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VIRUNUM Austria.

Situated NE of Klagenfurt, on the Zollfeld, near the town by the same name on the E flood-free terraces of the Glan valley. It was a favorable location; from the S came the road from Aquileia which itself was of great importance for the cultural and economic development of the E Alpine area. From Virunum two important roads went N to the Danube frontier. Finally, there was an E-W road from Virunum in the Drau valley to the W via Teurnia and Aguntum to the Brenner road (Via Claudia Augusta), and in the E to Celeia which in turn connected to the military road Aquileia-Carnuntum. Therefore Virunum is mentioned both in the Antonine Itinerary (276.5) and in the Peutinger Table (5.2). The place name is evidently Celtic but not connected with the location since no preceding settlement has been found. Rather, Virunum was a new settlement which, after the occupation phase, took the place of the town on the Magdalensberg, the former political, economic, and religious center of Noricum. As Pliny (HN 3.146) indicates, Virunum belonged, with Celeia, Teurnia, Aguntum, and Iuvavum, to the first series of new towns in Noricum and was constituted as municipium Claudium Virunum about A.D. 50. It never was a colonia, but became the seat of the imperial provincial administration of Noricum, at first with a procurator as governor. This accounts for the numerous municipal and provincial functionaries known through their monuments; it also explains the high cultural level of the town, which surpassed all other municipia of Noricum. When legionary troops during the wars with the Marcomanni were transferred to Noricum, the commander of the legion became the governor with the title legatus Augusti pro praetore and had his seat of government in Ovilava. During the administrative reforms under Diocletian, Virunum became the capital of the new province of Noricum mediterraneum, seat of the civilian governor (praeses).

Nothing further is known about the history of the town from ancient literature. Until the wars against the Marcomanni, Virunum evidently developed quietly, had no garrison, and had never been fortified. During the reign of Gallienus it must have suffered from invasions. This is evidenced by archaeological research, which unfortunately has been discontinued.

The town plan indicates that the town was developed according to a Graeco-Roman architectural plan. Its main feature is two axes at right angles with roads (up to 14.5 m wide) crossing at right angles to form rectangular insulae extending as far as the sloping terraced terrain permitted. The spiritual center of the town, the capitol and the forum, which formed an architectural unit, were not located in the geometric center, but toward the E. The capitol was situated N, the forum S of the assumed cardo. The over-all size was ca. 204 x 95 m. The temple area was located on an artificially created terrace, surrounded on three sides by walls; access was from the forum. In the middle rose a large podium temple in antis. The three niches inside suggest the veneration of the Capitoline triad. To the W of the temple area the base for a large monument was found. The forum was a large rectangular structure (ca. 120 x 95.5 m), opening on the capitol. A paved inner courtyard was framed on the long sides by peristyles behind which a series of large rooms of different sizes was located. The side of entrance was the narrow S side with its three gates. Toward the square the full width was occupied by a long hall with apsidal niches, probably a basilica with one nave. On the outside were four more rooms, some heatable, probably the offices of the municipal dignitaries (duumviri, aediles).

The size of the adjoining buildings has been determined, but only two insulae (W of the forum) have been excavated: a) the small insula IV with a peristyle-like inner courtyard, heatable living rooms, stores on the S side, and later baths: b) the so-called bath area, a not quite appropriate designation for a multi-purpose building almost 70 m square. It contains rooms from different building periods (1st to 5th c. A.D.), among them dwellings, stores, public rooms, and baths. The baths were located midway on the W front, toward the decumanus. In the SW corner was a meeting room of a Dionysiac group. The large mosaic floor (ca. 30 m sq.) of Dionysos and his followers (from the 3d c. B.C.) found here represents one of the most beautiful finds in Noricum. The bath area is known as the location of numerous marble statues, mostly two-thirds life size, copies from Greek originals of Classical times; also a statue of Isis-Noreia, a national mother goddess, based on a Classical prototype. These were, without exception, the work of a sculpture workshop in Virunum at the time of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius. The bath area is also important in furnishing a chronology for the whole town, and for that reason has been published separately.

Among other public buildings the theater, which is unique in the E Alpine countries, has been investigated. The spectators' area which was built into the slope is known, also the orchestra and the stage building with a stage (35 x 6 m) constructed with a lavish use of marble. The building period may be indicated by a marble sculpture of Hadrian. On the same slope a little farther N (at the E edge of town) are unexcavated walls surrounding an area of elliptical plan (ca. 96 x 42 m), supposedly the amphitheater. At the N edge of town a small Sanctuary of Jupiter Dolichenos had been excavated and a large bipartite podium temple. The extension of the town to the W is delineated by the graves found along today's federal highway, the extension to the S is unknown. The built-up area must have been ca. 1000 x 1000 m. There was a good water supply (fountains and water pipes), a sewage system with masonry canals below the middle of the road, and a main canal 1.8 m high.

During the restless decades of late antiquity when Germanic tribes repeatedly invaded the country (ca. 408 the Gothic king Alarich probably had his headquarters in Virunum), the unfortified town lost its importance. The population moved in part onto fortified hills in the vicinity, and in the 5th c. Teurnia—located farther to the W and fortified—became metropolis of Noricum. However, Virunum had become a bishopric. Early Christian culture is evident in the relief on a sarcophagus with the depiction of the Good Shepherd, and the churches on the Grazer Kogel. This Kogel, located N of the town and fortified in later times, harbored a rectangular hall church and an apsidal church, both with the clergy bench typical of Noricum. Toward the end of the 6th c. Virunum, owing to the Slavic invasion, faded away. It was never resettled.

Since the area has since been used for farming, no buildings have been preserved. However, numerous antiquities have been built into churches and houses; a small lapidarium is found in the octagon of the Maria Saal cathedral, and the Landesmuseum für Kärten in Klagenfurt also contains many finds. On the Zollfeld itself the Prunnerkreuz, a chapel dating from 1692, is of historical interest. It was built specifically to house in its walls the then existing stone monuments from Virunum.


C. Praschniker & H. Kenner, Der Bäderbezirk von Virunum (1947) MPI; R. Noll, Frühes Christentum in Österreich (1954) 105ffPI; H. Vetters, “Virunum,” RE IX A 1 (1961) 244ffMP; H. Kenner in EAA 7 (1966) 1186f.


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