Noric steel

Noric steel was a steel from Noricum, a Celtic kingdom located in modern Austria and Slovenia.

The proverbial hardness of Noric steel is expressed by Ovid: "...durior [...] ferro quod noricus excoquit ignis..." which roughly translates to "...harder than iron which Noric fire tempers [was Anaxarete towards the advances of Iphis]..."[1] and it was widely used for the weapons of the Roman military after Noricum joined the empire in 16 BC.[2]

The iron ore was quarried at two mountains in modern Austria still called Erzberg "ore mountain" today, one at Hüttenberg, Carinthia[3] and the other at Eisenerz, Styria,[4] separated by c.70 km. The latter is the site of the modern Erzberg mine.

Buchwald[5]:118 identifies a sword of c.300 BC found in Krenovica, Moravia as an early example of Noric steel due to a chemical composition consistent with Erzberg ore. A more recent sword, dating to c.100 BC and found in Zemplin, eastern Slovakia, is of extraordinary length for the period (95 cm, 37 in) and carries a stamped Latin inscription (?V?TILICI?O), identified as a "fine sword of Noric steel" by Buchwald.[5]:120 A center of manufacture was at Magdalensberg.[5]:124

See also


  1. "...harder than iron tempered by Noric fire [was Anaxarete towards the advances of Iphis']...", Metamorphoses, 14.712
  2. "Noricus ensis," Horace, Odes, i. 16.9
  3. 46°56′N 14°34′E
  4. 47°32′N 14°54′E
  5. Vagn Fabritius Buchwald (2005). Ch.5: "Celtic Europe and Noric Steel". Iron and steel in ancient times. Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters. ISBN 87-7304-308-7.
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