Legio XIII Gemina bricks found in Vienna

An archaeological excavation of an elementary school in Vienna has uncovered bricks bearing the stamp of the Roman 13th Legion Gemina.

The Kindermanngasse Elementary School is the fourth oldest school in Vienna and its location in the historic center of the city required that it undergo an archaeological exploration before a planned renovation. The Vienna City Archaeology department has been excavating the inner courtyard for several weeks and unearthed evidence of a large-scale Roman building — traves of wooden beams and post holes — from the 2nd century. Archaeologists believe it had an industrial purpose, perhaps the production of bricks, although so far there has been no smoking gun to explain the function of the building. In one trench the team found a pit filled with bricks stamped with the name of Legio XIII Gemina. They were likely the broken remnants of pilae stacks, the pillars of brick used to raise the floor for the hypocaust heating system.

Vindobona was founded at the site of a settlement of the Celtic kingdom of Noricum. In the 1st century A.D., the oppidum was absorbed into the Roman province of Pannonia and a fort was built there, part of a line of defenses alone the Danube limes (frontier). Legio XIII Gemina, descendant of the famous Thirteenth Legion that crossed the Rubicon with Julius Caesar in 49 B.C., was transferred to Vindobona by the emperor Trajan in 98 A.D. Legio XIII built a permanent military fort in what would become the heart of modern-day Vienna, although they would not be stationed there long. They were replaced by Legio XIV Gemina in 101 A.D.

The stone fortress was expanded and rebuilt over the centuries, with large stone walls constructed in the early 2nd century. The Kindermanngasse in the historic center of the city is less than two miles from the remains of homes of the legion’s officers found in previous excavations and other significant remains of the civilian settlement, but remains from the initial construction by Legio XIII are rare.

The excavation is expected to come to an end early this month.