Today’s Szombathely was built on the Roman settlement of Savaria, founded in around AD 50. Although there were several Roman settlements in today’s Hungary – towns like Pécs, Buda and Sopron were all built on them – Savaria was the first to be officially designated a town, by Emperor Claudius. The Amber Road, a famed ancient trade route running from Northern Europe to the Mediterranean Sea, needed a hub in the western region of Pannonia, the Roman province in today’s Western Hungary and this gave a considerable boost to the growth of Savaria, which lay by the Road.
Churches, bathhouses and other public buildings were erected. Though later brought up in Italy, St. Martin, one of the great saints of medieval Europe, was also born in this town. The Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin brought about the downfall of Savaria. Legend has it that the town was captured by the troops of Attila the Hun though in fact, an earthquake might have helped him by chasing the residents out of town and back to Italy.