Perhaps the most striking and important Roman archaeological site in Austria, Carnuntum lies roughly 80 kilometers southeast of Vienna. The name may be of Celtic origin. Established by the Romans in 15 CE, it was initially used to quarter a military legion of 6,000 infantry and a cavalry of 120. Lying on both east–west and north–south trade routes of the late Roman Empire, the settlement was raised from municipium to colonia, the highest rank that the Romans conferred upon provincial cities. It would become the administrative seat for the Roman governor who supervised Upper Pannonia, roughly eastern and southeastern Austria today. At its peak, Carnuntum had about 50,000 inhabitants, who had at their disposal such amenities as paved roads, covered sewers, a hospital, thermal baths, cultic temples, and, uncovered in 1976, a water system from the second or third century that was still functional. Not far away there was an amphitheater that accommodated 13,000 spectators for animal baiting and gladiatorial contests. Also in the neighborhood is the striking Heathen Gate (Heidentor), a freestanding, and much-eroded stone arch; its purpose—possibly ceremonial, possibly memorial—has yet to be clarified.
   Carnuntum was progressively destroyed by marauding Germanic tribes after 395, but the excavated layout is remarkably well-preserved. The oldest archaeological artifacts, today displayed in a small museum within the compound, date from the first century of the common era. The Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121–180) wrote part of his Meditations during a stay in the fortress.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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