(Wels) Oberösterreich, Austria.
Located in NW Noricuin. It was an important road
junction: the Alpine road for Aquileia, Virunum, and
Ovilava terminated here, and the limes road for Lauriacum, Ovilava, Castra Batava (Passau) here intersected the interior road to Iuvavum. In addition Ovilava was situated at an excellent crossing of the Traun. Because of this advantageous location in the Roman communications net, Ovilava was predestined to be the replacement center for the Danube front. The place is
mentioned several times in the ancient literature (Ant.it
235.2; 249.2; 256.5; 258.4; 277.2; Tab.Peut
. 4.2). Under
the emperor Hadrian, Ovilava received a municipal constitution (municipium Aelium Ovilava). During the wars with the Marcomanni under the emperor Marcus Aurelius, legionary troops were transferred to Lauriacum
and the legionary commander assumed the office of the
governor. At that time some offices were transferred
from the former provincial capital of Virunum to
Ovilava. The increased importance of the town is indicated by the fact that it was, under Caracalla, elevated
to the rank of a colonia (Aurelia Antoniniana). Caracalla also probably fortified the town when it was
threatened by invasions from Germany. However, a
permanent military garrison cannot be proven. During
the administrative reform under Diocletian, Ovilava
became the capital of the province of Noricum ripense
and seat of the governor (praeses). Early Christianity
is indicated by a tombstone, the only one found in
Austria which has been completely preserved.
Owing to later building on the site, knowledge of
the topography of Ovilava is very limited. The ground
plan was an irregular rectangle with rounded corners
and a bend in the W and E side (exterior measurements,
ca. 900 x 900 m). The fortification consisted of a wall
(ca. 1.4 m thick) with towers jutting out slightly, six
of which have been found so far; the gates have not
yet been discovered. The approaches were guarded by
a system of quadruple trenches. The town plan is not
evident, although many large remnants of buildings
have been found. The location of some ancient roads
may possibly be reflected in the plan of the modern
town; and if it is, it can be assumed that a checkerboard
plan existed, at least for the newer N section of the
town. So far, none of the basic municipal buildings
(forum, capitol, etc.) have been found or identified.
The location of the amphitheater is unknown, although
its existence can be deduced from a relief of the goddess
Nemesis. However, the aqueduct from the S has been
identified; it consisted in the 2d c. A.D. of wooden pipes
and was rebuilt as a vaulted canal in the 3d c. Two large
necropoleis to the W and E are located on both sides
of a long road that traversed the N part of the town.
Another, in the middle, containing the oldest graves, was
abandoned when the town wall was built. The mediaeval
settlement developed in the SE corner of the ancient
town and occupied only 12 ha of the original 90 ha of
the Roman area.
The finds from Ovilava are mainly in the Städtisches
Museum in Wels, some in the Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseum in Linz.
E. Polaschek, “Ovilavis,” RE
(1942) 1986ff; R. Noll, Der römische Limes in Österreich
21 (1958) 60ff; G. Trathnigg, “Die Römerzeit,”
Jahrbuch des Musealvereines Wels
10 (1963-64) 16ff;
id., “Beiträge zur Topographie des römischen Wels I,”
48 (1966-67) 109ff.