I went to Basil for a powerlifting competition in mid-March and stayed in a small town just outside Basel called Kaiseraugst. In this town are the remains of the Roman town, Augusta Raurica, which was founded around 15 BC and named after Augustus Caesar and the local Celtic inhabitants, the Raurici. At its height around 100 AD, the town had around 15,000 inhabitants. The surrounding modern town is now called Kaiseraugst (Caesar Augustus) and I stayed in a hotel just across the road from the fortress (see below). I spent an afternoon visiting the ruins of Augusta Raurica, which has the best-preserved Roman theatre north of the Alps. This theatre once seated between 10,000 and 12,000 visitors.
A short walk from the theatre is the remains of the Roman Forum, where I saw this piece of Roman graffiti carved on the side of one of the columns.
A little further on, are the remains of a shopping district, mostly low remains of walls and foundations, but also the remains of the communal bath-house. The baths were serviced by water from a well, which had an underground service tunnel. It was possible to descend through this tunnel under the baths to look into the well.
In the late third century AD, under pressure from the Alamanni (German tribes) the Romans withdrew from the territory north of the Rhine river, and August Raurica was on the frontier of the empire. A large fortress nearly a kilometre in length was built on the bank of the Rhine and a Roman Legion was stationed there.
Where I am standing to take the above photo is in Switzerland. The other bank is in Germany and a little upstream the other bank becomes France.
Around 351/352 AD, the Alamanni crossed the river and burnt the fortress to the ground. Fearing this might happen, high-ranking officers buried a hoard of silver treasure just inside the walls of the fort (just near where I stood to take the photo below). The treasure comprises silver platters, bowls, tableware and coins made from 58 kg of silver. These items were gifts from the emperor, or family heirlooms collected by one or more officers of the Legion.
The treasure remained hidden there until it was accidentally unearthed by a bulldozer in 1961. It contains 270 objects made of pure silver and weighing 58 kg, it is one of the largest ancient silver hoards ever found.
I saw it on display in the Roman Museum next to the Roman theatre.
In the second half of the 5th century, the Romans lost control over their provinces north of the Alps. With the rise of the Alemannic settlement of Basel in the 7th century, Kaiseraugst dwindled to become a small fishing village.