'Feeling' the Virunum Amphitheatre

Last year, just before the launch of JULIA PRIMA, I wrote a post about Virunum, Julia’s birthplace. After poring over research papers and reading Géza Alföldy’s comprehensive and accessible Noricum, I was able to produce a reasonably informative piece for this blog.

But… (You knew that was coming.)

I had no ‘feel’ for Virunum. Yes, you can use Google Maps in all its formats, you can stare at photos, plans, sketches, but you can’t sniff the air, see the mountains, love the wildflowers.

Unlike the Magdalensberg, the original Celtic and Roman settlement on the hill, there isn’t much of Virunum on the ground you can visit today, except one thing – the amphitheatre – and you have to book that.

So I did.

I contacted the regional museum, the Landesmuseum für Kärnten in Klagenfurt, Austria, and the wonderful Jasmine Ampferthaler-Dorfer set up a tour. It was opened to the public and a group of about a dozen of us gathered on a very hot day under an information shelter for an introductory talk.

Noricum, let alone Virunum is not that well known, but I’d nerded out on it and the talk went over familiar ground. Although Roman amphitheatres resemble each other whether you’re in Britannia, Hispania or Constantinople, they all have their little quirks. This one is a ‘stretched’ version, almost like a racetrack. I was thrilled to be there and eagerly took photos of everything, including this short video:

If you didn’t like what was going on in the amphitheatre (executions, fights with animals, theatricals, gladiatorial bouts), you could feast your eyes on the dramatic backdrop of the mountains.

After walking around the amphitheatre itself, we followed Jasmine, our guide, round the back. Apart from some very nice supporting walls, a little surprise was waiting for us…

Round the back, there’s an entrance. Into the tunnel. Where’s it going? Up the stairs and enter centre stage in the amphitheatre!

Luckily there was no fierce bear or tough gladiator to greet us!

As I left, I had to take one more photo so I could prove to myself that I had visited the very spot where Julia and Lucius had exchanged that look.


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. JULIA PRIMA,  Roma Nova story set in the late 4th century, starts the Foundation stories. The sequel, EXSILIUM, is now out.

Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email update. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

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