Journal of Roman Studies

Research Article

Roman Gold-Mining in North-West Spain

P. R. Lewisa1 and G. D. B. Jonesa1

a1 University of Manchester

The Augustan conquest of the Asturias was resisted with all the tenacity native to that region, but under the combined pressure of no less than three legions, this wild and mountainous area of North-Western Spain finally capitulated in c. 25 B.C. On the Roman side the prospect of mineral exploitation was a major motive that demanded at times the presence of both Augustus and Agrippa. The literary references to the Spanish mining-projects that followed the conquest do not specify particular sites, but indicate instead general areas where mining was initiated. Fortunately, however, the gold-rushes of the last century in California and elsewhere reawakened interest in other areas of the world, and particularly this region of Spain, partly as a result of the legendary stories of Roman successes. The prospectors found many traces of those efforts, although in the main unsuccessful themselves. Part at least of what they saw was recorded in the current mining papers and journals of that period, and we are indebted to the work of O. Davies for abstracting and summarizing much of this information, which would otherwise be difficult to assimilate, the sources now being unobtainable or very inaccessible. We may be sure that the twenty or so mines that he noted are an underestimate, and that many more await discovery. Although Davies' list was made over thirty years ago, none of the sites have since been surveyed in any detail and no photographic record exists.