Augusta Raurica - History and Facts | History Hit

Augusta Raurica

Augst, Basel-Landschaft, Switzerland

Augusta Raurica is an ancient Roman archaeological site near Basel in Switzerland.

Peta Stamper

21 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Augusta Raurica

Augusta Raurica is a well-preserved Ancient Roman site near Basel in Switzerland. Founded in 15 BC, Augusta Raurica grew into a thriving colonia by the mid-1st century with a population of over 20,000 people. Amongst its sites remaining today, Augusta Raurica has a 50-row theatre, the remains of several public and private buildings as well as a maze of underground Roman sewers connected to a main pump room.

Augusta Raurica history

Led by Roman senator Lucius Munatius Plancus, the Romans founded the colony of Augusta Raurica around 44 BC, naming the settlement for the local Gallic tribe, the Rauraci. However, it was not until 15 BC when successful colonisation happened, owning to Emperor Augustus‘ conquest of the central Alps.

The city was founded on a high plateua near to the river Rhine and at the base of the Juna Mountains, establishing a frontier against the unconquered Germania. The Romans therefore built strong defences at Augusta Raurica; establishing a castrum at the base of the mountains, and the city was defended by steep slopes on the north, east and western sides.

By the 2nd century AD, Augusta Raurica was a thriving trading centre and capital of the local Roman province. With an estimated population of 20,000 people, Augusta Raurica exported smoked pork and bacon throughout the empire. As a typical Roman city, Augusta Raurica also possessed features such as an amphitheatre, forum, some smaller forums, an aqueduct, public baths, a variety of temples and the largest theatre north of the Alps.

A powerful earthquake damaged a lot of the city in 250 AD and shortly after, Alemanni Germans or some pillaging Roman troops destroyed Augusta Raurica. What remained of the city relocated to a fortress on the Rhine, Castrum Rauracense. By 1442, the descendants of these communities were divided along the rivers, one half becoming Habsburg territory and the other Swiss. Both became Switzerland after Napoleon defeated the Habsburgs in 1803.

Augusta Raurica today

Today, the excavated Augusta Raurica and later Roman castrum are heritage sites of national significance. The ruined settlement is open to the public, and visitors can see the modest remains of the amphitheatre, aqueduct, the forum with a temple to Jupiter and basilica, as well as the impressive remains of the theatre.

While much of the built up commercial area is yet to be excavated, you can still see the remains of a bakery, potter and tile kiln. Nearby, you can also stop inside the Roman Museum which houses Augusta Raurica’s most important finds, the highlight being the treasure of Kaiseraugst: a treasure hoard found in 1961 belonging most likely to a commander. The museum also includes a reconstructed Roman house to illustrate daily life.

Getting to Augusta Raurica

For those driving, Augusta Raurica is an 18 minute drive along the A3 from Basel. There is parking on the other side of the road opposite Augusta Raurica. If you are travelling by public transport, the S1 train from Basel SBB Station leaves every 30 minutes and takes 23 minutes to reach Kaiseraugst, an 11 minute walk from Augusta Raurica.