Budapest » Aquincum Museum
In 1878, a municipal resolution was passed in order to protect the surviving surface ruins of the Roman Town of Aquincum in Óbuda. In 1879, a special commission identified the areas where systematic research could begin. Excavations began on the so-called " Csiga hill ",- where the civilian amphitheater was located - in 1880. Additional work started at the Papföld site in the following year, gradually revealing the center of the Aquincum civilian town. Excavations were funded exclusively by the Capital following 1882. The first finds were taken to the Hungarian National Museum, althought the most significant artifacts were presented in the municipal pavilon of the 1885 National Exposition. It is partly due to the success of this exhibition that a decision was made to concentrate the finds stored here and there and put them on display on-site, in the building of the Krempl mill located in the proximity of the amphitheather.
Following the 1888 excavations directed by Bálint Kuzsinszky, masses of finds were brought to light, especially stone monuments with inscriptions and reliefs. It became an urgent necessity to solve the problem of appropriate housing for this wealth. In the meantime, the "ruins of Óbuda" became famous internationally. One of the significant proofs of this is that the Aquincum excavations were visited by participants in the 1889 Vienna archaeological congress. Impressed by the great international professional recognition, the Municipal Assembly voted in favor of erecting a permanent museum in Aquincum. The museum, composed of a lobby and a single exhibition hall, was opened on May 10 in 1894. According to the fashion of that time, the design of the building resembled a Greco - Roman temple. Since these venues were apparently too small from the very beginning, two side wings were added to the building in 1896, the year of the Millennary celebrations. A porch supported by columns was built around this central section in 1906/1911. It was designed to protect stone finds functioning as a lapidarium, and the museum then took on the characteristic architectural form we know today. The museum on the edge of the city, surrounded by romantic ruins, soon became a favorite excursion spot for the people of the capital city.
A new chapter began in the life of the Museum in 2000. A new office building and a store was build and also a new exhibition room that is open all year was opened.
Bálint Kuzsinszky must be credited for the direction, professional documentation and scientific analysis of the first systematic excavations in Aquincum. He established the museum where the artifacts could be locally exhibited.
Bálint Kuzsinszky was born in Szabadka (Subotica) on the 6th of November, 1864. After gymnasium, he studied classical philology at the University of Budapest. In addition to having obtained a teacher's diploma in this field, he studied archaeology, numismatics and epigraphics. His interest gradually turned toward this latter topic. In 1887, he successfully applied for an adjunct's position in the Numismatic Collection of the Hungarian National Museum. After systematic excavations began in Aquincum following the summer of 1882, field work was directed by Kuzsinszky's former Professor, Károly Torma. He invited Kuzsinszky to join in the digging work. When Torma retired from directing field work in 1888, the municipal authorities appointed Kuzsinszky head of the Aquincum excavations. In addition to his museum and excavation work he taught Roman archaeology at the University of Budapest from 1892 as a private teacher. He was the head of the Classics department from 1901.
His scientific activities won him official recognition. In 1907, Kuzsinszky became a corresponding member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. He was granted full membership in 1926. Aquincum was always in the focus of Kuzsinszky's research. This interest is equally reflected in his studies, scientific papers and museum guides. In 1897, he became the editor-in-chief of the museum's official journal entitled "Budapest Régiségei" (Budapest Antiquities...). Kuzsinszky retired on January 1, 1937. However, he carried on work in his Aquincum office until his death on August 23, 1938.
"...Here is the Hungarian Pompei..."
These marvelling words are those of the heir to the throne, Habsburg Rudolf. In 1869, he came to gaze upon the Antique ruins of Óbuda, the better part of which were still visible on the surface, with the archaeologist Flóris Rómer acting as his guide. Excavations in the area around the present day Aquincum Museum began in 1880 under the direction of Károly Torma, József Hampel, and Sándor Gömöri Havas. Initial work was concentrated on Csiga hill in the surroundings of the civil amphitheater. Systematic excavations commenced at the Papföld site in 1881. At that point it was assumed that the remains of a military fort (castrum) and the military town (canabae) would be found there.
In 1882, the appointment of Bálint Kuzsinszky opened a new chapter in the research history of Aquincum. After several years of excavation, the true significance of the Papföld ruins became apparent. He unearthed and identified the forum's contiguous system of buildings and the street network, one of the most significant features of the Civil town. The results were regularly published in the journal "Budapest Régiségei". During the first period of investigation at the Aquincum Museum, lasting from the start of the first regular research to the end of the World War I, emphasis was laid on the Civil town and its immediate surroundings.One of the most significant of the excavations associated with this period is connected with the building of the Óbuda gas factory (1910 - 13). It was at that time that the potters' quarters in the industrial unit, with its brick and lime kilns as well as furnished workshops came to light.
World War I and the years immediately following it were not favorable for archaeological activity.The pace of excavations escalated from the 1920's when a young researcher joined Bálint Kuzsinszky. Lajos Nagy, whose name highlights the second period at the Aquincum Museum between the two world wars, began as Kuzsinszky's partner then later directed the excavations in the Capital by himself. Lajos Nagy's attention was drawn to Roman period settlements lying outside the Civil town although the latter still remained the focus of research. These were the years of such significant excavations as the ancient Christian burial chapel, the great military baths (this site was first discovered in 1778 and was the site of the first Hungarian archaeological excavations), the Contra - Aquincum fort, the military amphitheater as well as, the Roman villa on the Csúcs hill. One of his most significant research efforts, however, was the excavation and recognition of the important Celtic Eraviscus oppidum in the Gellért hill - Tabán area. The most famous find of this period is the portable organ, which came to light in the cellar of the firefighter's headquarters in the Civil town.
Following reconstruction work after World War II - János Szilágyi was museum director at that time - emphasis shifted to research in the area of the military town. A building complex with habitation quarters, one of its wings occupied by a bath and equipped with hypocaust heating was excavated in the Military town (Pacsirtamezõ street, between 1951 to 1953). Renovation work at the Óbuda Shipyard offered an opportunity for the excavation of the Governor's Palace (Hajógyár Island, between 1950 and 1956). This feature on Hajógyár Island had been known as early as 1857 as the result of surveys led by Gusztáv Zsigmondy. One of the most highly decorated buildings unearthed to date was found in Meggyfa street (between 1964 and 1967). Possibilities opened to exhibit finds from the Pacsirtamezõ Roman dwelling and the Meggyfa street city palace, opened-up, which was turned into an exhibition place.
During the course of the archaeological rescue work which was carried out in the great burst of apartment building in Óbuda at the beginning of the 1970's, the core of the historical town lying under the Óbuda city center slowly began to be revealed. The rescue excavation carried out between 1973 and 1986 helped clarify the location of the 2nd - 3rd century Legionary fortress while the structure of the Military town became better understood. Our knowlege of the Civil town increased during work connected to the widening of Szentendre road and the construction of the apartment complex on Római road. Today the Aquincum Museum continues the tasks set for it 100 years ago along the whole of the Budapest limes section as well as the military and municipal territories:excavation of the capital city's Roman heritage, its protection, and its presentation to the public.
Essential Information for Visitors
III. Szentendrei út 139.
Opening Hours and Admission Prices
Hercules Villa (III. Meggyfa u. 19-21.) www.aquincum.hu
In this small museum (the affiliation of the Aquincum Museum) remains and the splendid mosaics of a Roman urban villa can be seen. Free entry.
Open: 15-30 Apr: 10-17, 1 May – 30 Sept: 10-18, 1-31 Oct: 10-17. Closed on Monday.
Thermae Maiores – Military Baths Museum (III. Flórián tér – Pedestrian subway) www.aquincum.hu
General museum opening hours
In this small museum (the affiliation of the Aquincum Museum) remains of the great bath of the Roman legionary fortress with photos and texts explaining the area can be seen. Free entry.
Open: 15-30 Apr: 10-17, 1 May – 30 Sept: 10-18, 1-31 Oct: 10-17. Closed on Monday.
9.00-17.00 15-30 Apr
9.00-18.00 1 May-30 Sept
9.00-17.00 1-31 Oct
In Budapest call +36 1 266 78 68