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BASILIA (Basel) Baselstadt, Switzerland.

Roman vicus and fort on the left bank of the Rhine (Amm.Marc. 30.3.1; Not.Gall. 9.4). The site is mainly on a spur of the alluvial terrace, the Münsterhügel between the Rhine and the Birsig. Remains of the Late Bronze age have been discovered here, and name and location indicate a pre-Roman oppidum in this part of the territory of the Raurici (another settlement of the Raurici was excavated in the early 20th c. on the right bank of the Rhine at Alte Gasfabrik; it flourished between 58 and ca. 10 B.C., probably as a river port and market).

in connection with the campaigns of Tiberius and Drusus in 15 B.C. a small fort was built on the Münsterhügel; it was again occupied by a Roman garrison from ca. 17 to 50. A vicus connected with the highway from Argentorate to Augusta Raurica developed in the 1st c. A.D., and during the 2d and 3d c. a guard (a statio of beneficiarii) must have been stationed at the bridges over the Birsig and the Rhine. After the fall of the Upper German Limes in 254-60 the Münsterhügel was fortified to an unknown extent. in the 4th c. Basilia became an important link in the defense system on the Rhine frontier as conceived by Valentinian I. The garrison left, probably in A.D. 401, but the fort must have remained the administrative center of the civitas Basiliensium. From about the 8th c. on Basilia was the seat of a bishop, who had resided earlier in Castrum Rauracense. His residence was in the Late Roman fortress, from which the mediaeval town developed.

The continuous settlement of the site has made excavation difficult, but traces of the wooden barracks of the earliest Roman fort have been found, beneath those of the 1st c. A.D. garrison, as well as a few remains of canabae. The vicus developed on both banks of the Birsig, which joins the Rhine at the W foot of the Münsterhügel; the lowest part is now the Marktplatz and the Schifflande. There must have been a bridge over the Rhine in the area of the Schiffiände (a pile has been discovered on the opposite bank), and a post to guard the traffic over the bridge. But public buildings are known only through single architectural elements reused in the Late Roman walls.

The Late Roman fortress, the size of which is still controversial, included at least the Münsterplatz and its immediate vicinity. its plan was probably trapezoidal, but the exact course of the walls is only partly known (shortest side ca. 120 m, longest ca. 240 m; area at least 3.5 ha). The Rittergasse and Augustinergasse follow the course of the Roman road. A ditch 20 m wide along the S wall of the fortress may have reused an earlier one, perhaps prehistoric. Recent excavations have increased the probability of a much larger enclosure, including the whole spur to the N. Within the fortress a two-storied granary with two rows of pillars has been partly excavated. The cemetery connected with the Late Roman fort is in the area called Aeschenvorstadt. The Historisches Museum is in the Barfüsserkirche.

See also Limes, Rhine.


F. Staehelin, Die Schweiz in römischer Zeit (3d ed. 1948) 284-88, 367, 611; R. Fellmann, Basel in römischer Zeit (1955)PI; id., “Neue Funde und Forschungen zur Topographie und Geschichte des römischen Basel,” Basler Z. f. Geschichte und Altertumskunde 60 (1960) 7-46PI; L. Berger, Die Ausgrabungen am Petersberg in Basel (1963)PI; id., “Die Anfänge Basels,” in E. Meier, ed., Basel, eine illustrierte Stadtgeschichte (2d ed. 1969) 1-19I; id., “Das spätkeltische oppidum von Basel-Münsterhügel,” Archäologisches Korrespondenzblatt 2 (1972) 159-63P; C. M. Wells, The German Policy of Augustus (1972) 46-49; excavation summaries: Jb. Schweiz. Gesell. f. Urgeschichte 47 (1958-59) 184-85; 49 (1962) 68-76PI; 50 (1963) 78-79PI; 54 (1968-69) 93; 56 (1971) 206-7.


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