TODAY WE WILL DRIVE FROM ZURICH TO BASEL but first we will go to Augusta Raurica – we are having a HISTORY DAY…….
AUGUSTA RAURICA is a Roman archaeological site and an open-air Museum located on the south bank of the Rhine river about 20 km east of Basel near the villages of August and Kaiseraugst. It is the site of the oldest known Roman colony on the Rhine. It was founded by Lucius Munatius Plancus around 44 BC in the vicinity of a local Gallic tribe, the Rauraci, relatives of the Helvetii.
Successful colonisation of the site had to wait for Augustus’ conquest of the central Alps around 15 BC. The oldest find to date at Augusta Raurica has been dated to 6 BC. By the 2nd century AD, Augusta Raurica was a prosperous commercial trading centre.
The city possessed the typical amenities of a Roman city, an emphitheatre, a main forum, several smaller forums, an aqueduct, a variety of temples, several public baths and the largest Roman Theatre north of the Alps, with 8,000 to 10,000 seats.
In 250 AD, a powerful earthquake damaged a large part of the city. Shortly after, around 260 AD, the city was destroyed. After division, the western portion was given to Basel which became a canton of Switzerland in 1501.
Many of the Roman buildings have been discovered and conserved through excavations – most are open to the public.
There is so much to look at and read about in this place. I have just chosen a few aspects to share –
THE MONUMENTAL BRONZE TOWN MODEL –
This is the first highlight of Augusta Raurica. It is openly accessible in front of the Museum: the largest bronze model of a Roman town ever made! Spread over 13 m2 and weighing 1.2 metric tons it gives visitors (including me) an unexpected impression of the size and grandeur of the former metropolis. It was there for me to see, and touch, temples, theatres, tradesmen’s quarters etc. – all associated with the Romans and what they were famous for.
THE ANIMAL PARK – LIVING HISTORY
At the animal park we saw species that were popular in Roman times.Systematic measurements carried out on excavated animal bones show that the size of farm animals increased during the Roman period in what is now Switzerland. This was due to changes in the selection of breeding animals, possibly supported by optimised feeding and animal husbandry. The animals in the park are all similar to how the Roman animals on the surrounding farms would have looked.
AN EARLY CHURCH AND A BISHOP’S RESIDENCE – THE EARLIEST CHRISTIANS
Near the parish church in Kaiseraugst which today is one of the town’s landmarks, you can trace 1600 years of Christian history in a very small space. Excavations carried out at the present-day parish church of St.Gallus showed that a church was built in this location between AD 360 and 400. Parts of it rested on the foundations of earlier Roman buildings. With a nave of 18 by 10 m the church was quite large for its time.
THE TEMPLE RETAINING WALL AND A MODERN BAKERY
The temple on Schonbuhl hill stood out above the town and was visible from afar. In order to build the impressive complex the hill had been expanded by adding retaining walls and embankments to form a large rectangular terrace.
The Bakery interior has four buttresses which were linked by arched masonry, thus forming three chambers. The rooms were probably used as shops with storage space on the upper floor. The enormous weight of the temple hill had to be supported by adding another massive buttress. It is located to the right beside the bakery.
AMPHITHEATRE AND REMAINS OF AMPHITHEATRE.
In Roman times the amphitheatre was a place of horror. Up to 13,000 spectators gathered here to watch gory entertainment which included animal hunts, gladiatorial combat and executions. Built around AD 170, it was constructed in a way that the spectators could get in and out quickly. The eastern entrance, the “gate of death”, was used to carry dead gladiators out of the arena . Today, this is where there are tables ready for you to have a picnic, but we thought it would be more appealing to choose a nice Restaurant when we arrived in Basel.
It has been quite a challenge to give readers a little information about Augusta Raurica as there is so much to see and do. My reporting is just a very small sample of the many things to be learned about the historical significance of this place. A MOST ENJOYABLE EXPERIENCE FOR ALL AGES. We are now driving to Basel and I will report on the rest of our day in POST (38)