Did you know that the Roman Empire built a small civilian town near the outskirts of Budapest’s city center?
The Danube River was particularly important to the Romans, which is why the Roman Empire build a military base along the Danube. But over time, the Romans also built a civilian town of about 50,000 to 60,000 inhabitants at Aquincum to support the military base. Based on its key location along the Danube, the Romans developed policies and relationships with neighbors of other people groups to help with security and border control at Aquincum.
The Museum of Aquincum “boasts one of the largest collections of Roman Period stone monuments in Hungary,” according to the museum brochure.
Due to economic decline and more barbarian attacks, by the 4th and 5th century, the Romans handed over Aquincum to the Huns in 433. By the 9th century, Hungarians used the remains of Aquincum for legion fortification.
Thanks to Prof, we were fortunate to receive a personal tour by the museum director at Aquincum. The director gave us a thorough history of the archeological site. When you begin your tour, start at the Chronoscope. It’s the one and only lookout telescope that lets you see what it would have looked like back during the Roman period. From a 120 to 180 degree lookout, it answers that question, “How much do you preserve the past while accommodating the present?” That’s the age old question when archaeologists have to decide about how to reconstruct a site.
What’s interesting at Aquincum is the fine reddish line that you see around the archaeological park. Everything below the line is the actual remains of the site. Everything else above the line shows you what archaeologists have reconstructed to give viewers a sense of the space.
Aquincum had a tannery, metal workshops, as well public bath houses.
Public Bath Houses
Over the years, Prof has shown me several ancient bath houses and showed us how the Romans used an aqueduct system for public bath houses. Because many locals could not afford private baths in their homes, families would go and spend the day at the public bath houses. The Romans cleverly designed and built hot bath and steam areas, as well as a cold water bath areas, which they then reused old bath water to clear refuse in the bathrooms.
The public bath houses were a place for socializing. It was very popular and very cheap. Men and women were separated by using it during times of the day. Women would use it in the mornings/daytime, while the men would use it during the evenings. Men also didn’t have to pay to use the bath houses. And when men and women used the bath houses at the same time, it caused problems.
Road to/from Aquincum
When the director stopped us at the far edge of the archaeological park, we stood on a few old stones and mostly grass. She explained to us that this was the major road (north to south) that led people to and from Aquincum. (If she had not explained it to us, we would have walked right over this important aspect of the site.) That is why the marketplace was located by the major road.
Shift in Landscape
Here is another fascinating note about Aquincum. Aquincum once was situated on a hill, but there was a shift in the 19th and 20th centuries. Large factories and the construction of railways, as well as buildings during WWII were built on top of Aquincum. That is why when you visit Aquincum, it looks sunken today.
Now regarding pollution, when there is large rainfall in Budapest, the rain is funneled through the Roman channels which lands somewhere along the Danube. Additionally, some of the new construction of the roads destroyed some of the Roman remains because of industrialization and pollution.
After our tour of the archaeological site, we entered the museum for a tour of their collection of artifacts.
Did you know that the Romans figured out how to make glass?
You will find plenty of copper and tin (aka the combination of copper and tin together makes bronze) artifacts dating back from 400 BC to 2000 BC, hence you will see lots of Bronze Age items.
The Best Part About the Museum
Let me tell you the coolest thing you will ever see in Budapest!
TRAVEL TIP: Did you know that the Aquincum Museum has the most completed organ discovered to date in the territory of Europe?
When Prof told me this, he said it has to be one of the coolest things to see for ancient historian.
What Can You Do With Your Kids
Believe it or not, but Aquincum is the place to visit for kids. True.
There is a playground outside. There is a play area/visual learning center in the basement of the museum. The play area had puzzles and little games. The visual learning center lets you become an interactive Roman soldier or civilian to reenact what it was like virtually during the Roman period. It’s perfect to help your kids learn about ancient history or for school groups to make a day trip to see a unique piece of history.
And the organ, dare I say, is awesome! That’s perfect for music lovers to enjoy. Don’t forget to let your kids look through the Chronoscope to visually see what Aquincum would have looked like back in the day.
For More Information:
Address: 135 Szentendrei út, 1031 Budapest
Hours of Operation: Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm or 6:00 pm, depending on the season. See website for more details. Closed on Monday.
How to Get There: From Batthiány Square (M2 red metro line), take the HÉV (suburban railway, aka H5) and exit off Aquincum. You will also see a small amphitheater when you exit the station.
Pin It for Later: