The Roman Empire was larger than many people may think. At varying points, their armies reached deep into Germany, all the way to the Scottish Highlands, as far as Armenia, and all the way to the Persian Gulf. What is today Switzerland was part of the Roman Empire for hundreds of years - around six centuries.
Switzerland is famously expensive, but many of the archeological Roman attractions are free, and the museums are cheap. Visiting Roman ruins is one way to visit Switzerland on a budget. Switzerland is a country of ancient Roman history in addition to its world-famous Swiss Alps.
Switzerland's Rich Roman Heritage
The Romans took over this mountainous territory in stages starting from the 2nd century BC. They stayed there until the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD. Switzerland was important for the Romans to control the passes and routes across the Alps to the Rhine and to Gaul.
The land was inhabited by the Helvetians (from whom the Latin name of Switzerland is derived). The Helvetians were a Celtic tribe and were eventually subjugated by successive Roman campaigns.
- Julius Caesar: Defeated The Helvetii In 58 BC
- Pax Romana: A Period Of Exceptional Peace And Prosperity For Switzerland
After the Roman conquest of the region, it entered into a very prosperous period called the Pax Romana. At this time, the area of Switzerland was well integrated into the prospering Empire and assimilated into the Gallo-Roman culture.
The Romans built a network of high-quality roads and established new colonial cities in the region. After 401 AD Roman control weakened but didn't disappear until the empire fell apart, it was then conquered by Germanic peoples.
The Roman City Of Augusta Raurica
One of the main Roman attractions in Switzerland is the Roman archeological site and open-air museum of Augusta Raurica. It is located around 20 km (12 miles) east of the Swiss city of Basel and is the oldest known Roman colony on the Rhine River.
- Oldest: Oldest Known Roman Colony On The Rhine
- Founded: Circa 44 BC
- Abandoned: 260 AD
- Peak Population: 20,000
Augusta Raurica was founded by Lucius Munatius Plancus in circa 44 BC (although there are no archeological remains from this period). By the 2nd century AD, it was a prosperous commercial trading center and the capital of a local Roman province. It is thought its population reached around 20,000 inhabitants and exported smoked pork and bacon to other parts of the Empire.
The city had an amphitheater, a forum, an aqueduct, temples, public baths, and the largest Roman theater north of the Alps. These can be seen there today (together with the walls).
The city was damaged by an earthquake in 250 AD, and then it was attacked and destroyed in 260 AD. It was later resettled at a much smaller scale nearby at Castrum Rauracense.
Augusta Raurica is considered one of the best-preserved Roman towns north of the Alps and is an important site for research. It draws a large number of visitors from all over.
- Outdoor Areas: Free Entry
- Museum: 8 CHF ($8.50)
- Outdoor areas: Open 24 hours / 365 days
Museum Opening Hours:
- Daily: From 10.00 am - to 5.00 pm