From the Cella Trichora, it’s about a 20 minute, 1.2 kilometer walk to the next stop, tucked inconspicuously into a residential area behind (west) of the building at Harrer Pál u. 12. Located here, mounted on a pillar is a partial relief of a goddess crowned in a wreath and holding a branch. There isn’t much information on the piece, but according to the inscription in the base of the pillar, it was found in 1979 (presumably in the vicinity) and dates to the 3rd century CE. This is openly accessible.
It’s worth noting that just to the east is Óbudai-sziget, Óbuda Island. Located in the southwestern part of the island was the proconsular praetorium, the seat of the proconsul when Aquincum was the capital of Pannonia Inferior. There’s a point in Google Maps noting the presence, and what appear to be some elements of the building seem to be visible in satellite maps, but there is nothing visible in the accessible areas from the ground.
From the goddess relief, it is just a short walk to the clustered points of interest that make up the core of the remains of the castrum of Aquincum. Just 2 minutes and 200 meters away at Vöröskereszt u. 14 are the so-called Roman and Franciscan ruins. As the name suggests, a set of overlapping remains dating to the Roman and medieval periods. A double-sided stone map reveals to visitors the plan of the site and the floor plan of the buildings from each period. The Roman building visible is located on the north side of the excavations, distinguishable by an apse on the west side. This building dates to the 4th century CE, a hall of some sort, which was built over what seem to have been barracks constructed for the soldiers stationed at the fort in the 2nd century CE. South of the Roman era construction are the remains of a Franciscan church dating to the 13th century CE. This area is in an open public space that can be seen at any time.
Basically across the street (Polgár u.) to the southeast are the remains of the porta praetoria of the castrum of Aquincum, through which the road leading to the Danubius (Danube) passed and connected with the bridge over the Danubius that accessed the Transaquincum fort on the east bank. Much of the gate and the adjacent wall seems to be heavily reconstructed, including the arch on the northern pedestrian entry (though it was supposedly done so using original materials). The porta praetoria had three portals; a large central portal for wheeled traffic and two flanking entrances for pedestrians. The form of the gate remaining today dates to the late 3rd century CE. Some indistinct structures located outside the walls of the fortress are also visible just to the southeast, in some cases partially obstructing the egress from the southern pedestrian portal, indicating that they probably date to a slightly later period. The gate area is open to the public as a park area, so there are no admission and visiting restrictions. There’s also a nearby informational sign, but solely in Hungarian.
A couple blocks west, at the southwest corner of the intersection of Miklós utcai and Kórház utcai, are some remains in a fenced off and recessed area behind the apartment building at Flórián tér 4-5. There’s no access to these and they’re only visible from the north side, as the east side is adjacent to a private and gated parking lot. On the north side a niched circular structure is pretty apparently visible. I couldn’t find any real information about what is here, but I would suspect these remains are related to the nearby Thermae Maiores. The circular structure does look similar to some sudatoria or laconica I’ve seen with other bathing complexes.
Another short walk from here are the main preserved remains of the Thermae Maiores. Walking just to the west of the previous site, there is a stairwell that drops down to an underpass for Flórián tér, and immediately from this stairway, brick structures from the Thermae Maiores can be seen. These baths seem to have originally been constructed in the 2nd century CE at the intersection of the decumanus maximus and cardo maximus of the legionary castrum of Aquincum. Epigraphic evidence suggests they were rebuilt several times afterward, including one dedication specifically dated to June 30, 268 CE. This specifically identifies these as the large baths of Legio II Adiutrix Pia Fidelis Claudiana and names Clementius Silvius and the praefect Aurelius Frontinus as being responsible for this renovation. It also specifies that the baths were restored after a period of disuse and abandonment. The Thermae Maiores appear to have covered an area of about 120 meters by 140 meters.
Unfortunately the baths are no longer directly accessible. They were once part of an entranced attraction, but have been ‘temporarily closed’. This closure has been ongoing for several years and there is seemingly no plan or timeline for reopening them. There is part of a wall visible entering the underpass and walking along to the northwest. At the end of this hall, to the right, the remains continue. Some viewing panels in an open area here do allow some visibility on to the adjacent rooms of the baths, though there is no information regarding what is visible here. The hall continues and can then be taken along the south side of the baths, but nothing is really visible. This is where the entrance is located when the baths area open. This eventually leads up to another stairway back to ground level.
The central area of the excavated part of the baths is difficult to see from the underpass, but it is open at the top, allowing for views down into this area. Unfortunately there are no crosswalks that lead across the streets that would allow viewing into this central area. I did make a dash across the street from the west, as this street is one-way (southbound) and there is a pretty good view up the road to look for a break in traffic (at least on the way over, on the way back it’s a little more difficult because of a curve in the road) to get across. From this spot, though, it is possible to see much more of the baths. There is also a stairwell here that would go down into the subterranean area that is no longer in use, but seems to be a sleeping place for transients, so be aware of that. Some bits of reconstructed hypocaust systems and some tile flooring can be seen in this central area, but it’s hard to make out any distinctive room layout. The large room with the labrum could conceivably be a frigidarium or apodyterium. Unfortunately there is pretty much no information for the baths on-site, presumably because this was intended to be an entranced area and the information panels are inside.
Back above ground, just to the west of the Thermae Maiores, right outside the western exit from the underpass is a row of reconstructed columns. There don’t seem to be any original elements present, so it’s unclear what the purpose is. These seemingly line up with a colonnaded street near the porta principalis dextra farther to the south, so maybe this is meant to indicate the extension of that road. Sadly there is seemingly no information available. About 26 meters west of that, though, are the remains of a residential building. The colonnaded atrium with an impluvium basin is pretty recognizable, but the rest of the house just seems to be indistinct rooms with no defining features. It looks like there was once an informational sign on the west side, but it is no longer legible. The house (and columns) are in a public space with no restriction in access; a small stairway leads down from the square to the house, but it’s very visible from above as well.
Across the street to the south (Vörösvári út) is the Flórián tér park. In the northeast corner of the park, right adjacent to Vörösvári út, are the remains of the southern gate of the legionary castrum, the porta principalis dextra. Unlike the octagonal towers of Aquincum’s porta praetoria, this gate has square towers and employs a double entryway rather than a triple entryway. This gate is also not preserved/reconstructed beyond a few courses of stone. Originally constructed in the second half of the 2nd century CE, the gate underwent a major structural change in the 4th century CE when the eastern of the two portals was walled up, leaving only the western entrance useable. The cardo maximus of the castrum terminated here and continued as a road leading south along the Danubius. Patches of paving stones from the road outside the gate, as well as within the gate can be seen.
The course of the cardo maximus inside the walls of the castrum, heading to the north, is demarcated by a reconstructed colonnade on either side. On the west side of this colonnade are a row of tabernae, and beyond that the barracks for the first cohort of the legion stationed here, though only the very eastern wall of that structure is visible/reconstructed. On the east side were more tabernae and beyond those the house of the tribunus laticlavius, effectively the second in command of the legion below the legatus legionis. Again, only the very west side of the wall of this second structure is visible. Both areas are open to the public as part of the park, which seems to be open 24 hours a day. This stop was a bit more overgrown that some of the other public areas with remains of the castrum, but it wasn’t too bad. Unfortunately there was no information at all on-site.
Kitty corner to the southeast corner of Flórián tér park, across Pacsirtamező utcai, at Pacsirtamező utcai 65 is the Táborvárosi Múzeum; the museum of the military town. Unfortunately this museum is closed and seems to have been closed for quite a while. Like the Thermae Maiores, there doesn’t seem to be any indication when or if this will open, though unlike the Thermae Maiores, this is listed as indefinitely closed rather than temporarily closed. It is worth stopping at, though, because in the courtyard, which is visible from outside the gates of the museum, there are some remains of a 2nd century CE house which was renovated several times in the 2nd century CE before being abandoned in the 3rd century CE and reused as a cemetery. The house was located in the canabae outside the walls of the castrum. There are also some bits visible from the window off Pacsirtamező utcai, part of a deversorium located here. Some more of the exterior remains can be seen around the backside of the museum. This house included a small bathing complex; a few pilae from the hypocaust system can be seen from the back side.
The last bit associated with the military fort and settlement is about a 10 minute, 600 meter walk down Pacsirtamező utcai to the south; the military amphitheater. The site of the amphitheater here probably functioned as a training ground in the 1st century CE before the stone amphitheater was constructed by Legio II Adiutrix during the reign of Antoninus Pius. It was built using a natural depression to support the cavea of the amphitheater. Significantly larger than the civilian amphitheater, the military amphitheater measures about 132 meters by 108 meters and seems to have held about 10,000 to 13,000 spectators. Epigraphic evidence suggests a sanctuary to Nemisis located here, and with the lack of a sublevel, the animals were held in carcers at the east and west sides of the amphitheater.
Today the military amphitheater of Aquincum functions as a public park. There is a gate at the west end that is closed, but unlocked. The place was pretty overgrown, generally. Though the entire circuit of the amphitheater is preserved to some degree, the cavea are preserved at the greatest height in the southwest corner, allowing for good views over the entirety of the structure. Since it is more or less a public park, there isn’t really any restriction to access. If you can get there, you can go there, with the exception of the carcer on the west side, which is enclosed and gated. Unfortunately, much of it was overgrown when I visited, limiting movement somewhat. There’s no information about the amphitheater present on site.
It took a very solid whole day to see everything of Aquincum between the two amphitheaters. Including travel time to and from central Budapest and between the sites, seeing the remains of the civilian and military settlements was a close to a 12 hour day.
Continued In Aquincum, Pannonia Inferior – Part VI
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