Noric steel

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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 tempered by Noric fire [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 ca. 70 km.

Buchwald[5] identifies a sword of ca. 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 ca. 100 BC, found in Zemplin, eastern Slovakia, is of extraordinary length for the period (95 cm) and carries a stamped Latin inscription (?V?TILICI?O), identified as a "fine sword of Noric steel" by Buchwald.[6] A center of manufacture was at Magdalensberg.[7]


  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 / 46.933°N 14.567°E / 46.933; 14.567
  4. ^ 47°32′N 14°54′E / 47.533°N 14.900°E / 47.533; 14.900
  5. ^ 2005:118
  6. ^ 2005:120
  7. ^ Buchwald 2005:124


  • Vagn Fabritius Buchwald, Iron and steel in ancient times, ch. 5: "Celtic Europe and Noric Steel" (2005), ISBN 87-7304-308-7.

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