Like most European countries, Austria looks back on a very eventful history. Yet there are some elements of the Austrian character that haven't changed much over the centuries: the partiality for indulgence, beauty, and cultivation have always been driving forces in the country's past and present...
The Early Days>
The area of today's Austria, that is the fertile Danube Valley and the Alpine valleys, were already settled in the Paleolithic Age (until approx. 8000 BC). Around 400 BC, Celtic peoples from Western Europe settled in the eastern Alps. A Celtic state, Noricum, developed around the region's ironworks in the second century BC. From the 7th century BC onwards one of the main regions of Celtic occupation was in modern-day Austria, centered around Hallstatt, a large prehistoric salt-mining area. The Hallstatt period, 750 - c.450 BC, is named after this region.
The Romans arrived 200 BC and by 15 BC they dominated the entire area. The most important Roman settlement in Austria was Carnuntum (capital of the Roman province of Pannonia in today's Lower Austria) which became the center of the Roman fortifications along the Danube. Today there is an interesting Archeology Park with a museum and an amphitheater.
From Ostarrichi to Austria>
By the latter half of the second century AD, various German tribes were extending their territory making devastating incursions into Roman territories. By the mid-500s, the Bavarians controlled the territory between the eastern Alps and the Wienerwald region. Around 800 Charlemagne, the king of Franks and eventually Holy Roman Emperor, established a territory in the Danube valley known as the Ostmark (Eastern March). In 996 the Ostmark was first referred to as "Ostarrichi", a clear forerunner of the modern German word "Osterreich".
Between 976, when Leopold von Babenberg became the margrave of the Ostmark, and 1246, the Duchy of Austria was one of extensive feudal possessions of the Babenberg family. The dynasty established their first residence in Pochlarn before moving it to Melk in the scenic Wachau region. In the 12th century Henry II moved his residence to Vienna which has remained the capital of the country ever since. Also in the 12th century the Cathedral of Saint Stephan was completed, which became a visible landmark of the city, showing its prominence. Henry II also founded the Schottenstift monastaryin Vienna, in the courtyard of which there is a statue of him to this day.