Municipium Aelium Karnuntum

Ancient Carnuntum was made up of several settlements: the legionaries’ camp, the military settlement surrounding it (canabae legionis) and the civilian city which sprawled westward starting at 2 km outside the military zone. It was inhabited by Roman citizens owning land and eager to pursue commercial activities without being under military command.

Economically, Carnuntum was a very lucrative hub for merchants interested in benefitting from the famous Amber Road which crossed the Roman Empire at this very place. First historic records of the settlement can be traced back to the late 1st century A.D. Under the reign of Emperor Hadrian, Carnuntum was raised to the status of a Roman town: Municipium Aelium Carnuntum. It boasted a forum, numerous temples, a municipal senate (curia), a city archive, offices (tabularium) as well as thermal baths e.g. the large forum thermal baths (so-called ‘palace ruins’) or the civil public baths which were painstakingly reconstructed in today’s Roman City Quarter of Petronell-Carnuntum. Densely populated blocks of houses (insulae) and perpendicular streets further contributed to the settlement’s municipal character.

After Carnuntum’s promotion to a colonia in 194 A.D., constructional activities increased. It was surrounded by a city wall and sported several lavishly furnished private and public buildings. Houses with gardens were erected right one right next to the other, some of the streets were partly covered by porticos. Carnuntum became a city with a superb quality of life.    

Like every Roman city, Carnuntum also had amphitheatres. The Civilian City’s Amphitheatre in Petronell was built southwestwards directly outside the municipal settlement and held up to 13.000 people. According to recent scientific research, it dates from the 2nd century A.D. Thanks to geo radar measurements, a gladiator school was discovered in 2011 causing furor throughout the entire archaeological world. Completeness and size are internationally unique, the distinctness of its structures is comparable only to the ludus magnus in Rome.



F. Humer – A. Konecny, Die Zivilstadt (municipium und colonia), in: F. Humer (Hrg.), Carnuntum. Wiedergeborene Stadt der Kaiser, Philipp von Zabern (2014) 78-87.

E. Pollhammer, Die Architektur und Bauornamentik, in: Humer 2014, 98-101

F. Humer, Wie sahen die Carnuntiner Privathäuser innen aus? In: Humer 2014, 102-107

F. Humer, Carnuntum. Ein römisches Wohnhaus der Spätantike in Carnuntum (2009).

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