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OVILAVA (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 ( 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 XVIII (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,” JOAIBeibl 48 (1966-67) 109ff.


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