Military City

Canabae legionis

After the establishment of the earliest verifiable military camp along the Danube by the legio XV Apollinaris in 40 A.D., a group of merchants, artisans and legionnaires’ families followed the soldiers to Carnuntum. This residential settlement became known as the canabae legionis. In the Severan period, it comprised an area of ​​120 ha and was thus significantly larger than the civilian town of approx. 67 ha surrounded by ramparts.

The military controlled area of the camp was usually defined within a radius of 2.2 km
(1 Celtic Leuga) around the legion’s camp. Generally speaking, the canabae legionis was mainly built within this Leuga which also applied to the one in Carnuntum. Owning land in this area was basically allowed, however, the military had superior rights to use it for the supply of soldiers when needed. Residents of the Leuga therefore mostly belonged to poorer social classes living in simple houses with narrow streets and deliberately placing themselves under the protection of the military forces.

Thanks to aerial archaeology, Carnuntum’s canabae legionis has been extensively examined and many a detail could be clarified. It was revealed that the very first settlements were created along the limes and the burial road as well as the road to Gerulata.

Several large public buildings are clearly visible on the map of the canabae legionis e.g. the Amphitheatre measuring 98m x 76 m used by the legio XV Apollinaris in the late 1st c. A.D. Holding up to 8000 spectators, it showcased wild animal and gladiator fights as well as other sorts of events (spectacula). Towards the West, a sanctuary consecrated to Nemesis directly bordered the Amphitheatre, a small area possibly harbouring wild animals was also connected to the arena.

The campus was located southwest of the legion camp and served as a training ground for military exercises. The edifice consisted of a large empty space surrounded by porticos on three sides and by a basilica on the fourth.

The sumptuous Governor’s Palace was situated directly on the banks of the Danube. A further military camp was unearthed approx. 1 km southwest of the legion camp not far from the burial road. It served as a Roman fort in which 480 auxiliary warriors were stationed. Other large buildings are thought to have been cult districts for Jupiter Dolichenus as well as for Liber und Libera. A large thermal complex was also revealed by means of aerial photography.


Castra – the legion camp

The legion camp (castra) of Carnuntum is sandwiched in between the municipalities of Petronell-Carnuntum and Bad Deutsch-Altenburg. The unobstructed terrain is perfect for archaeological research making Carnuntum’s castra to a focal point of interest far beyond regional borders. Approximately around 40 A.D., the first legion camp was built of wood and earth. The legio XV Apollinaris which remained in Carnuntum until the 2nd c. A.D., monitored the first constructional period. The stone construction can be traced back to the legio XIIII gemina which succeeded the legio XV Apollinaris and remained in Carnuntum until late antiquity.

The camp encompassing 18 ha was unearthed between 1877 and 1913. The excavations also revealed three out of four camp gates. The headquarters (principia) contained administrative units, the treasury as well as a sanctuary. The living quarters of the camp commander (legatus legionis) who belonged to the senators’ class, were located southeast of the principia. Numerous rooms arranged around a patio were furnished in line with the camp commanders’s luxurious living standard. A military hospital (valetudinarium) occupied the southeastern camp territory and hosted a small sanctuary in its centre, probably for Hygieia or Aeskulap.

Apart from staff accomodation facilities (contubernium), servants’ houses, food and weapon storage rooms (horreum) as well as workshops (fabrica) were confirmed within the camp grounds. A small bath house was presumably also erected within the camp premises. Under the rule of Diocletian, an army of 1.000 men was deployed in the camp. A shield factory (Carnutensis scutaria) has been documented for this period. The legion camp remained inhabited by Roman civilians until the first decades of the 5th c. A.D.



Chr. Gugl, Das Legionslager, in: F. Humer (Hrsg.), Carnuntum. Wiedergeborene Stadt der Kaiser (Verlag Philipp von Zabern, Darmstadt 2014) 64-67.

Chr. Gugl – M. Doneus – N. Doneus, Die Lagervorstadt (canabae legionis), in: F. Humer (Hrsg.), Carnuntum. Wiedergeborene Stadt der Kaiser (Verlag Philipp von Zabern, Darmstadt 2014) 67-72.

My Visit

0 Entries Entry

Suggested visit time:

Send List