NORICUM (Noricus ager), in ancient geography, a district bounded on the N. by the Danube, on the W. by Raetia and Vindelicia, on the E. by Pannonia, on the S. by Pannonia and Italy, corresponding to the greater part of the modern Styria and Carinthia, and part of Austria, Bavaria and Salzburg. The original population appears to have consisted of Illyrians, who after the great emigration of the Gauls became subordinate to various Celtic tribes, chief amongst them being the Taurisci, probably called Norici by the Romans from their capital Noreia (Neumarkt). The country is mountainous and the soil poor, but it was rich in iron, and supplied material for the manufactories of arms in Pannonia, Moesia and northern Italy. The famous Noric steel was largely used for the Roman weapons (“Noricus ensis,” Horace, Odes, i. 16. 9). The inhabitants were a brave and warlike people, who paid more attention to cattle-breeding than to agriculture, although it is probable that the Romans, by draining the marshes and cutting down timber, increased the fertility of the soil. Gold and salt were also found in considerable quantities; the plant called saliunca (the wild or Celtic nard) grew in abundance, and was used as a perfume (Pliny, Nat. Hist. xxi. 20. 43). Noricum was the southern outpost of the northern or Celtic peoples and the starting-point of their attacks upon Italy. It is in Noricum that we first hear of almost all these Celtic invaders. Archaeological researches, particularly in the cemeteries of Hallstatt (q.v.), less than 40 m. from Noreia, have shown that for centuries before recorded history there was a vigorous civilization. The Hallstatt cemeteries contained weapons and ornaments from the Bronze age, through the period of transition, up to the fully-developed Iron age. Professor Ridgeway (Early Age of Greece, i. ch. 5) has made out a strong case for the theory that in Noricum and the neighbouring districts was the cradle of the Homeric Achaeans. For a long time the Noricans enjoyed independence under princes of their own, and carried on commerce with the Romans. In 48 B.C. they took the side of Caesar in the civil war against Pompey. In 16, having joined with the Pannonians in invading Histria, they were defeated by Publius Silius, proconsul of Illyricum. From this time Noricum is called a province, although not organized as such, but remaining a kingdom with the title regnum Noricum. It was under the control of an imperial procurator. It was not until the reign of Marcus Antoninus that the Legio II. Pia (afterwards called Italica) was stationed at Noricum, and the commander of the legion became the governor of the province. Under Diocletian, Noricum was divided into Noricum ripense (along the Danube) and mediterraneum (the southern mountainous district). Each division was under a praeses, and both belonged to the diocese of Illyria in the prefecture of Italy. The Roman colonies and chief towns were Virunum (near Mariasaal), Ovilava (Wels), Celeia (Cilli), Juvavum (Salzburg), Lauriacum (Lorch, at the mouth of the Enns, the ancient Anisus).
See A. Muchar, Das römische Norikum (Grätz, 1825); T. Mommsen, Corpus inscription Latinarum, iii. 587; J. Marquardt, Römische Staatsverwaltung, i. (2nd ed., 1881) p. 290; Smith's Dict. of Gk. and Roman Geog. (1873); Mary B. Peaks, The General Civil and Military Administration of Noricum and Raetia (Chicago, 1907); full references to ancient authorities in A. Holder, Alt-celtischer Sprachschatz, ii. (1904).
(J. H. F.)