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Stadt auf dem Magdalensberg

03 July 2024


7:00 p.m. guided tour of the Magdalensberg archaeological site organised by the Landesmuseum Kärnten; departure from the visitor centre - Magdalensberg 15, 9064 Magdalensberg

8:30 p.m. dinner in the ancient Roman basilica (bring your own food!)

9:30 p.m. start of the performance in the ancient Roman basilica 

event language: German

information: , +43 (0)6646202662 , +43 (0)6648053630547

thanks to: Landesmuseumkärnten, Roland Baeck

Before today's ruins, before the annexation of Noricum to the Roman Empire in 16 BC, on the emerald green slope of the Magdalensberg there was a Roman emporium with a forum, two basilicae and some tabernae, a commercial and manufacturing center where the famous ferrum noricum, the steel of swords, wars and Roman conquests, was sold far and wide. 

But who were these craftsmen, these "Roman" traders in Celtic territory? Experts agree on their origins being mainly from Aquileia, and since Aquileia at that time was a port facing mainly towards the East, the imagination immediately goes to Phoenician, Jewish and Libyan traders...but why here? Was it due to the presence of a local king's residence further up the hill? Or because of an entire city, Noreia, the mythical capital of the Taurisci Celts, to this day still waiting to be discovered under the excavations of the late Roman age?

Roland Bäck, a very kind archaeologist from the Landesmuseum Kärnten who agreed to be my guide today, seems to read my mind as we walk one behind the other, careful not to fall into the moat behind the temple of Augustus:

“We know for a fact that at the top of the hill there was a sanctuary. According to Celtic tradition, its presence automatically guaranteed the safety of anyone, whether indigenous or foreign, who entered within the radius of a specific area around here: for this reason the first merchants coming from Aquileia who crossed the Alps must have seen this area a suitable place, thus creating an emporium here in close contact with the pre-existing Celtic settlement.”

A sanctuary? A sanctuary dedicated to which deity? “We don’t know this at the moment, but the discovery in the nearby Roman city of Virunum of a statue of Isis Noreia...” Isis Noreia? “Yes, a syncretic divinity of the imperial age, where the Egyptian Isis merged with the local Noreia, both linked by their privileged relationship with water.” 

For a moment I’m struck by vertigo, my thoughts go to the colossal statue of Isis on display at the Greco- Roman museum of Alexandria found in the sixties by the amateur diver Kamel Abu al-Sadāt while exploring the sea around the island of Pharos, near the submerged port: The poet arrives there/and then returns to the light with his songs/and it disperses them.

I open my eyes again and I am surrounded by butterflies. “A colleague of ours, an entomologist, is conducting a study to try to explain why there are so many butterflies precisely in this spot right behind the temple, and of so many different types.”

Of this poem/I still have/that inexhaustible secret nothingness.