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LAURIACUM (Lorch) Austria.

In Roman times in Noricum. The Celtic name (documented A.D. 791 as Lorahha) continues in the modern name. There was possibly an earlier settlement, but it has not yet been discovered. As the name of a station, Lauriacum is mentioned several times in the Peutinger Table (4.4; misspelled as Blaboriciaco), in the Notitia Dignitatum, and also in several other sources (Ammianus Marcellinus, Vita Sancti Severini, Passio Floriani).

The geopolitical significance of the place is characterized by its location: a) on the important Danube road parallel to the Noric-Pannonic limes (Carnuntum-Vin-dobona-Castra Batava); b) at the terminal of the Noric Trans-Alpine Road leading from the Adriatic area (Aquileia) via Virunum-Ovilava to the Danube; c) at the mouth of the Enns, which paralleled an important commercial road; d) opposite the Aist valley (Freistädter Steig) which approaches the Danube on the left bank and constitutes an advantageous gate for invasions from the N.

The history of Lauriacum can be reconstructed only partially, primarily on the basis of finds. Soon after the occupation of Noricum (15 B.C.) the border at the Danube and mouth of the Enns was secured by a small fortification. There were earthworks (71.4 x 124.3 m) surrounded by a double trench. Because of its small size the castellum can have had only a small garrison (Alen-Centuria?). It was probably constructed in the first half of the 1st c. A.D. South of it were located the canabae. This first military installation was destroyed during the Marcomannic wars (170-71), necessitating the transfer of legionary troops to Noricum. Under Marcus Aurelius the Legio II Italica was stationed at the Danube frontier, at first at Albing, E of the mouth of the Enns. Since the terrain there was unsuitable (danger of floods), Albing was soon abandoned, and W of the Enns a new legionary camp was erected under Commodus (191) or, more likely, under Septimius Severus (205).

Lauriacum is in the corner formed by the Danube and the left bank of the Enns, on a terrace of the Enns Stadtberg. Since 1904 about four-fifths of the camp has been excavated. Its ground plan is a rhomboid (ca. 539 x 398 m) and therefore larger than the camp at Carnuntum. The reason for the oblique angle is not clear. The surrounding wall with trenches was ca. 2 m thick and had four pairs of gate towers, four corner towers, and 24 towers interspersed on the inside of the wall. In the interior the via principalis with principia and sacellum, numerous barracks, scamnum tribunorum, camp baths, and valetudinarium are known. A few areas which were not built up might have been intended to harbor civilian refugees, making this the first Roman camp designed to serve as a refuge.

Until the end of the Roman rule, the Legio II Italica remained as its garrison. About later times the Notitia Dignitatum reports: praefectus legionis secundae Italicae (34.39), praefectus classis Lauriacensis (34.43), lanciarii Lauriacenses (5.259 = 5.109 = 7.58) fabrica Lauriacensis scutaria (9.21). The transfer of legionary troops to Noricum also caused a change in the provincial status, for the legion commander became the governor of the province. At the time of the construction of the camp a civilian town 200 m W (for security reasons) was planned and built. Large parts of it have been systematically excavated from 1951 to 1960, including the adjoining cemeteries; publication is still incomplete. The town plan is regular and directed toward the camp. Streets at right angles form insulae 90 m square; the total builtup area is ca. 500 m square. The original dwellings were of timber; the public buildings were of stone. At the E edge was a large square surrounded by pillared halls, the forum venale, headquarters of Lauriacum s commercial companies. Adjoining on the W side stood a one-nave basilica, equipped for heating. In the S part of the town large baths have been discovered, in the W mainly private dwellings. The forum is considered to have been in the area of St. Laurenz church and its surrounding cemetery; years ago an altar for the Capitoline gods was found there. The first great building period of the town was from the time of Septimius Severus to about the time of Alexander Severus, but almost all buildings were rebuilt several times. The cemeteries were in a large surrounding area; more than 20 have been found so far. Graves containing ashes exist in an uninterrupted sequence to mid Imperial times. Graves of Late Classical times contain skeletal remains and are occasionally richly decorated. Some show Christian origin.

The civilian town must have developed rapidly, for under Caracalla (212) it became a municipium. It was the last town founded by the Romans in Noricum. Some fragments of a bronze tablet inscribed with the town law constitute a valuable memento of this historic occasion. Lauriacum suffered repeatedly after the time of Alexander Severus from Allemannic invasions and was burned down several times, e.g. under Gallienus and Aurelianus. Three strata reflecting the destruction and subsequent rebuilding have been ascertained. Under the Constantinian dynasty the town experienced a brief renaissance, evidenced by increased building activity. In the 4th c. the emperors Constantius II (341) and Gratian (378) stayed within its walls. Perhaps also Valentinian I (374) was there when the defense of the limes was reorganized. Literature and finds give evidence of Christianity in Lauriacum in this same century. Florianus, the former head clerk of the chancery under the governor of riparian Noricum, is a well-documented figure who died a martyr's death (the only one known in Austria Romana) during Diocletian's persecutions of the Christians ca. 304. Architecturally, Christianity is represented by a small church which was discovered in 1936 on a tract of the valetudinarium.

Eugippius gives a lively description of conditions in the 5th c. in his Vita Sancti Severini (c. 18,27,28,30,31); this is the latest available information. The vita does not mention any military function for the town but reports it as a bishopric. The camp was already a refuge for the population which was always threatened by attack. Because of the continuing invasions of the Alemanni and other Germanic tribes into the urban settlements on the upper Danube, this area had to be evacuated, and Lauriacum at first served as a refuge. But it could not resist the superior strength of the enemy. Under the leadership of St. Severinus, the town was given up and the population was evacuated to Favianis farther down the Danube and was put under the protection of the king of the Rugii. Thus Lauriacum fell without a struggle into the hands of the Germanic aggressors. Germanic huts and graves document a resettlement of the place after Roman rule.

Finds from Lauriacum are mostly in the museum of the town of Enns, finds from earlier decades are also in the Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseum in Linz.


A. Gaheis, Lauriacum. Führer durch die Altertümer von Enns (1937)MPI; R. Noll, Römische Siedlungen und Strassen im Limesgebiet zwischen Inn und Enns (1958) 46ff; H. Vetters in EAA 4 (1961) 506ffP.


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