Turicum (Zürich)

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"Turicum" redirects here. For other uses, see Turicum (disambiguation).

Turicum is the Latin name of Zürich. In Roman times, Turicum was a tax-collecting point respectivelvy vicus at the border of Gallia Belgica (from AD 90 Germania Superior) and Raetia for goods trafficked on the Limmat river.

Modern replica of an Ancient Roman gravestone along Pfalzgasse on Lindenhof hill in Zürich
Lindenhof hill, Schipfe and the Roman wall of the later Pfalz fortifications, as seen from Limmatquai, Weinplatz to the left.
Lindenhof and Schipfe by Hans Leu the Elder (late 15th century)
Celtic, Roman and medieval remains at Lindenhofkeller
2nd/3rd century AD remains of pluster, Thermengasse


On the then swamp area between Limmat river and Zürichsee around Sechseläutzenplatz there were nearby Prehistoric pile dwellings around Zürichsee set on piles to protect against occasional flooding by the Linth and Jona rivers. Three settlements were located on Zürichsee in Enge, a locality of the municipality of Zürich: Zürich–Enge Alpenquai and Kleiner Hafner on then islands or peninsulas on the effluence of the Limmat river, and the Grosser Hafner island, all within an area of about 0.2 square kilometres (49.42 acres) in the city of Zürich.

Celtic settlement[edit]

At the later Vicus Turicum, probably in the first 1st century BC or even much earlier, the Celts settled at the Lindenhof Oppidium. In 1890, so-called Potin lumps were found, whose largest weights 59.2 kilograms (131 lb) at the Prehistoric pile dwelling settlement Alpenquai in Zürich, Switzerland. The pieces consist of a large number of fused Celtic coins, which are mixed with charcoal remnants. Some of the 18,000 coins originate from the Eastern Gaul, others are of the Zürich type, that were assigned to the local Helvetii, which date to around 100 BC. The find is so far unique, and the scientific research assumes that the melting down of the lump was not completed, therefore the aim was to form cultic offerings. The site of the find was at that time at least 50 metres (164 ft) from the lake shore, and probably 1 metre (3 ft) to three meters deep in the water.[1][2] There's also an island sanctuary of the Helvetii in connection with the settlement at the preceding Oppidi Uetliberg on the former Grosser Hafner island,[3] as well as the settlement Kleiner Hafner.[4][5][4][5] at the Sechseläuten square on the effluence of the Limmat river on Zürichsee lake shore.


The earliest written record of the town dates from the 2nd century, with a tombstone referring to it, discovered at the Lindenhof hill. The Celtic Helvetians had a settlement there in the 1st century BC, the Romans established a custom station here for goods going to and coming from Italy. The Roman vicus of Turicum first belonged to the province of Gallia Belgica, and to Germania superior from AD 90. Roman Turicum was not fortified in the beginning, but there was a small garrison at the tax-collecting point, downstream of Lake Zurich respectively Limmat river nearby the Münsterhof plaza, where the goods entering Gaul were loaded onto larger ships. South of the propably 4th century castrum, at the location of the St. Peter church, there was a temple to Jupiter. The earliest record of the town's name is preserved on a 2nd-century tombstone found in the 18th century on the Lindenhof hill, referring to the Roman castle as "STA(tio) TUR(i)CEN(sis)".

Not yet archaelogical proven but suggested by the historians, as well for the first construction of the today's Münsterbrücke Limmat crossing, the present Weinplatz square was the former civilian harbour of the Celtic-Roman Turicum, and so the term Weinplatz may have an ancient meaning.[6]

Christianity may be introduced in the 3rd century early by Felix and Regula, with whom Exuperantius was afterwards associated: According to the Christian legend, Felix and Regula were executed at the location of the Wasserkirche in 286. The Alamanni settled in propably from the 5th century when the Roman retreated back to Italy, but the Roman castle persisted into the 7th century.

Grosser Hafner island sanctory[edit]

During the reign of Emperor Hadrian, a round wooden temple as an island sanctuary was built at the Hafner island, which allows a dendrochronological dating. The building was erected in 122 AD, and consisted of oak piles driven deep into the lake bottom. It was surrounded probably with walls made of perishable materials, which formed a circle of seven meters in diameter. The rotunda is located on the former island settlement, about 500 metres (1,640 ft) away from the Vicus Turicum. The archaeological material indicates that the facility sure may was used up in the 3rd century AD, even up in the 4th century AD by the Gallo-Roman population. On the one hand, the interpretation as the temple is based on the insularity and the design, on the other hand on finds of coins; the majority of the now nearly 90 coins probably are from a so far not proven predecessor building, probably from the third quarter of the 1st century AD. There are also the fragments of bar tiles of maybe another Roman building. In the diving operations from 1998 to 2001 almost 100 kilograms (220 lb) of tile fragments are ensured, and up to 40 coins and several pottery shards, as well as rectangular post hole. An island sanctuary of the Helvetii in connection with settlement the preceding Oppidi Uetliberg and the 1st century BC settlement at the Lindenhof hill may have propably go back to the La Tène culture.[7]

Castrum Turicum[edit]

Using the advantage of topography, the Roman military built a citadel on top of the Lindenhof hill in the years of the Roman emperor Valentinian I (364–375), to defend migrations from the North by the Alamanni. 4500 m² large, it was fitted with 10 towers and two meter wide walls.


The original gravestone, now in the Zürich Landesmuseum, dates from 185/200 AD. It contains the first recorded mention of "Turicum". The gravestone was erected for Lucius Aelius Urbicus, a one-year-old child, by his parents Unio, freedman of Augustus, and Aelia Secundina. The earliest manuscript mention of the settlement, as castellum turegum, describes the mission of Columban in 610. An 8th-century list of toponyms from Ravenna mentions Ziurichi. The latin name may be derived from Turīcon, a Celtic name of a personality called Tūros.[8]

See also[edit]


  • Margrit Balmer: Zürich in der Spätlatène- und frühen Kaiserzeit. Vom keltischen Oppidum zum römischen Vicus Turicum. In: Monographien der Kantonsarchäologie Zürich 39, Hochbaudepartement/Amt für Städtebau/Stadtarchäologie (Hrsg.), Fotorotar-Verlag, Zürich und Egg 2009, ISBN 978-3-905681-37-6.
  • Peter J. Suter, Helmut Schlichtherle et al.: Pfahlbauten – Palafittes – Palafitte. Palafittes, Biel 2009. ISBN 978-3-906140-84-1.
  • Beat Eberschweiler: Ur- und frühgeschichtliche Verkehrswege über den Zürichsee: Erste Ergebnisse aus den Taucharchäologischen Untersuchungen beim Seedamm. In: Mitteilungen des Historischen Vereins des Kantons Schwyz, Volume 96, Schwyz 2004.[9]
  • Staatsarchiv des Kantons Zürich: Kleine Zürcher Verfassungsgeschichte 1218–2000. Herausgegeben im Auftrag der Direktion der Justiz und des Innern auf den Tag der Konstituierung des Zürcher Verfassungsrates am 13. September 2000. Chronos, Zürich 2000, ISBN 3-9053-1403-7.

External links[edit]

Media related to Turicum at Wikimedia Commons


  1. ^ Keltisches Geld in Zürich: Der spektakuläre «Potinklumpen». Amt für Städtebau der Stadt Zürich, Stadtarchäologie, Zürich October 2007.
  2. ^ Michael Nick. "75 kilogrammes of Celtic small coin - Recent research on the „Potinklumpen“ from Zürich". Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte, España. Retrieved 2014-12-12. 
  3. ^ Beat Eberschweiler: Schädelreste, Kopeken und Radar: Vielfältige Aufgaben für die Zürcher Tauchequipe IV. In: NAU 8/2001. Amt für Städtebau der Stadt Zürich, Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Unterwasserarchäologie / Labor für Dendrochronologie. Zürich 2001.
  4. ^ a b "Prehistoric Pile Dwellings in Switzerland". Swiss Coordination Group UNESCO Palafittes (palafittes.org). Retrieved 2014-12-10. 
  5. ^ a b "World Heritage". palafittes.org. Retrieved 2014-12-10. 
  6. ^ "Turicum II" (in German). Hochbaudepartement Stadt Zürich. Retrieved 2015-01-07. 
  7. ^ Beat Eberschweiler: Schädelreste, Kopeken und Radar: Vielfältige Aufgaben für die Zürcher Tauchequipe IV. In: NAU 8/2001. Amt für Städtebau der Stadt Zürich, Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Unterwasserarchäologie / Labor für Dendrochronologie. Zürich 2001.
  8. ^ Andres Kristol: Zürich ZH (Zürich). In: Dictionnaire toponymique des communes suisses – Lexikon der schweizerischen Gemeindenamen – Dizionario toponomastico dei comuni svizzeri (DTS|LSG). Centre de dialectologie, Université de Neuchâtel, Verlag Huber, Frauenfeld/Stuttgart/Wien 2005, ISBN 3-7193-1308-5, and Éditions Payot, Lausanne 2005, ISBN 2-601-03336-3.
  9. ^ Beat Eberschweiler (2004). "Ur- und frühgeschichtliche Verkehrswege über den Zürichsee: Erste Ergebnisse aus den Taucharchäologischen Untersuchungen beim Seedamm" (in German). ETH Bibliothek. Retrieved 2014-12-08. 

Coordinates: 47°22′23″N 8°32′27″E / 47.3730°N 8.5407°E / 47.3730; 8.5407