Commemorating Rome on the Danube

Interesting press release from the Austrian Mint:

For some five centuries the River Danube formed an essential part of ancient Rome’s northern border against the barbarian tribes of Germania. The Austrian Mint’s new silver series called “Rome on the Danube” breathes life back into the ruined remains of the towns and forts that played such prominent roles in the life of the Roman Empire in Austria.

The province of Noricum covered about two-thirds of modern day Austrian territory. It had been originally a kingdom of Celtic tribes until it was taken over by the Romans in a peaceful occu-pation under the Emperor Augustus in about 15 B.C. Thirty years later the Emperor Claudius converted Noricum into a regular Roman province and established the city of VIRUNUM as its adminis-trative capital. Military command was vested not in the governor at Virunum, but rather in the commander of the legions standing guard along the River Danube in the north. The governor was ap-pointed by the emperor in Rome. His primary responsibility was for finance and taxation as well as for the administration of Roman law and order. His capital stood on a Roman road connecting it to Aquileia in the south and to Ovilava (Wels) in the north and the Limes or string of forts and towers guarding the Danube border.

Virunum was the cultural centre of life in Noricum with the only great amphitheatre to have been discovered on Austrian territory. Built on the classical Roman system of a rectangular grid of streets with large open forums housing temples and grand basilicas, Virunum was an unfortified township like many other such settlements – a tribute to the Pax Romana (the Roman Peace). The streets were unpaved, but the city had a plentiful supply of water feeding public fountains and a good drainage system with lead piping. On an artificially built terrace above the city were a military camp and an elliptically shaped arena for animal and gladiatorial combat, as well as military exer-cises and training or parades.
The lack of walls rendered Virunum vulnerable to marauding tribes that managed to cross the Danube and raid the rich Roman province of Noricum, and in times of weakness and turmoil the city did fall prey to plundering barbarians. In the early Chris-tian era Virunum had its own bishop and church. Exactly when the city was abandoned we do not know, but abandoned it was. Its noble buildings of stone and marble became quarries for building materials, until the earth itself decently covered over the wounds of its ruins, leaving it to modern archaeologists to re-awaken Roman Virunum once more from its centuries’ long sleep.

The new 20 Euro silver coin shows a profile portrait of the Emperor Claudius, who founded Virunum (“Municipium Claudium Virunum”). In the background one sees a Roman wagon drawn by a pair of horses. It is part of a grave stone from Virunum, pres-ently affixed to the south wall of the church in neighbouring Maria-Saal. The reverse side displays an imaginary street scene. A Roman wagon drives past the portico of a temple. At the back rise the high walls and roof of a grand basilica. In the foreground to the left we find a blacksmith hammering the highly-prized Noric iron into swords for the Roman legions. The name at the base of the coin identifies the city as Virunum.
via the Austrian Mint
The new € 20 silver coin is struck in proof quality only and to maximum mintage of 50,000 worldwide. Each coin comes in an attractive box with a numbered certificate of authenticity. A collection case for the whole series of six coins may be purchased separately.

In September the second coin of the series, “VINDOBONA” (Vienna), will be issued.

Roman Warm Period Redux

An item from the Sydney Morning Herald caught my eye at some point this week … here’s the incipit:

TONY ABBOTT is under pressure to justify telling students it was considerably warmer when Jesus was alive after leading scientists said his claim was wrong.

He urged year 5 and 6 pupils at an Adelaide school to be sceptical about the human contribution to climate change, saying it was an open question.

In a question-and-answer session on Friday, the Opposition Leader said it was warmer “at the time of Julius Caesar and Jesus of Nazareth” than now.

Leading scientists said there was no evidence to suggest it was hotter 2000 years ago. […]

via Climate scientists cross with Abbott for taking Christ’s name in vain.

… back when rogueclassicism was young, we mentioned a study in CO2 Science on the so-called Roman Warm Period, which ran roughly from 250 B.C. to 450 A.D.. A more recent study (which didn’t get any press attention, near as I can tell, but is all over the interwebs) uses mollusk evidence to suggest the period was actually warmer than the present day. Interesting implications about the Romans’ activities rarely, if ever, seem to be mentioned in connection with the RWP (cf., e.g., claims of Roman pollution found in Iceland). Seems to be some sort of  ‘elephant in the room’ situation …

UPDATE (05/22/10): The study seems to be filtering to the editorial pages, e.g.:

Warmongers v Senators in the Third Century

I think this is something many folks suspected …

Military warmongers took over the Roman Empire in the third century. The senate, the administrative elite of the Roman empire watched from the sidelines. Dutch researcher Inge Mennen investigated the balance of power in Imperium Romanum during the ‘crisis of the third century‘. Conclusion: senators lost their military power but retained their status. Meanwhile military emperors pulled the strings.

Inge Mennen studied biographies of the most prominent men from the turbulent third century to gain an impression of the shifts in the balance of power.

For decades power in ancient Rome was in the hands of the senators who traditionally came from a small group of wealthy aristocratic families. Status and network paved the way to the top. Military experience assumed second place. The senate was also the rearing ground for future emperors: only the ordo senatorius could cultivate emperors. At least that was the case until the third century AD. Then senators had to make room for men of an utterly different class: military emperors from the equestrians. Within just 100 years the Roman Empire changed almost beyond recognition: emperor Diocletianus realised large-scale reforms. He reorganised the army and shared the power with his most important general. The Roman Empire was then effectively split in two. How could that have happened within such a relatively short space of time? Inge Mennen attempted to answer this question.

Elite

In the third century the border areas of the immeasurably large empire came under pressure. Emperors had to spend increasing amounts of time dealing with the far corners of the empire and the increasing threat of war. Senators, with their limited military experience, were overshadowed by military leaders. Yet Inge Mennen’s research also reveals that some of the senators managed to use the new situation to their advantage. They retained their high social position but at the same time quietly expanded their power in the more peaceful parts of the empire. They relinquished some of their military might but flourished in legal, administrative and financial positions. Appointments up to the level of the senate were made via the emperor who in this way honoured the elite of Rome and at the same time could consolidate his own power.
Equestrians

Meanwhile the ‘new era’ at the start of the tumultuous crisis century ensured the expulsion of the equestrians from Rome. For a long time equestrians had occupied mainly advisory positions in the emperor’s palace. Yet with the absence of the emperor in times of war and the increasing power of cunning senators, this group became superfluous. That left the equestrians with just one option: defending the empire. Professional soldiers also saw an opportunity to climb up to the equestrians via a career in the army. Gradually the composition and culture of this social class changed. The Roman Empire at war made grateful use of this growing group of warmongers: they now advised the emperor and controlled the border areas. Equestrians who had won their spurs in the Roman army even rose to the rank of emperor, an honour which up until that time had been the exclusive privilege of the senators.
Emperors

The senators continued to control Rome, the empire’s old seat of power, whereas the equestrians gained increasing control of the periphery of the empire. The focus came to lie on the peripheral provinces, in the regions of the empire where wars had to be fought. In order to retain control of these areas the emperors needed a military background. They also devoted an increasing proportion of their time to military matters and so they frequently felt obliged to put off other tasks. At the worst of times, the emperors were even forced to give up parts of their empire.

The old imperial dynasties were not reinstated in the third century. Instead military emperors emerged: powerful generals who, with the support of their troops, gained the emperorship for a short period of time. They reigned until the next coup by an ambitious general. Military and civil affairs came into the hands of two completely different groups until these issues were formally separated by emperor Diocletianus. According to Inge Mennen, the reforms implemented by this emperor are not as radical as they might initially appear. The biographies of the powerful men of the third century reveal that many changes had already been set in motion a good century previously. Although Diocletianus put these ideas in writing, they were not entirely new.

via Warmongers pushed ‘intellectual’ politicians aside | AlphaGalileo.