The original population of Noricum (mostly modern day Austria)
consisted of Illyrians, who after the great emigration of
the Gauls became subordinate to various Celtic tribes. It
is in Noricum that we first hear of almost all the Celtic
invasions, and was the starting-point of the attacks upon
Italia in the early Roman Republic.
In approximately 200 BCE, an alliance of 13 of these tribes
established the first Celtic Kingdom in Europe, supported
by a Council of Elders of all the represented tribes.
a long time the Noricans enjoyed independence under this rule
and carried on commerce with the Romans. In fact, from about
170 BCE the Noricans enjoyed the status of hospitum publicum
with Rome (National hospitality, or friends and allies of
In the latter part of the 2nd Century BCE, the Taurisci tribe
would call upon Rome for help against the migrating Germanic
tribes, the Cimbri and the Teutones. Within the general proximity
of Noricum, Consul Papirius Carbo led the Roman army to a
crushing defeat at the hands of these Germanic tribes in 113
BCE. The victorious tribes continued to move west through
Gaul and avoided Italia for another 10 years, but in 103 BCE,
after other considerable victories their return to the region
posed a serious threat to Rome. Roman superiority would be
established, however, when Gaius Marius defeated the Teutones
at Aquae Sextiae and Q. Lutatius Catulus defeated the Cimbri
at Vercellae in 102 and 101 BCE respectively.
From that point on Noricum formed a peaceful border state
of Rome and the mining industry and metalworking boomed. In
48 BCE during the Civil War between Caesar and Pompey, the
Noricans threw in the full weight of this considerable industry
to Caesar's cause. The Norican King Voccio, who was
an elected King, also supplied Caesar with an impressive auxiliary
calvary unit. Caesar's ultimate victory would help cement
the friendship between Noricum and Rome throughout the rest
of the Empire's history.
King Voccio would continue to play an important role in Noricum.
Just prior to the beginning and just after the conclusion
of the Roman Civil War, Voccio was instrumental in driving
out invading Dacians around 50 BCE and the Boii tribes around
40 BCE. However, a Norican joint invasion of Istria along with the Pannonians led to a military response by Rome under Publius Silius. The death of Voccio followed in 16 BCE, and Noricum became
a client Kingdom to Rome and would eventually be established
as a full province under the Emperor Claudius in the mid 1st
Century CE. With the direct government of Rome the Noricans
gained full Latin citizenship quite quickly and never had
to give up their own elected officials (doyens).
For the next 2 centuries, the region was established as both a base of operations and a buffer zone against the Germanic tribes, the Marcommani and the Quadi. A near continuous danger of warfare would exist with these tribes over this period. Upon the death of Marcus Aurelius in the Noricum city of Vindobona, while on campaign against these tribes, an uneasy peace would exist for the Norican people. For the next century and a half the threat from the Germanic tribes was at least minimized. By the late 4th and early 5th centuries, however, this border province, along with Germania and Raetia, was among the first to be toppled by migrating tribes.
Very similar to the Raetia province, Noricum throughout the existence of the Roman Empire was a frontier province in direct contact with the Germanic tribes across the Danube. Several fortifications (limes) guarded both the river crossings and passes through the Alpes. Recruited for Marcus Aurelius' war against the Marcommani in the mid 160's CE, Legio II Italica Pia, along with numerous local auxiliary, was permanently stationed in Noricum.
The country was mountainous and the soil poor, but it was
rich in iron, and supplied material for the factories, forges
and smithies in Pannonia, Moesia and northern Italia. The Norici, a Celtic tribe along the Danube, were among the world's first and greatest steel smiths. Noric Steel was famous throughout the empire, and a sword of this fine material and design was considered a veritable treasure in the time of Augustus.
Other inhabitants were more apt to cattle-breeding than to
agriculture, although it is probable that the Romans, by draining
the marshes and cutting down timber and by increasing fertility, brought more farming to the region. Gold and salt were also found in considerable
quantities. The plant called saliunca (the wild or Celtic
nard) grew in abundance, and was used as a perfume.
Tribes of Noricum
While there were several tribes in the early alliance that
brought about the formation of the Norican Kingdom, only a
few developed into prominence and the early Illyrians were
of no serious consequence within the province after the Celtic
migrations. Both the Norici and the Taurisci enjoyed the friend
and ally status of Rome and prospered as fully romanized citizens
throughout the empire.
to the map of Noricum