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A day at a Roman Settlement in Noricum

On Sunday I went to the Archäologischer Park Magdalensberg where the last event of the II. Kärntner Römerwoche (Carinthian Romans) took place. The museum of Carinthia was the host of this "Roman week" trying to promote their culturural heritage sites, in Teurnia, Magdalensberg and the Landesmuseum. "Magdalensberg" (one could translate it as "mountain of magdalena" is about 20 minutes north of Klagenfurt and is situated just below the top of the hill (1000 m or 3200 ft). This very unusual place for a roman settlement, (far away from the major roads, high up and difficult to reach is a mystery that hasn't yet been completely solved.

I was fortunate enough to have a chance to speak almost an hour with one of the leading archaeologists of Austria, University Professor Dr. Franz Glaser who explained in detail and with lots of passion about the Romans. Professor Glaser was the first who discovered an ostrogoth cemetery in the East Alps from the 5th century (around the time of Theoderich) and he encouraged me to visit his excavations that he will start this summer, where he discoverd churches from the 6th century. (I am looking forward to go there and will of course report at UNRV). Now back to the place I visited on Sunday.

Around the middle of the 1st century BC the Regnum Noricum (celtic kingdom) had its largest extension. Through that the economic relationship with the Mediterranean region had its peak, especially favored by the hospitality contract (hospitium publicum) with Rome from the year 170 BC. Around this time the settlement (the name is not known, Prof. Glaser thinks it could have been "Noreia") on the Magdalensberg was built through roman traders. Perhaps a sacral center of the Noric existed on the peak. It was sort of neutral terretory where one wouldnt fight, so that could be a reason why the romans built it high up as they knew they would be safe from attacks from the Celts.

At first simple accomodations were made to liquify noric iron but soon a drastic reconstruction occurred. A rectangular place of 110 m length and 42 m width was built. It was surrounded with tabernae and dwelling houses. Soon after that, major political revolutions occurred. The Alps nations west of Noricum, the Ratiae and the Vindelie, were subdued and occupied after hard fighting in the years 16/15 BC. Presumably, the noric occupation occured in an almost completely peaceful manner, to avoid the same fate. The result of this was an additional revaluation for the settlement place. It became the political center of the Roman east Alps region.

On the mountain peak existed, approximately since the year 20 BC, a fortification wall. It was demolished sometime during the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius. It could have been a residence of a ruler and therefore a symbol of tribal independence. Also a sanctuary existed here, which was visited and seemed to been a pilgrim place through to the late antiquity. In the northwest of the forum new buildings instead of the tabernae were built. After further reconstructions it was altered to a praetorium. In the Tiberian era a podium temple was constructed in the middle of the northern front of the forum. It was dedicated to the cult Divus Augustus and Dea Roma. An extension in early Claudian time was unfinished. Nonferrous metal workshops in the east were replaced by dwelling houses.

The settlement was given up in the late 40's of the 1st century AD around Claudius reign and so only existed for about 150 years. The residents moved presumably into the new built Municipium Claudium Virunum at the foot of the mountain.

I also made some photos about the area, so check out the Photo Gallery.

Did you know?

Under Diocletian (245-313), Noricum was divided into Noricum ripense (along the Danube) and mediterranean (the southern mountainous district). Each division was under a praeses, and both belonged to the diocese of Illyria in the prefecture of Italy.

Province of Noricum



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