Friday, December 2

The trail of the Byzantine army in El Monastil de Elda


Ehe great archaeological and historical value of the El Monastil de Elda site never ceases to amaze. The latest find has been produced as a result of the identification of several metal pieces of a heavy cavalry rider’s breastplate used by Justinian and his Byzantine successors. In few enclaves of the Mediterranean have this type of lamas from the Eastern Roman Empire been found. In fact, in Spain the only place where they have been found and recognized is in Cartagena, the possible Byzantine capital in whose commercial district, built on the ancient Roman theater, just over a hundred lamas of the same type of armor appeared a few years ago.

The former director of the Municipal Archaeological Museum of Elda and scientist at the University of Alicante, Antonio Poveda Navarro, has been the architect of the discovery when he managed to distinguish, after a laborious comparative study, Byzantine objects that usually go unnoticed. Specifically, it has detected the similarity of the three iron slats that appeared in El Monastil with those of Cartagena. “So that There is no doubt that if there were Byzantine troops of Justinian in this city, in the town of El Monastil there were also them in the 6th century AD. ” The three rectangular and elongated slats have some holes through which the metal part could be hooked to the textile garment, on which they rested underneath to be able to be placed without discomfort on the body. This type of heavy iron cuirass, later colored in silver, was unique to the Kathafracti, the most powerful armed cavalry of Justinian and the Byzantines. Latin sources describe them as horsemen that were completely covered in iron, slow-moving but authentic armored warriors difficult to defeat. It was precisely the cavalry preceding the one that emerged in the Middle Ages. An elite body within the Byzantine troops that occupied Hispania. «And now, thanks to Archeology, we know that These feared soldiers controlled the Vinalopó route from the Byzantine Monastil», Highlights Antonio Poveda.

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Between 552 and 555, Gothic power was highly fragmented and Justiniano took the opportunity to penetrate the Iberian Peninsula and occupy an important coastal strip that went from Cádiz to Dénia and Cullera. The researchers locate the military and administrative capital in Cartagena, which relied on Elche to control the Vinalopó corridor. But the Byzantines of those urban centers took advantage of El Monastil de Elda to establish an outpost of their army, as well as a minimal ecclesiastical and commercial administration that used the Byzantine monastery that appeared in this enclave of civilizations as their headquarters.

So far, Poveda had been able to investigate some pieces, found in the 60s and 70s by the Archeology Section of the Eldense Excursionist Center, which were used for commercial control and the celebration of the Christian liturgy of the Greek-oriental rite. Findings that showed that the small church excavated at the top of the El Monastil site was part of a Byzantine monastery from the 6th century AD. A strategic point located on the border of the Byzantines who occupied the coast to stop the advance of the Goths from Toledo to the southeast. This would explain the presence of a small monastic community that organized the exploitation of the area and the collection of taxes, but above all it confirms the presence of soldiers of the Emperor Justinian, relentlessly committed to rebuilding the old Roman Empire throughout the Mediterranean, which is which led him to invade Hispania.

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The finding of the presence of the Byzantine army in the archaeological site of Elda is arousing great interest among archaeologists. Turkish, Greek, Italian and Spanish universities have already contacted the researcher to gather more data on his work. The last University that has been addressed to Antonio Poveda is the Greek University of Thessaloniki, where there is an important line of research on Byzantine weaponry. Also from Toledo they have expressed their desire to continue delving into the Visigothic phase of El Monastil, an inexhaustible deposit of first-rate archaeological information.


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