Tower of Hercules

Tower of Hercules

The Tower of Hercules is an ancient Roman lighthouse located on a peninsula about 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles) from the centre of the city of La Coruña, Galicia, in present-day north-western Spain. The very name of "Corunna" is said to be derived from the ancient "columna", or column. It stands convert|55|m|ft high, and overlooks the North Atlantic coast of Spain. The lighthouse is almost 1900 years old and is the oldest Roman lighthouse still used as a lighthouse. The structure was rehabilitated in 1791. [ [ A Universal Pronouncing Gazetteer] from Google Book Search]

The Tower of Hercules is a National Monument of Spain and since 27 April 2007 [ Tower of Hercules] from the UNESCO website] has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Construction and history

The tower remains a sentinel from days long past. It is known to have existed by the 2nd century, built or perhaps rebuilt under Trajan, perhaps on foundations and just possibly following a design that was Phoenician in origin. It is thought to be modeled after the Pharos Lighthouse of Alexandria. At its base is preserved the cornerstone with the inscription MARTI AUG.SACR C.SEVIVS LUPUS ARCHTECTUS AEMINIENSIS LVSITANVS.EX.VO, permitting the original lighthouse tower to be ascribed to the architect Gaius Sevius Lupus, from Aeminium (present-day Coimbra, Portugal) in the former province of Lusitania, as an "ex voto" dedicated to Mars. The tower has been in constant use since the 2nd century and considered to be the oldest existing lighthouse in the world. [ [ The United States Lighthouse Society | Resources - Educational Materials ] ] . Originally it was constructed with an ascending ramp encircling its sides, for oxen to bring cartloads of wood to keep the light fueled at night.Fact|date=July 2008

The earliest surviving mention of the lighthouse at Brigantium is by Paulus Orosius in "Historiae adversum Paganos" written "ca" 415 – 417:

Secundus angulus circium intendit, ubi Brigantia Gallaeciae civitas sita altissimum farum et inter pauca memorandi operis ad speculam Britanniae erigit” ("At the second angle of the circuit [circumnavigating Hispania] , where the Gallaecian city of Brigantia is sited, a very tall lighthouse is erected among a few commemorative works, for looking towards Britannia.")

In 1788 the original convert|34|m|ft, 3-storey tower was given a neoclassical restoration, including a new convert|21|m|ft fourth storey. The restoration was undertaken by naval engineer Eustaquio Giannini during the reign of Charles III of Spain, and was finished in 1791. Within, the much-repaired Roman and medieval masonry may be inspected.

The Romans who conquered this region of Spain believed it to be the end of the earth, as described in "Finisterra". This region is notorious for shipwrecks, earning the name "Costa da Morte", the "Death Coast".


Through the millennia many mythical stories of its origin have been told. According to a myth that blends Celtic and Greco-Roman elements, the hero Hercules slew the giant tyrant Geryon after three days and three nights of continuous battle. Hercules then—in a Celtic gesture— buried the head of Geryon with his weapons and ordered that a city be built on the site. The lighthouse atop a skull and crossbones representing the buried head of Hercules’ slain enemy appears in the coat-of-arms of the city of Corunna.

An earlier legend embodied in the 11th-century compilation "Lebor Gabala Erren"— the "Book of Invasions"— King Breogán, the founding father of the Galician Celtic nation, constructed here a massive tower of such a grand height that his sons could see a distant green shore from its top. The glimpse of that distant green land lured them to sail north to Ireland. A colossal statue of Breogán has been erected near the Tower.

Possible locations of Brigantia

Early geographical description on the location of "Brigantia" point out that the town was actually located where the modern city of Betanzos is. This is sustained by the fact that Betanzos was referred to as "the former city of Brigancia" until the 17th century, both is literary accounts as well as in maps. It is also believed that the name "Betanzos" is a phonetical evolution from "Brigantium > Breganzo > Betanzos".

The port of Betanzos was getting too small for the larger mediaeval ships and king Alphons IX of Leon decided to create a bigger port nearby in the 13th century. The place he chose was a uninhabited place called "Clunia", which later on evolved to "Cruña" and Coruña. The place name Clunia is believed to come from the Galician Celtic name "Cluain", which means "The Meadow".

During the 19th and 20th century it was promoted the idea that the city of Brigantia was actually at the same place where the modern city of Corunna is today. This quickly rooted among the citizens of Corunna, who nowadays believe that the city of Brigantia was the former name of Corunna.

See also

*Roman architecture
*Roman engineering
*Roman technology

Other use of the name

A medieval watchtower in Segovia also bears the name "Tower of Hercules". [ [ Tower of Hercules in Segovia] from the Segovia Mint website.]


Specific references:General references:
* [ "Documentos para estudiar la Torre de Hércules"] (in Spanish)
* [ AnnaMaria Mariotti, "The Hercules' Tower"] from
* [ Tower of Hercules] from
* [ Torre de Hércules] (in English) from the Universidade da Coruña website

External links

* [ Historical timeline of the Tower of Brigantia] , from galicianflag.comcoord|43|23|13|N|8|24|17|W|region:ES|display=title

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