20 May 2007

At Carnuntum (Thoughts to Myself)

I've been leading a seminar on John Rawls' philosophy in Vienna these past days and today, after it was finished, had the chance to visit Carnuntum (about 25 miles East of Vienna), the site of the largest Roman encampment north of the Alps, and the place where Marcus Aurelius is said to have written parts of his remarkable Meditations. (But someone told me that recent scholarship has indicated that Vindabona--Vienna--is where he actually wrote, but that he used the name 'Carnuntum' since that was the better known place. Is that true? I haven't been able to check it.)

I enjoyed most of all seeing a reconstruction of a Roman house at the excavation of the town associated with the encampment, in Petronell. The reconstructed house was built entirely using authentic materials, designs, and tools similar to those used by the Romans.

Carnuntum itself has an excellent museum but no ruins, except for one of the most important and well-preserved gladiator amphitheaters outside Rome (see Mary Beard's book on the Colosseum), where gladiatorial munera are regularly re-created, as this one between a secutor and retiarius.