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AUGUSTA RAURICORUM (Augst) Baselland, Switzerland.

Roman colony on the S bank of the Rhine, 12 km above Basel (Plin., HN 4.106; It. Ant. 251.7; Ptol. 2.9.9; Tab. Peut.).

The colony was obviously planned by Caesar and by L. Munatius Plancus in 44 B.C. (CIL x, 6087). Its primary function was to prevent further incursions into Caesar's new province from the East. The territory of the colony was taken from that of the Raurici and comprised the land between the Rhine and the Jura mountains. As no remains of the period 44-15 B.C. have been discovered, it is possible that the town was actually founded at this place only under Augustus.

The site assumed new importance during the campaigns E of the Rhine and the conquest of the central Alps under Tiberius and Drusus in 15 B.C.: it was the terminus of the roads to the Rhine from Gaul and Italy via Genava and Aventicum. In 15 B.C. the site was occupied by a military post, and during the 1st c. A.D. by a detachment from the legion garrisoned in Vindonissa. In A.D. 73-74, in connection with the conquest of the Agri Decumates by C. Pinarius Clemens, troops of Legio I adiutrix and Legio VII gemina felix were temporarily garrisoned here. The town flourished until the incursions of the Alamanni in A.D. 260, but was only sparsely settled thereafter. In the 4th c. the lower town was abandoned, the highest part, Kastelen, was fortified, and the road outside the E gate protected by a small earth and timber fort. The population removed to the neighbourhood of a new fort on the Rhine, built in the early 4th c. 400 m N of Kastelen, called Castrum Rauracense.

The exploration of Augusta Rauricorum, instigated by the Humanists of Basel in the 16th c., has recently been intensive: first the public center, then the residential and commercial sections, and finally the E edge of the town (temple enclosures, mansio, amphitheater 2, gates). The site is on an elevated spit not far from the Rhine; it is protected on three sides by steep slopes to the plain, and by tributary streams to E and W. The road from Italy and Gaul met here the military highway to Raetia and the Danube, which ran along the N foot of Kastelen. Here two roads connected the town with its harbor and two bridges were built. The 1st c. bridge, at a rocky ford 200 m wide, was fortified in the 4th c., and remains of its stone piles were visible until the 16th c. The second bridge, a short distance downstream, took advantage of the island called Gwerd. Probably built somewhat later, it was perhaps a temporary timber construction, protected by a small fort on the island.

The town covered a roughly rectangular area (ca. 700 x 400 m) with 52 insulae. The decumanus maximus extended for 800 m on the long axis of the spit, which was 4-7 insulae wide. The insulae averaged 66 by 55 m, but some were up to 85 m long. To the W the town was bordered by a series of temple enclosures and a second amphitheater, while to the E the insulae extend to the edge of the spit. On the S side a road connected the town with the highway network already mentioned. Two stretches of wall (300 and 120 m) have been explored on the S side, where the connecting road passed through it. The walls, built in the late 2d c., were never completed; the gateways, flanked by semicircular towers (6 m wide), are missing. Outside the E gate stood a cylinder-shaped grave monument of the 2d c. (diam. 15 m), which contained a modest incineration burial and votive objects and might be interpreted as a heroon.

Throughout the town the first period is represented by earth and timber structures, later transformed into the stone buildings and architectural complexes described below. The civic center was S of Kastelen hill, and covered the entire width of the spit. It comprised the forum, a temple of Jupiter, a basilica, a curia, a theater and a temple related to it, and a secondary forum with annex and baths. The buildings of the main forum were aligned perpendicular to the decumanus maximus: from W to E the temple of Jupiter, an open square (58 x 33m), paved with red sandstone slabs and surrounded by a portico (6 m wide) and a double row of 10-12 rooms on the long sides. The square was closed off to the E by the basilica and curia.

The Basilica: in period 1 (49 x 22 m) it had three aisles and apsidal ends with two rows of 10 columns between the aisles; in period 2 it was enlarged to a rectangle with an opening onto the forum 10 columns wide. The outer wall on the edge of the spit was supported by a sustaining wall. Attached to this was the curia, three-quarters of a circle in plan (diam. 16 m). In period 1 this building contained a room with two windows and a door opening between eight abutment piers; it carried the wooden floor and benches of the curia. In period 2 this room was filled in with a concrete floor and steps for seats (5 rows, 2 m wide). The curia was connected with the basilica by two doors, on each side of the podium opposite the seats. (Period 1 of both buildings is ca. A.D. 150.) The Temple of Jupiter, standing on a podium (26 x 15 m), was prostyle and peripteral (8 x 6 columns); a wide stairway led up to the podium. The building inscription dates period 2 here to A.D. 145). The temple is surrounded on three sides by porticos and rows of rooms like those in the E part of the forum, added in the 3d c. A.D.

The theater immediately W of the forum lay on a slightly different axis; it was aligned with the temple on Schönülihl hill, with which it formed an architectural and functional unit observed elsewhere in Gaul. The theater had three structural phases: theater, amphitheater, larger theater. Phases I and II had been thought to exclude each other, since the presence of the army in A.D. 74-75 would have made transformation into an amphitheater desirable. Recently, however, the possibility of interpreting phase II as a combination of both (“théâtre à arène”) has been discussed. Theater (capacity 7000) took advantage of the sloping terrain for its cavea, with supplementary wooden structures on each side. For the period of the amphitheater no seats have been found on the E side; the arena was 49 by 36 m. Theater III (capacity 8000) had an unusual gap in the stage building, 15 m wide, which could be closed when necessary by wooden screens. This is explained by the visual inclusion of the facade of the temple on Schönbühl and the stairway (18 m wide) leading up to it. This latest phase of the theater is dated to A.D. 150.

The plateau of Schönbühl hill had been a sacred area since the foundation of the town; it had two phases, representing entirely different architectural concepts. In Phase (to A.D. 150) it was a sanctuary in the Celtic tradition, with at least five rectangular chapels (2-11 m on a side) of Gallo-Roman plan within a triangular enclosure. The chapels were wooden structures with halftimbered walls until A.D. 50, and were then rebuilt in stone. Phase II (ca. A.D. 150) is contemporary with the larger theater: a temple of Roman axial and symmetrical plan (prostyle and peripteral, 9 x 6 columns), on a high podium (ca. 30 x 16 m) approached by a wide flight of steps. The altar stood on a platform. The temple court (96 x 48 m) had porticos on both interior and exterior, and was connected with the theater by a stairway.

Immediately S of Schönülihl a secondary forum occupied one insula. The building (84 x 61 m; peristyle 49 x 31 m) had rooms on three sides and staircases at the corners leading to a second story. The fourth (W) side, with larger, but symmetrically arranged rooms, probably opened on a covered terrace with a belvedere at the edge of the plateau, flanked by stairs descending to the Ergolz valley. In the NE corner a smaller court (45 x 11.5 m), with 11 shops on each long side, connected the main building with the theater area.

Two public baths have been identified. One, near the main forum, was built ca. A.D. 50 and remodeled in the 2d c.; the other built ca. A.D. 70 and rebuilt in the 2d c., was in the center of the residential section. The earlier Frauenbad occupied one insula (ca. 60 x 50 m), and was of the symmetrical Reihenbad type; the plan resembled that of the Stabian bath at Pompeii, with a large adjacent peristyle court and an open natatio (14.8 x 8.2), suppressed in period 2. The so-called Central bath spread over more than one insula. It was axial and symmetrical (96 x 48 m), without round or apsidal rooms. The caldarium and frigidarium had black and white geometric mosaics.

About 52 insulae have been identified, and ca. 20 with residenital remains have been excavated, three of them completely. The streets were bordered by porticos 3 m wide, and the columns had Tuscan capitals. The streets themselves were 6 m wide (15 m including gutters and porticos). The water mains were embedded in the street paving, and there were several roadside fountains. The original division of an insula (200 x 160 Roman ft.) may have been into two rows of six lots, 80 x 30 feet each, including the portico. Workshops and industrial installations, sometimes as large as 21 by 9 m and usually combined with a residence, have been excavated. Besides the usual trades, scalding tubs and smoke chambers for the processing of meat and sausage have been identified; they were a specialty of Gaul according to Varro (Rust. 2.4.10). In the 1st c. A.D. there was an artisans' quarter immediately S of the regular street grid. Later this area was occupied by commercial buildings, warehouses, and a hotel or mansio (ca. 60 x 50 m), with an inner court (30 x 30 m) and storage rooms.

Bordering the town on the SW were three temple precincts and a second amphitheater. The amphitheater, only partly excavated, was built ca. A.D. 150 against the slope above the Ergolz river; it apparently replaced the arena destroyed by the enlargement of the theater in the city. Earth banks between stone retaining walls carried wooden seats (100 x 87 m; arena 48 x 33 m). The sanctuary farthest N, on the Grienmatt, was dedicated to the healing gods according to inscriptions found there. In its latest stage (A.D. 150) it was a peristyled court (132 x 125 m) with several small chapels (not excavated), a main building in the center, and a small bath (27 x 27 m) outside the main gate. The central building, in a separate low enclosure, was rectangular (ca. 18 x 12 m), with a two-storied double facade and a wing on each side. It has been interpreted as a temple, a nymphaeum, or, recently, as a septizonium. The second sanctuary, on Sichelen hill, was a Gallo-Roman temple with portico (6 m on a side), a smaller chapel, and a priests' house in an enclosure 45 x 45 m. The third sanctuary, called Sichelen 2, lies near the W town wall, on the tangent road mentioned above: a temple, annex buildings, and shops in a large irregular enclosure (100 x 100 m). The main temple is of a peculiar type, combining Roman and Gaulish plans. The rectangular and very high cella (10 x 9.3 m) stands on a podium reached by staircases on each of the narrow sides. The cella is surrounded by a two-storied portico (20.5 x 22 m), the lower story of which is a cryptoporticus.

The cemeteries of Augusta Rauricorum have not been completely explored. One on the highway towards Basilia was used from the 1st c. to A.D. 300, and others lie outside the W and E gates. In the latter is the round monument of the 2d c. already mentioned.

Remains of buildings which are still visible include the curia and the sustaining wall of the basilica; theater complex; temple on Schönbühl hill (stairway and sustaining wall); Septizonium on Grienmatt; amphitheater 2; potteries near the E gate; some workshops and basements in the town area. The silver treasure from Castruin Rauracense is in the Augst museum. Adjacent to it stands a full-scale model of a Roman peristyle house with all its equipment.


R. Laur-Belart, Führer durch Augusta Raurica (4th ed. 1966)MPI & bibl. to 1966, 178-79; E. Meyer, Jb. Schweiz. Gesell. f. Urgeschichte 54 (1968-69) 86-91PI; id., Handbuch der Schweizer Geschichte 1 (1972) 57-59; H. Lieb, “Zur Zweiten Colonia Raurica,” Chiron 4 (1974) 415-23.


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