Aquincum is a large Ancient Roman site in Budapest, Hungary, housing the remains of what was once an important military base and city. Most of the sites at Aquincum date back to the 2nd century AD: the city reached its peak with up to 40,000 inhabitants as the capital of the province of Pannonia, later Lower Pannonia.
Today, the site of Aquincum has much to offer sightseers and history enthusiasts alike, including the ruins of a city wall, an amphitheatre (1 of 2 in Budapest), temples, homes and burial grounds. There is also the modest Aquincum Museum housing artefacts from the site to explore.
Aquincum was originally settled by the Celtic Eravisci tribe, but later became a Roman border military base or castrum around 41 to 54 BC. A legion of 6,000 men grew into a city around the fortress, and when Pannonia was reorganised by the Romans in 106 AD, Aquincum became the provincial capital.
Aquincum was occasionally the headquarters of Rome’s emperors because it was the centre of the Roman frontier operations. As such, the city obtained municipal status under Hadrian and became a colonia under Septimius Severus. By the end of the 2nd century AD, the city boasted 30,000 inhabitants and was the centre of commercial life in the province.
The city’s status was reflected in the archaeological remains excavated, which include central heating in the houses, public baths, palaces and a temple to Mithras (a Mithraeum). Aquincum also boasted 2 amphitheatres built in the 1st century AD for gladiatorial and animal fights.
Christianity came to Aquincum around the early 3rd century, and it was not until 350 AD when the city was largely destroyed, suffering attacks from the Sarmitians to the north and in the 5th century, German and Hun invaders.
Today, you can visit the ancient city of Aquincum, much smaller than the important Roman province it once was. Highlights of wandering Aquincum include a stone tile with a sewer grate, a beautiful mosaic-covered thermal bath and an underground heating system. You can also see the ruins of a 3-level aqueduct.
Aquincum Museum boasts a small collection of Celtic and Roman artefacts, providing a fascinating visual timeline through the 17 milestones of the site: from a Celtic period urn to a bejewelled 5th century AD diadem. You can also see a reconstruction of the hydraulic system. Be aware that the English translations in the museum are not always thorough and the ruins are closed during the winter months. Standard entry otherwise costs 1,900 Ft (£4.70).
Getting to Aquincum
Via public transport, the buses 34, 134 and 106 from Szentlélek Square in Obuda will stop at Aquincum. For those driving, Aquincum Museum and Roman site are along the Szentendrei street off road 11, a 10 minute drive north of central Budapest.