an exhibition. The preparation of this joint international exhibition was developed by a renewed commission, and the Scientific Commissioners were: António Carvalho, Director of the National Museum of Archaeology, José María Álvarez Martínez, Director of the National Museum of Roman Art, and Carlos Fabião, Professor of the Faculty of Letters of the University of Lisbon. In 2013, the 40th anniversary over the always essential edition for knowledge of the theme, the Roman Portugal, by Jorge de Alarcão, was celebrated.

This exhibition also displays a new concept: by not looking to the territories separated by the political frontier, it recovers the Roman historical borders that, over the past few decades, historians and archaeologists of Classical Antiquity, Spanish and Portuguese, but also of many other nationalities, have diligently valued in their work, conducting an investigation that deals with Lusitania as a whole. Many of these researchers have made important contributions to the catalogue available to the public.

This dynamic was structured over the decades, through the intense collaboration between renowned institutions, universities, museums and researchers from different countries, who form the "Lusitania Group", decisively strengthened by the cycle of "Roundtables of Roman Lusitania", started in Talence (Bordeaux) in 1988, and since its 2nd edition, held alternately in Spanish and Portuguese cities, with a brief return to France (Toulouse), with Jean-Gérard Gorges has an enthusiastic driving force, accompanied by other researchers.

This movement allowed to foster and affirm the creation of a emeritense and Lusitanian historiography, which has an exponent in the series "Studia Lusitana", established by the Museo Nacional de Arte Romano, and in the cooperation between researchers, a process in which this exhibition is both a point of arrival and departure for new projects.

To present this exhibition, we gathered 207 cultural assets of great archaeological, historical and artistic interest, belonging to museums and cultural institutions - fourteen institutions in Portugal and five in Spain - of different types and tutelages. On the whole, we present objects of national, regional and municipal museums and other institutions, fundamental assets of their collections, many of them integrated in the permanent exhibitions of the lending institutions and that will hardly be gathered again.

With a very appealing exhibition design, these cultural assets are presented in different sections: I. The Gaze of the Other; II. The Contact. The Impact of the Roman Presence; III. The Full Integration of the Lusitanian Territory; IV. The Lusitanian cities; V. Living in Society; VI. The Economy and Forms of Production; VII. The Rural Life; VIII. Religious Manifestations; and IX. The Slow Transformation. The exhibition ends with an audiovisual projection on the "Roman Legacy" in the Portuguese territory and the Spanish Extremadura, the section X.

The exhibition ‘Roman Lusitania. Origin of Two Peoples’ was first presented in the National Museum of Roman Art in Merida, from 23rd March to 30th September, 2015, and it can now be visited in the National Museum of Archaeology in Lisbon, from 25th January to 30th June, 2016, integrated in the cultural program "Mostra Espanha 2015" (‘Exhibit Spain 2015’). The possibility of being displayed in Madrid, in the renovated National Archaeological Museum in the summer of 2016, it’s being contemplated.

This exhibit is the result of the will and executive power of a consortium that took the responsability of its organization: the National Museum of Roman Art, the National Museum of Archaeology and the Junta de Extremadura (Regional Government of Extremadura), with the scientific collaboration of the Faculty of Letters of the University of Lisbon, supported by the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture in Portugal, by different General Directorates of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport and the Junta de Extremadura, in Spain, as well as other cultural and tourism institutions in both the countries.

All displayed cultural assets are insured by the Lusitania Seguros, the institutional patron of the Portuguese General Directorate of Cultural Heritage.

This exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with texts from researchers from five countries, both an overview and update of the research developed in the recent decades, published under the existing editorial partnership with the Imprensa Nacional – Casa da Moeda (Portuguese Mint and Official Printing Office - INCM). An excellent opportunity to show the Roman legacy in the Lusitania, to raise and increase the interest of the public and the international scientific community in the theme.

Rome brought and expanded its idea of State and its Culture throughout the peninsular territory, articulating a network of infrastructures and managing a political, administrative and religious fabric with the city figure as a fundamental axis. This historic achievement dilated over five centuries and the Kingdom of Spain and the Portuguese Republic both benefit today from its heritage legacy. In a special way, the province of Lusitania is a paradigm of a cultural reality that unites both states. The assembled archaeological remains, unique cultural assets now displayed at the National Museum of Archaeology have a fundamental role: to tell the story of ancient human occupation of the territory of Lusitania, today’s most of Portugal and parts of Spain.

In Lisbon. At the National Museum of Archaeology. From 26th January to 30th June, 2016

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