Tróia (Island of Acála)
The peninsula of Tróia is a strip of sand on the left bank of the Sado estuary. It is about 17 km long and 1,5 km wide. The origin of the name Tróia is a unknown. In roman times, Tróia was an island in the Sado delta and was referred to as the Island of Acála (revealed by Avieno). The first references to Roman ruins in Tróia date back to 1516 when Gaspar Barreiros made reference to “… salt containers for curing fish…”. In 1622, João Baptista Lavanha referred to the place as “… where you can still see remains of tanks that were used for salting tuna and other fish, there are ruins of other buildings of that town from where statues, columns and other inscriptions have been moved…”.
In the third quarter of the XVIII century the first archaeological escavation took place, by initiative of the future queen, D. Maria I. At the same time, further houses were discovered in the Rua da Princesa.
In 1850 the Lusitanian Archaeological Society started to redig in the former residential area of the Rua da Princesa.
At the beginning of the XIX century, Inácio Marques da Costa was responsible for findings of both industrial and religious natures, the latter being a baptistery no longer exists. This archaeologist left us detailed descriptions of the whole excavation. The industrial complex in Tróia probably started during the dynasty of the emperors Julius-Claudius and would probably have been abandoned in the sixth century AD when the decline of the Empire meant that consumer markets ceased to exist. The evolution of the occupation of Tróia is closely linked to the political history of the Roman Empire.
Visit the Ruins
In Tróia remains of industrial activity, urban life and religion are still visible. Today, tanks (centarias) of different sizes can still be seen. They had rounded sides, covered in opus signinum and were totally impermeable.
The larger tanks were used for the making of salsamenta and the medium and small sized tanks were used for making condiments (garum, hallec and muria).
The factories were covered (proved by traces of pillars) and had walls separating them. Wells for fresh water supply and boilers were also found throughout the complex.
On the urban side, the ruins of a group of houses from the Rua da Princesa and the spas. The houses were two floors high, proved by the holes on the upper floor. This floor was decorated with painted stucco.
The only public building identified is a group of thermal spas. In the spa of Tróia, small in size if compared to the one in Miróbriga, the calderium (heated area) with its oven and frigidarium (unheated area) are visible. In this final area two bath tubs, marble covered are integrated in a large room with mosaic flooring in geometric patterns. Chronologies of construction and later abandoning of the spa and houses are unknown.
This paleochristian basilica is worthy of mention when looking at buildings of a religious nature. Its four aisles are irregular in form “… in the parts of the wall that are conserved we can see fresco paintings which imitate marble. On the upper parts, some show us geometrical themes, polygons or circles with birds and other illusionist topics. In the support to the covered part there were, at least several transversal arcades decorated with large flowers in bowls and a liturgical vase preceding the ones of the VII century. From the chrismal, pointed out by Marquês da Costa which has since been destroyed to the floral pictures and geometric figures, the whole range of paleochristian inspiration from before the VI century is found. Some graves covered with marble plaques bordered with frames of opus signinum are obviously part of the funeral area which was implanted on the outskirts of the Roman town. Later, this basilica received a kind of square apse which adapted it to the needs of a religious services of the time”. (Carlos Alberto Ferreira de Almeida).
“The religious character of the place seems to date from before the construction of the basilica. A sculptured pulpit was dug up, this seems to have been interpreted as a relation between the cult of Mithras and gods of the Sun (…) and there are fragments of a sarcophagus of white marble…” (Carlos Tavares da Silva). The Mithran cult with its origin in Persia arrived in the West in the second century AD through the roman legions and hence became implanted in the wealthier groups of citizens.
The burying practice in Tróia has left traces of happenings between the I and VI centuries AD and allow us to come to some conclusions about mental attitudes towards death.
The first indication takes us to the practice of incineration (burning of the bodies), common practice in all Indo-European peoples, including Romans and indigenous folk of the Peninsula.
This practice is represented by the grave of Galla (dated first century AD), a monument which is found in the Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum of the District of Setúbal. In this grave, the ashes were accompanied by a bronze vase, a ceramic cooking pot, two glass ointment holders, two small lamps from the I century AD, make-up artefacts and bone carvings. From the II century AD the practice of inhumation (burying the body) started as a consequence of Persian and Eastern Mediterranean religious influence; including the cult of Mithra and Christianity. The fragment of the sarcophagi discovered under the paleochristian basilica where a sculpture of a scene from the funeral is found. It depicts a donkey trap carrying the body which is protected by a fierce animal. It dates from the end of the II century AD and the sarcophagi, for its artistic quality clearly reflect the adherence of better off social groups accepting this new religion.
Found in the period when the practice of inhumation was common is the mausoleum. Built at a time when the complex would have been in recession with some abandoned factories (maybe at the end of the IV century AD), the mausoleum with its rectangular plan and reinforced walls has its floor completely covered in graves and urns have been deposited in niches in the walls.
At the back and front of the mausoleum there are graveyards for which we do not have accurate chronological details.
It is possible that they were used at a time when the industrial complex had already been largely abandoned. At the back, amphorae were used as urns and at the front, the tanks were used for the burials.
This probably happened in the IV century after the complex ceased to produce and Tróia was inhabited by fishermen who used that space to bury their dead.
The religious nature of the place is stayed with us until our days, the chapel of Nossa Senhora de Tróia is found here.