You may wish to see an introductory page to this section first.
Carnuntum Archaeological Park at Petronell: model of the Roman fortress and of the military amphitheatre to its right; see another reconstruction in the introductory page
The antient Carnuntum, capital of upper Panonia, seems to have been on the site of Petronel, Altenburg, and Haymburg (Hundsheim; the three villages are near the River Danube and the border between Austria and Slovakia). (..) Tiberius brought it under the Roman yoke; the fourteenth double legion (Gemina) was stationed here, and the Roman fleet for the
Danube; it was also the residence of the Roman praefect. A colony
was brought to it, it was made a municipium. (..) It is thought by some that
Carnuntum, built by the Panonians, was about Haymburg, that of the
Roman colony at Petronel, the palace and baths at Altenburg, and
that all these were contiguous, and made one town.
Richard Pococke - A Description of the East and Some Other Countries - 1745
(left) Heidentor (Heathens' Gate) a Roman triumphal arch near Petronell, the site of the civilian town; the central column is assumed to be the pedestal of the statue of an Emperor; (right) plates from Pococke's book
About a quarter of a league to the south of the ruins, which are to the west of
Petronel, there are remains of an arch in the middle of the fields; two
views of it may be seen in the hundredth plate; the lower part is built
of rough stone, the upper has a mixture of brick in it; the whole seems
to have been cased with hewn stone; it is remarkable that there are
many stones in it which appear to have belonged to antient buildings,
so that probably it was erected in haste. (..) Probably it was erected to the honour of Tiberius, as we are informed by
Dion Cassius, that a triumph was decreed him, and two triumphal arches
in Panonia. Pococke
Now, although this emperor (Constantius II) in foreign wars met with loss and disaster, yet he was elated by his success in civil conflicts and drenched with awful gore from the internal wounds of the state. It was on this unworthy, rather than just or usual, ground that in Gaul and Pannonia he erected triumphal arches at great expense commemorating the ruin of the provinces, and added records of his deeds, that men might read of him so long as those monuments could last.
Ammianus Marcellinus - Roman History - Book XXI - Loeb Edition
The design of the arch is very different from those built at the time of Tiberius at Orange and Glanum in France. Today there is a general agreement in assigning the erection of the arch to Constantius II (d. 361), also taking into account some remarks made by Pococke about the use of stones from ancient buildings, a usual practice in the Late Empire.
The arch is about twenty feet
wide and ten deep, and the piers are twelve feet broad; the crown
of the arch is about twenty-four feet from the ground, which has
risen considerably; the building over the piers is about sixteen feet
high; and it plainly appears that there was another arch joined to it,
so as to make four arches in all, like the forum of Janus at Rome; but
as it is so far from the river as not to be convenient for trade, and out of
the town, it is more reasonable to think that it was a triumphal arch. Pococke
The arch might have been built on the pattern of a triumphal arch to Constantine at Malborghetto near Rome. Earlier large triumphal arches with four pillars were erected at Leptis Magna and Oea in Libya. The arch was most likely situated on the road entering the civilian town from Vindobona (Vienna).
About half a mile to the south west of this arch are remains of a building, which I thought might have been an amphitheatre.(..) Towards Steinabrun (Schonabrunn, south-east of Petronell) we saw an old road pointing to the
south, which probably was the way in the (Antonine) Itinerary (a document which gave details of the Roman road network during the IIIrd century) to Scarabantia,
Sabaria, and Poetovio (today's Ptuj in Slovenia). Pococke.
Carnuntum was the natural centre for all commerce and traffic with Central Germany and the tribes beyond. (..) By settling along the Danube bank, merchants were enabled to come in contact with the amber trade. (..) The route which conveyed this much-prized substance from the shores of the Baltic to the banks of the Danube and over the mountains to Aquileia (..) was very old.
M. P. Charlesworth - Trade-routes and Commerce of the Roman Empire - Cambridge University Press 1926
The ruin of an amphitheatre is situated to the north-west of the arch; it is dated late IInd century; considering the limited amount of stones which have been found, a part of the seating section might have been supported by timber structures, wood being widely available in the area: evidence of a wooden practice arena has been identified near the amphitheatre. These facilities testify to the wealth of the civilian town, the economy of which could rely on profitable trade relations with the tribes beyond the Danube, similar to what occurred on the Rhine border, e.g. at Nida (Frankfurt).
Carnuntum Archaeological Park at Petronell: remains of an inn between reconstructed public baths (left) and a large urban house (right); (inset) "hypocaust" (heating system) in the baths
Altenburg and Petronel are two poor villages, not a league distant, and about half way between them I saw
marks of the old walls to the east, which seemed to have been about a
mile in circumference, the suburbs probably extending a great way on
both sides, as may be concluded from the bricks and ruins which are
seen over the fields, especially in the park, and near the river, where many
medals are found; all these parts were probably fortified in the time of
the Romans. Pococke
In 1996 an "Archaeological" Park was opened on the site where excavations at Petronell had unearthed a small part of the civilian town. Roman buildings were reconstructed applying "experimental archaeology". Plans include the reconstruction of the inn and of the amphitheatre. A similar approach was followed at Xanten where another "Archaeological" Park shows reconstructed buildings of Colonia Ulpia Traiana, a Roman fortress on the River Rhine.
Carnuntum Archaeological Park: the only original floor mosaic (Domus IV)
Four buildings have been re-erected in their original locations, giving a glimpse into Roman society. All buildings as well as the level of the streets correspond to the circumstances of the first half of the 4th century AD. Together with decorative details and furniture a unique time frame of this epoch has thus been opened. (..) Domus IV is remarkable for the only preserved Roman floor mosaic of Carnuntum. (..) Its archaeological remains have been severely disturbed, and so there is little evidence regarding the function of individual rooms.
From the leaflet distributed at the Archaeological Park.
The image used as background for this page shows a still from an introductory video shown at the entrance to the site (you may wish to see a page on the parade in Roman costumes which takes place near Colosseo for the anniversary of the foundation of the City).
(left-above) Military Amphitheatre; (left-below) small temple to Diana Nemesis; (right) relief at Arco di Costantino portraying Emperor Marcus Aurelius delivering a speech to the legionaries; see also the relief showing his army crossing the Danube at Carnuntum on Colonna Antonina in the introductory page
The emperor Marcus Aurelius spent much of his time in this city. Pococke
The military amphitheatre has a very large arena and a relatively small seating section supported by timber structures. It was most likely reserved to the legionaries and it was used for drills and parades in addition to gladiatorial combats and fights with animals. It is dated IInd century. It might have housed the adlocutio, the formal speech of an Emperor to the troops prior to a campaign or after having watched their exercitatio (military exercise), as at Lambaesis.
|Other ancient amphitheatres in this web site:|
The Colosseo of Rome
The Amphitheatre of Capua
The Amphitheatre of Albano
The Amphitheatre of Verona
The Amphitheatre of Pompeii
The Amphitheatre of Catania
The Amphitheatre of Syracuse
The Amphitheatre of Sutri
The Amphitheatre of Urbs Salvia (Urbisaglia)
The Amphitheatre of Pola in Istria
The Amphitheatre of Salona in Dalmatia
The Amphitheatre of Arles in France
The Amphitheatre of Bordeaux in France
The Amphitheatre of Nîmes in France
The Amphitheatre of Périgueux in France
The Amphitheatre of Saintes in France
The Amphitheatre of Toulouse in France
The Amphitheatre of Trier in Germany
The Amphitheatre of London
The Amphitheatre of Caerleon in Wales
The Amphitheatre of Italica in Spain
The Amphitheatre of Merida in Spain
The Amphitheatre of Tarragona in Spain
The Amphitheatre of Caesarea Maritima in Israel
The Amphitheatre of Carthage
The Amphitheatre of Mactaris (Makhtar) in Tunisia
The Amphitheatre of Thapsus in Tunisia
The Amphitheatre of Thysdrus (El Djem) in Tunisia
The Amphitheatre of Uthina (Oudna) in Tunisia
The Amphitheatre of Leptis Magna in Libya
Museum Carnuntinum at Altenburg: (left) Minerva and Genius Immunium (of the exempted/freed ones - found in 1903); (centre) Diana Nemesis (*) (found in 1886 at the military amphitheatre); (right) Genius with cornucopia (found in 1816, largely restored); see an altar to a Genius which was found at "Vindobona"
There are some antient inscriptions at Petronel, one at count Traun's
palace makes mention of a portico; there are two reliefs on the stone. (..) The most curious inscription is that in the town-house at Haymburg by which it was discovered that Carnuntum was a municipium;
there are two reliefs on the stone, one seems to be a person representing
the city with a turreted crown, a patera in the right hand, and a cornucopia in the left. Pococke
In 1904 Emperor Franz Joseph inaugurated Museum Carnuntinum at Altenburg in order to properly display the many inscriptions, reliefs and statues which were uncovered during the XIXth century.
(*) Adrastia, the chastiser of evil deeds and the rewarder of good actions, we also call by the second name of Nemesis. She is, as it were, the sublime jurisdiction of an efficient divine power, dwelling, as men think, above the orbit of the moon; or as others define her, an actual guardian presiding with universal sway over the destinies of individual men. The ancient theologians, regarding her as the daughter of Justice, say that from an unknown eternity she looks down upon all the creatures of earth. She, as queen of causes and arbiter and judge of events, controls the urn with its lots and causes the changes of fortune, and sometimes she gives our plans a different result than that at which we aimed, changing and confounding many actions. She too, binding the vainly swelling pride of mortals with the indissoluble bond of fate, and tilting changeably, as she knows how to do, the balance of gain and loss, now bends and weakens the uplifted necks of the proud, and now, raising the good from the lowest estate, lifts them to a happy life. Moreover, the storied past has given her wings in order that she might be thought to come to all with swift speed; and it has given her a helm to hold and has put a wheel beneath her feet, in order that none may fail to know that she runs through all the elements and rules the universe. Ammianus Marcellinus - Book XIV
Museum Carnuntinum: (left) war helmet (IInd/IIIrd centuries); (right) parade helmet (iron and copper-alloy with gildings; late IInd century)
Legionary headquarters had fabricae (workshops) for locally manufacturing and repairing the equipment of the troops. In the fortresses along the Rhine/Danube border some of these workshops achieved excellency in the creation of elaborate helmets which were worn by the commanders on special occasions, e.g. when they met with the chiefs of the local tribes. Highly decorated parade helmets can be seen in museums at Frankfurt, Bonn and London.
Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna (left) and Carnuntum Archaeological Park (centre/right): tombstones of soldiers/officers of Legio XV Apollinaris with reliefs related to their medals/activities (Ist century AD)
Exhibits from Carnuntum can be seen also at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, at the Archaeological Park and in the Petronell Antiquarium, a small building outside Petronell on the road to Altenburg. The majority of the exhibits are related to tombstones with inscriptions and reliefs which provide information on the lives of the legionaries. In general their design is simpler than that of tombstones on the Rhine border where often the dead were portrayed while attending their funerary banquet. It makes sense to conclude, also from other evidence, that the provinces along the Rhine were more prosperous than those along the Danube.
(left) Museum Carnuntinum: tombstone of Marcus Antonius Basilides for his wife and child; (centre) Petronell Antiquarium: tombstone of Batulla Mettia for her husband and son; (right) Carnuntum Archaeological Park: tombstone for Florus, a slave
Some of the inscriptions on the tombstones shed light on the family and friendship bonds of the legionaries.
M. Antonius Basilides was a frumentarius (officer in charge of supply) of Legio X Gemina; he lost his wife aged 33 and his child aged 3 and he wanted to be portrayed with them on a symbolic ship (FELIX ITALA) of which probably he was the commander. The tombstone was reused for Simplicius and Uranus because the wish that the earth may lie lightly over them (vobis terra leve) is in a later, less skilled, hand. It was found in 1908 as a cover for a drain, so it was utilized three times.
Batulla Mettia wanted to be portrayed in the tombstone she erected for her husband, a veteran of Legio XV Apollinaris, and her son.
Florus was the slave of Publius Vedius Germanus (of Roman/Italian descent); he died aged 26 and his master erected a tombstone for him along a road outside Carnuntum. He dictated an additional inscription (in Greek) similar to those which can be found along Via Appia Antica: I did not see my wedding, nor my nuptial bed. I rest by the street. Farewell Florus, farewell whoever you are passer-by! See a long inscription mourning the death of two young slaves at Cologne.
Museum Carnuntinum: statues of Jupiter Dolichenus; that at the centre was erected at the time of Emperor Commodus by a centurion of Legio X Gemina
In 1894 a mithraeum with several interesting reliefs and altars was found at Carnuntum (see the main relief and altar in the introductory page). A total of six mithraea were identified in the town. The worship of Mithra was widely popular in the army and mithraea have been found in many towns in Germany and Britain where legions were stationed.
The large statues of Jupiter Dolichenus which were found at Carnuntum are not as common as the reliefs portraying Mithra. The god was portrayed in a similar posture, but in a much smaller size in objects found near Frankfurt. Depictions of deities standing on an animal can be traced back to the Hittites, so the worship of Jupiter Dolichenus is thought to originate from Asia Minor; his double-headed axe is also typical of that land as well as the Phrygian cap; they are also attributes of the Amazons who were believed to live in the same region.
Museum Carnuntinum: (left) head of Emperor Alexander Severus; (centre) statue of an emperor / military commander (early IIIrd century); the relief on the breastplate shows Jupiter Heliopolitanus between two bulls; (right) altar to Mithra erected by the "Augusti et Caesares" who attended the conference of Carnuntum in 308
Carnuntum was for centuries a strong fortress which was visited by many emperors. Its importance is underlined by the fact that it was chosen by former Emperor Diocletian to convene a meeting of Augusti (himself, Maximian, Galerius) and Caesares (Licinius, Constantine and Maximinus Daia) to try to solve a crisis of the Tetrarchy.
Romanesque Chapel at Petronell (XIIth century, but the dome was rebuilt in the early XVIIIth century)
In 374 the Quadi passed the Danube frontier and managed to sack Carnuntum: When thereafter (in 375) Valentinian entered Carnuntum, a town of the prefecture of Illyricum, now indeed deserted and in ruins, but very convenient for the leader of an army, he proceeded (whenever chance or design gave the opportunity) to check the attacks of the savages from a station near by. (..) The emperor remained at Carnuntum, where throughout the entire three summer months he was preparing arms and supplies, intending, if in any way fortune favoured, to find opportunity to attack the Quadi, the instigators of the terrible uprising. Ammianus Marcellinus - Book XXX
Carnuntum was eventually abandoned and the mud carried by the river floods covered its buildings. Only a very minor part of the assumed area of the town has been excavated.