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Roman province of Noricum highlighted

Noricum ( /ˈnɒrɪkəm/ ) is the Latin name for the Celtic kingdom or federation of tribes [1] that included most of modern Austria and part of Slovenia. In the first century AD, it became a province of the Roman Empire. Its borders were the Danube to the north, Raetia and Vindelicia to the west, Pannonia to the east and southeast, and Italia ( Venetia et Histria ) to the south. The kingdom was founded around 400 BC, and had its capital at the royal residence at Virunum on the Magdalensberg. [2] [3]


Area and population

Around 800 BC, the region was inhabited mostly by the people of the local Celtic Hallstatt culture. Around 450 BC, they merged with the people of the other core Celtic areas in the south-western regions of Germany and eastern France.

The country is mountainous and rich in iron and salt. It supplied material for the manufacturing of arms in Pannonia, Moesia, and northern Italy. The famous Noric steel was largely used in the making of Roman weapons (e.g. Horace, Odes, i.16.9-10: Noricus ensis, "a Noric sword"). Gold [4] and salt[ citation needed ] were found in considerable quantities. The plant called saliunca (the wild or Celtic nard, a relative of the lavender) grew in abundance and was used as a perfume according to Pliny the Elder. [5]

The Celtic inhabitants developed a culture rich in art, cattle breeding, salt mining and agriculture. When part of the area became a Roman province, the Romans introduced water management (Aqueduct) and the already vivid trade relations between the people north and south of the alps boosted - Noric steel was famous for its quality and hardness.

Archaeological research, particularly in the cemeteries of Hallstatt, has shown that a vigorous Celtic civilization was in the area centuries before recorded history, but the Celtic Hallstatt civilization was a cultural manifestation prior to the other Celtic invasions, The Hallstatt graves contained weapons and ornaments from the Bronze Age, through the period of transition, up to the "Hallstatt culture", i.e., the fully developed older period of the Iron Age.[ citation needed ]


The Noric language is attested in only fragmentary inscriptions, one from Ptuj [6] [7] and two from Grafenstein, [8] [9] neither of which provide enough information for any conclusions about the nature of the language. [6] [8]

Steel for Roman weaponry

Coin of Noricum, mid-2nd century BC Noricum Kugelreiter type 88000571.jpg
Coin of Noricum, mid-2nd century BC

The kingdom of Noricum was a major provider of weaponry for the Roman armies from the mid-Republic onwards. Roman swords were made of the best-quality steel then available from this region, the chalybs Noricus .

The strength of steel is determined by its composition and heat treatment. The wrought iron produced in the Greco-Roman world was too soft for tools and weapons. Ore from Noricum, by contrast, could yield a superior product.

The ore needed to be rich in manganese (an element which remains essential in modern steelmaking processes), and contain little or no phosphorus, which weakens steel. [10] The ore mined in Carinthia (S. Noricum) fulfilled both criteria particularly well. [11] The Celts of Noricum discovered their ore made superior steel around 500 BC and built a major steel industry. [12]

At Magdalensberg, a major production and trading centre, specialised blacksmiths crafted metal products and weapons. The finished arms were exported to Aquileia, a Roman colony founded in 180 BC.

From 200 BC the Noricum tribes gradually united into a kingdom, known as the regnum Noricum, with its capital at a place called Noreia. Noricum became a key ally of the Roman Republic, providing high-quality weapons and tools in exchange for military protection. This was demonstrated in 113 BC, when Teutones invaded Noricum. In response, the Roman consul Gnaeus Papirius Carbo led an army over the Alps to attack the Germanic tribes at the Noreia.

Roman rule

Noricum was incorporated into the Roman Empire in 16 BC. For a long time previously, the Noricans had enjoyed independence under princes of their own and carried on commerce with the Romans. In 48 BC they took the side of Julius Caesar in the civil war against Pompey. In 16 BC, having joined with the Pannonians in invading Histria, they were defeated by Publius Silius Nerva, proconsul of Illyricum.[ citation needed ] Thereafter, Noricum was called a province, although it was not organized as such and remained a kingdom with the title of regnum Noricum, yet under the control of an imperial procurator.[ citation needed ] Under the reign of Emperor Claudius (41–54) the Noricum Kingdom was ultimately incorporated into the Roman Empire apparently without offering resistance. It was not until the reign of Antoninus Pius that the Second Legion, Pia (later renamed Italica) was stationed in Noricum, and the commander of the legion became the governor of the province.[ citation needed ]

Under Diocletian (245–313), Noricum was divided into Noricum ripense ("Noricum along the river", the northern part southward from the Danube), and Noricum mediterraneum ("landlocked Noricum", the southern, more mountainous district). The dividing line ran along the central part of the eastern Alps. [13] Each division was under a praeses, and both belonged to the diocese of Illyricum in the Praetorian prefecture of Italy. It was in this time (304 A.D.) that a Christian serving as a military officer in the province suffered martyrdom for the sake of his faith, later canonised as Saint Florian. [14]

The Roman colonies and chief towns were Virunum (near Maria Saal to the north of Klagenfurt), Teurnia (near Spittal an der Drau), Flavia Solva (near Leibnitz), Celeia (Celje) in today's Slovenia, Juvavum (Salzburg), Ovilava (Wels), Lauriacum (Lorch at the mouth of the Enns, the ancient Anisus ).

Knowledge of Roman Noricum has been decisively expanded by the work of Richard Knabl, an Austrian epigrapher of the 19th century.

The transition from Roman to barbarian rule in Noricum is well documented in Eugippius' Life of Saint Severinus, providing material for analogies for this process in other regions where primary sources from the period are lacking. [15]

In modern politics

In 1919, Heinrich Lammasch, the last prime minister of Imperial Austria, proposed to give the young republic the name of Norische Republik or Noric Republic, [16] because the ancient borders were similar to those of the new state, which – at the time – did not wish to be considered the heir of the Habsburg monarchy, but an independent, neutral and peaceful state. [17]

Episcopal sees

Episcopal sees of Noricum that are now listed in the Annuario Pontificio as titular sees include: [18]

See also

Related Research Articles

Pannonia Province of the Roman Empire (AD 20-107)

Pannonia was a province of the Roman Empire bounded on the north and east by the Danube, coterminous westward with Noricum and upper Italy, and southward with Dalmatia and upper Moesia. Pannonia was located in the territory of present-day western Hungary, eastern Austria, northern Croatia, north-western Serbia, northern Slovenia and northern Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Carinthia State of Austria

Carinthia is the southernmost Austrian state or Land. Situated within the Eastern Alps, it is noted for its mountains and lakes. The main language is German. Its regional dialects belong to the Southern Bavarian group. Carinthian Slovene dialects, forms of a South Slavic language that predominated in the southeastern part of the region up to the first half of the 20th century, are now spoken by a small minority in the area.

The Noric language, or Eastern Celtic, is an unclassified Continental Celtic language. It is attested in only two fragmentary inscriptions from the Roman province of Noricum, which do not provide enough information for any conclusions about the nature of the language to be drawn. However, the language was probably similar to the other Celtic languages near to it, such as Gaulish. Due to its scant evidence it is unknown when it became extinct.

Severinus of Noricum

Severinus of Noricum is a saint, known as the "Apostle to Noricum". It has been speculated that he was born in either Southern Italy or in the Roman province of Africa. Severinus himself refused to discuss his personal history before his appearance along the Danube in Noricum, after the death of Attila in 453. However, he did mention experiences with eastern desert monasticism, and his vita draws connections between Severinus and Saint Anthony of Egypt.

Noric Alps

The Noric Alps is a collective term denoting various mountain ranges of the Eastern Alps. The name derives from the ancient Noricum province of the Roman Empire on the territory of present-day Austria and the adjacent Bavarian and Slovenian area.


The Leopoldsberg is perhaps Vienna’s most famous hill, towering over the Danube and the city. Leopoldberg’s most prominent landmark is the church which stands at the top, and which is clearly visible from Vienna below. Construction of the Leopoldsberg Church, dedicated to Saint Leopold, began in 1679; an expansion following a design by Antonio Beduzzi was undertaken 1718–30. Other renovations were to follow. Across the square from the church, on what used to be a tower of the fortification system, a memorial to those Austrians who returned home from captivity after World War II was created in 1948.


Noreia is an ancient lost city in the Eastern Alps, most likely in southern Austria. While according to Julius Caesar it is known to have been the capital of the Celtic kingdom of Noricum, it was already referred to as a lost city by Pliny the Elder. The location of Noreia has not been verified by modern researchers.

Noric steel was a steel from Noricum, a Celtic kingdom located in modern Austria and Slovenia.

Danubian provinces

The Danubian provinces of the Roman Empire were the provinces of the Lower Danube, within a geographical area encompassing the middle and lower Danube basins, the Eastern Alps, the Dinarides, and the Balkans. They include Noricum, Dacia, the northern part of Dalmatia, Moesia, Scythia Minor, and Pannonia. The Danube defined the region to the north, with the Carpathian Mountains to the north and east. These provinces were important to the Imperial economy as mining regions, and their general significance in the Empire of the 3rd century is indicated by the emperors who came from the region.

Magdalensberg Place in Carinthia, Austria

Magdalensberg is a market town in the district of Klagenfurt-Land in Carinthia in Austria.

Maria Saal Place in Carinthia, Austria

Maria Saal is a market town in the district of Klagenfurt-Land in the Austrian state of Carinthia. It is located in the east of the historic Zollfeld plain, the wide valley of the Glan river. The municipality includes the cadastral communes of Kading, Karnburg, Möderndorf, Possau and St. Michael am Zollfeld.

Flavia Solva

Flavia Solva was a municipium in the ancient Roman province of Noricum. It was situated on the western banks of the Mur river, close to the modern cities of Wagna and Leibnitz in the southern parts of the Austrian province of Styria. It is the only Roman city in modern Austrian Styria.

Celticisation, or Celticization, was historically the process of conquering and assimilating by the ancient Celts. Today, as the Celtic inhabited-areas significantly differ, the term still refers to making something Celtic, usually focusing around the Celtic nations and their languages.

Alpine regiments of the Roman army

The Alpine regiments of the Roman army were those auxiliary units of the army that were originally raised in the Alpine provinces of the Roman Empire: Tres Alpes, Raetia and Noricum. All these regions were inhabited by predominantly Celtic-speaking tribes. They were annexed, or at least occupied, by the emperor Augustus' forces during the period 25–14 BC. The term "Alpine" is used geographically in this context and does not necessarily imply that the regiments in question were specialised in mountain warfare. However, in the Julio-Claudian period, when the regiments were still largely composed of Alpine recruits, it is likely that they were especially adept at mountain operations.


Zollfeld is a slightly ascending plain in Carinthia, Austria. It is one of the oldest cultural landscapes in the East Alpine region.

Taurisci Celtic tribes

The Taurisci were a federation of Celtic tribes who dwelt in today's Carinthia and northern Slovenia (Carniola) before the coming of the Romans According to Pliny the Elder, they are the same people known as the Norici.


Claudium Virunum was a Roman city in the province of Noricum, on today's Zollfeld in the Austrian State of Carinthia. Virunum may also have been the name of the older Celtic-Roman settlement on the hilltop of Magdalensberg nearby. Virunum (Virunensis) is today a titular see of the Roman Catholic Church.


Teurisci was a Dacian tribe at the time of Ptolemy. They are considered originally Celts, a branch of the Celtic Taurisci (Noricum), who moved to Upper Tisza. However, the archaeology shows that Celts have been absorbed by Dacians, at some extent both creating a Celto-Dacian cultural horizon in the upper Tisza.

Youth of Magdalensberg

The Youth of Magdalensberg was an ancient Roman bronze statue dating to the first century B.C., missing since approximately 1810 and now presumed lost, that was discovered in 1502 at the Carinthian mountain Magdalensberg, once a major late Celtic and early Roman city of Noricum. It is known today primarily from a sixteenth-century cast now held at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, which until 1986 was mistakenly regarded as the original.


  1. Mackensen, Michael (1975). "The state of research on the 'Norican' silver coinage". World Archaeology. 6 (3): 249–275. doi:10.1080/00438243.1975.9979607. JSTOR   124094.
  2. Heather, Peter (2010). The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History. Macmillan. p.  407.
  3. Cunliffe, Barry (1997). The Ancient Celts. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 218. ISBN   978-0-19-815010-7.
  4. From a statement of Polybius, in his own time in consequence of the great output of gold from a mine in Noricum, gold went down one-third in value. Ridgeway, William (1892). The Origin of Metallic Currency and Weight Standards. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p.  139.
  5. Naturalis Historia xxi. 20.43)
  6. 1 2 Eichner, Heiner; Istenič, Janka & Lovenjak, Milan (1994). "Ein römerzeitlisches Keramikgefäs au Ptuj (Pettau, Poetovio) in Slowien mit Inschrift in unbekanntem Alphabet und epichorischer (vermutlich keltischer) Sprache" (PDF). Arheološki Vestnik (in German). 45: 131–142. Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 December 2015.
  7. "Vase de Ptuj". Encyclopédie de l'arbre celtique. Archived from the original on 29 June 2008.
  8. 1 2 Eska, Joseph F. & Evans, D. Ellis (2009). "Continental Celtic". In Ball, Martin J. & Müller, Nicole (eds.). The Celtic languages (second ed.). London: Routledge. p. 42. ISBN   978-0-415-42279-6.
  9. "Tuile de Grafenstein". Encyclopédie de l'arbre celtique. Archived from the original on 29 June 2008.
  10. Buchwald (2005) 124
  11. Buchwald (2005) 115
  12. Healy (1978) 236
  13. "The province of Noricum Ripense extended along the right or southern bank of the Danube, between the river and the Noric Alps, and was bounded on one side by Raetia Secunda and the river Inn (Aenus) and on the other by the confines of Pannonia Superior — the district included in the modern province of Carinthia in Austria. Noricum Mediterraneum lay directly to the south, beyond the Noric Alps." Mierow, Charles C. (1915). "Eugippius and the Closing Years of the Province of Noricum Ripense". Classical Philology. 10 (2): 166–187. doi: 10.1086/359963 . JSTOR   261764.
  14. Stülz, Jodok (1835). Geschichte des regulirten Chorherrn-Stiftes St. Florian: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des Landes Österreich ob der Enns (in German). Linz: Haslinger. pp.  2–3.
  15. Heather, Peter (2005). The Fall of the Roman Empire. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0195159547.
  16. Anna Maria Drabek, Der Österreichbegriff und sein Wandel im Lauf der Geschichte, in: Marktgemeinde Neuhofen/Ybbs (ed.): Ostarrichi Gedenkstätte Neuhofen/Ybbs, no date (1980), pp. 32–41
  17. Dieter Köberl, Zum Wohle Österreichs. Vor 90 Jahren starb Heinrich Lammasch, in: Die Furche, 18 February 2010
  18. Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013 ISBN   978-88-209-9070-1), "Sedi titolari", pp. 819-1013