Impressive excavations of a city that once housed more than 10,000 people. Welcome to Augusta Raurica, the Roman city in the canton of Aargau near Basel Switzerland.
Text and Pictures by Marc Gottwald
- -Especially in the morning (before 10 am) or towards evening, the Roman theater in Augusta Raurica is a magical place.
- -Perfect destination for history lovers, families as well as those seeking peace and quiet (only before 10 am and in the evening).
- -The excavations can be explored by foot as everything is very well signed.
- -Very easy to reach by public transport (Kaiseraugst railway station), otherwise parking spaces in front of the museum are available (fee).
Veni, Vidi, Vici – Augusta Raurica
They came, saw, won and then lost. In Kaiseraugst in the canton of Aargau, massive excavations still remind us of the once glorious times of the Romans.
Even today, “Augusta Raurica” still has a magical character in Switzerland. It is particularly beautiful to visit the Roman theater early in the morning before the crowds of visitors are coming. A pleasurable silence awaits you. Only the chirping of happy birds can be heard from time to time.
From 10 am onwards, mainly school classes are there during the week, and families at the weekend.
Emperor Julius Caesar, the mighty conqueror
Julius Caesar is probably a familiar name to all of us. Under his orders, Munatius Plancus founded “Augusta Raurica” in 44 BC. In only 200 years, the city became a colony capital with around 10,000-15,000 inhabitants. Its trading location was particularly optimal with its connection to the Rhine as well as the connection to Italy via the Gotthard or San Bernadino.
After many successful years, the Roman Empire in “Kaiseraugst” increasingly fell apart. Epidemics (deaths) were to blame, but also the deterioration of the climate (ice age), which caused massive crop losses.
Thus Basel became more and more the largest city in the region and even in Switzerland at that time. “Augusta Raurica” developed into a small fishing village.
Remains of the once powerful empire of “Augusta Raurica
But even today, many remains from that time can be seen – and who knows what else can be found beneath the earth’s surface. However, private excavations are strictly prohibited.
A very special place is the Roman theater in Kaiseraugst, right next to the museum of “Augusta Raurica”. Here you feel as if you were in the middle of ancient Rome. Before the streams of visitors are coming, this is a place of peace and relaxation – truly magical and indescribably beautiful! Nothing reminds you of the bloody times 2000 years ago.
The museum can be reached by foot in around 10 minutes from Kaiseraugst railway station. By car, parking is possible directly on site (parking spaces available for a fee).
Since the “reconstruction”, it’s the fourth era of the theater arena. What does that mean?
The history of the theatre
The theater of “Augusta Raurica ” was demolished and rebuilt three times by the Romans on the same site – in only 210 years. We have the first theater was used for about 40 years in two phases (70 AD-110 AD). In the first phase it was an arena theater, in the second a stage theater. This means that in the first phase it was mainly used for gladiator fights, animal fights and stage performances, while in the second phase it was mainly used for stage performances and political meetings.
After the demolition of the first theater, the second theater became an amphitheater and was in operation for about 70 years (110 AD – 180 AD).
The 3rd theater was again a stage theater, where remains of it are still visible today (180-280 AD). Stage performances with singing and comedies, religious festivals and political meetings took place here. It was the largest and longest preserved theater in “Augusta Raurica” and had a capacity of around 10,000 visitors. By comparison, many of today’s hockey and football stadiums are even smaller.
A look at the former city map can be taken under the following link .
It is good to know that many remains of the Roman era have been found not only in “Kaiseraugst”, but scattered throughout the region. That’s why it’s worth checking out the official website of “Augusta Raurica” to see what other relics and attractions there are to discover. For children, for example, there is an animal park with species of animals that inhabited “Augusta Raurica” in Roman times. I have deliberately concentrated here only on the Roman theater, because for me it is the most impressive of all the sights.
Conclusion of Augusta Raurica near Basel Switzerland
“Augusta Raurica” in “Kaiseraugst” has so much to offer. The former Roman city is definitely worth a visit! Especially before the main visiting times, you have the peace and quiet and it is a magical place to meditate and enjoy. History lovers also get their full money’s worth, as you can learn a lot thanks to the many information boards.
Another stunning excursion destination in the canton of Aargau is Lake Hallwil. Perfect for walks in spring and autumn it offers during summer great swimming possibilities.