Carnuntum was a Roman Legionary Fortress or castrum legionarium and also headquarters of the Pannonian fleet from 50 AD. After the 1st century it was capital of the Pannonia Superior province. It also became a large city of 50,000 inhabitants.
Its impressive remains are situated on the Danube in Lower Austria halfway between Vienna and Bratislava in the “Carnuntum Archaeological Park” extending over an area of 10 km² near today’s villages of Petronell-Carnuntum and Bad Deutsch-Altenburg.
History of the City
In Roman times Carnuntum had a history as a major trading centre for amber, brought from the north to traders who sold it in Italy; the main arm of the Amber Road crossed the Danube at Carnuntum.
As the capital of Pannonia Superior it was made a municipium by Hadrian (Aelium Carnuntum). Its importance is indicated by the fact that Marcus Aurelius resided there for three years (172-175) during the war against the Marcomanni, and wrote part of his Meditations there. Also Septimius Severus, at the time governor of Pannonia, was proclaimed emperor there by his soldiers (193), to replace Emperor Pertinax, who had been murdered.
In the Severan dynasty (193-235) Carnuntum experienced an economic boom, the canabae reaching its maximum size. Caracalla elevated it to colony status as Septimia Colonia Aurelia Antoniana. During the reign of Gallienus, the Pannonians rebelled by electing the usurper Regalianus who established a mint whose coins depicted him and his wife Sulpicia Dryantilla. He was killed shortly afterwards by his own soldiers probably at Carnuntum.
In 308 during the Civil wars of the Tetrarchy the Emperor emeritus Diocletian chaired a historic meeting (the conference of Carnuntum) with his co-emperors Maximian and Galerius in Carnuntum to solve the rising tensions within the tetrarchy. It brought about freedom of religion for the Roman Empire.
In 374 it was destroyed by Germanic invaders the Quadi and Iazyges. Although partly restored by Valentinian I, it never regained its former importance, and Vindobona became the chief military centre. During the Barbarian Invasions, Carnuntum was eventually abandoned and used as a cemetery and source of building material for building projects elsewhere.
Eventually, its remains became buried and forgotten.