IRENE's TRAVELOGUE

JUNE/JULY 2002

TRACING ROMAN GERMANIA II

The Trip
Kaiseraugst
Augsburg
Regensburg
Weißenburg
Aalen
Aschaffenburg
Miltenberg
The Saalburg II
Cologne II
Neuß
Southwestern Black Forest
Schwäbisch Hall  Berlin

MORE TRAVEL
Tracing Roman Germania 1999
Tracing Roman Germania 2003 in the works
Ancient Rome as seen in the year 2001

 

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photos

KAISERAUGST — AUGUSTA RAURICA

Not far from Basel, Switzerland, at the Rhein river, is the town of Kaiseraugst, which encompasses the Roman town of Augusta Raurica – and I mean this literally: the excavations of the Roman settlements can be found throughout a residential area. Very confusing to the visitor, as the map one receives at the entrance is rather misleading, it only shows the Roman buildings, and not even today's street names. 2008 update: Augusta Raurica at Wikipedia.

The colonia Raurica was founded twice, both times by Augustus: First in 44 B.C., then again in 10 B.C., farther away from today's Basel, and within the current Kaiseraugst. It seems that the reason for the move was a more convenient location, with equally high banks on either side of the river, which allowed for easier bridge building. The actual castrum, or castellum, lies between the settlement and the river, right in the center of today's downtown, where some walls can still be seen next to the city hall. Here are two images of city plans.

Antoninus Pius silver denarius - click here for related article
courtesy Doug Smith
Antoninus Pius Caesar - Silver denarius
February-July 138 AD
T AEL CAES ANTONINVS
TRIB POT COS
Bare head / Diana standing

Augusta Raurica became an important factor in traveling and trading, as well as militarily. The area had many villae rusticae, 75 of which have been found so far. The town expanded gradually, and the emperor Antoninus Pius added the temples of Mercurius and Jupiter, as well as a theater. It has been estimated that during the time of the Pax Romana the place had about 20,000 inhabitants. The years 196/197 A.D. brought unrest because of the political upheavals in Rome, and beginning in 253 the town suffered from Alemannic invasions, with the eventual destruction in 276, after which the settlement was moved to the area of the castrum. Remains of baths and an early Christian church can be found near the castrum on the banks of the river.

Archaeological history at Augusta Raurica goes back as far as the late 16th century, to the Basel merchant Andreas Ryff and the law professor Basilius Amerbach. Indeed it is the oldest archaeological site north of the Alps.

Today, the area has become a widespread archaeological park with its usual educational settings. The museum building is small, therefore artifacts can be found throughout the park's buildings. Archeological work is ongoing at the site. Across the street up the hill the scenic theatre is being reconstructed. Here is an illustrated tour from the official website; and the English version, however, not all subsequent links are in English, but sometimes there is a summary in English further down the page. The website is an extensive one and well worth browsing. Here is an A-Z of what can be visited, viewed, or experienced. There is also a search feature.

Here are some highlights of the park (go to the dropdown menu Attractions:

The Museum: It is divided into two sections, a learning experience with replicas of various rooms of a Roman House, where guided tours are given in Latin, and original artifacts. The most interesting ones are those of the famous silver treasure, found in 1962: silver bars, coins, and an elaborate table service, which probably belonged to the commander of the castellum. Unfortunately, the lighting is too dark to take photos there, as well as in most exhibition rooms. But here are some I did take in and around the museum. The lapidarium outside the museum and the sculpture garden across the street show reproductions only, in order to shield the originals from weather and pollution effects.

The Park: There are many Outside Exhibitions. The largest ongoing project is the restoration and reconstruction of the scenic theatre. Line drawings in the original stones (!) greatly helped in the planning of the project. Here are my own images. There are also remains from an amphitheatre in another section of town, but most of it has been covered again with soil.

On the way from the railroad station to the park, one passes the Trading House, and one has to go back across the railroad tracks to get to the castellum walls, the baths by the river, the Christian church and baptisterium, etc.

As usual, I had less time than I thought to visit and absorb everything: one day is simply not enough.

I recommend staying in Basel for a few days. The city also has a number of excellent museums.

© Irene B. Hahn 2002

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