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Los Toros de Guisando, in the darkness of time

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Very little is known about the vetones , a population of Celtic origin that lived in the West of the Peninsula from the 5th century BC until the time of Augustus. They were a warrior people, highly hierarchical, with an economy based on livestock, which built walled fortifications. The remains of 400 bulls and wild boars carved in stone remain as proof of its existence. The Vetons were subdued during Roman rule and their culture disappeared.

The legacy that has survived are the Toros de Guisando , located near El Tiemblo, in Ávila, close to the border with Madrid. There are four granite figures about 2.5 meters long and 1.3 meters high. Protected by a fence, they are aligned from north to south and face west.

The first problem is its dating. There are studies that date the construction of these boars around the second century BC . Although it could be confused with the representation of pigs, two holes in their head indicate that they are bulls. Both holes are supposed to be for inserting horns.

Los Toros de Guisando are four granite figures about 2.5 meters long and 1.3 meters high –

It was in this monument where Enrique IV of Castile signed an agreement with his half-sister Isabel in 1468 proclaiming her Princess of Asturias and heir to the Crown in order to end a long conflict. The pact has gone down in history as the Treaty of Guisando.

One of the things that most attracts the visitor's attention is that there are various Roman inscriptions on the carvings. The only one that can be read reads: “Longinus raised it for his father Prisco de los Calaéticos.” Everything indicates that these engravings were made by the conquerors. That was what led Pedro de Medina to assume erroneously in the 16th century that they were monuments dedicated to Cecilio Metellus, Cesonius and other Roman heroes.

The controversy of its interpretation

The issue it raises a greater controversy is that of the interpretation of the meaning of the monument. There are three theories that do not have to be exclusive. The first indicates that it was a construction of a funerary nature in which the name of the veton leaders was originally mentioned. The second refers to the fact that the bulls were protective symbols of livestock and the population , located in Badajoz, Cáceres, Salamanca, Zamora and Avila. And the third, perhaps the most suggestive, is that they responded to the cult of Taurus , god of the Phoenicians and Carthaginians.

The bull was a major deity in ancient Tartessian culture, who saw in this animal the expression of virility and strength. His worship was widespread throughout the Mediterranean basin. Also the bull was a familiar figure in Greek mythology. The Minotaur was a monster with the body of a beast and the head of a man, enclosed in the labyrinth of Cnossos (Crete), which had been built by Daedalus.

There are numerous literary references to the Bulls of Guisando. Cervantes and Lope de Vega cite them in their writings. García Lorca mentions them in his 'Cry for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías': «… and all of Guisando / almost death and almost stone / they bellowed for two centuries / tired of stepping on the ground.”

A recent study by archaeologists from the Autonomous Region of Madrid opts for the thesis that the figures were intended to protect livestock, essential for the survival of the vetons. The most important thing about this work is that it maintains that they were not in the place where they were raised, but that they were transferred in the Middle Ages to the current location.

Many of these remains were destroyed after the Reconquest, as the landowners saw in them a symbol of paganism. On the Roman bridge of Salamanca , there is still a stone boar that is missing its head. It was rescued from Tormes in 1867. It is considered the oldest monument in the city and the memory of its ancient inhabitants.

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