Switzerland in Roman times

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Switzerland in Roman times

The history of Switzerland in Roman times takes place between the 1st century BC. And the 5th century AD. The area of ​​today's Switzerland was established between the 1st century BC. And the first decade AD gradually incorporated into the Roman Empire . Roman rule over the areas north of the Alps - and thus also over Switzerland - ended in AD 401. Roman structures outlived the end of Roman rule in parts of Switzerland until the early Middle Ages . The settlement by the Romans was favored by the so-called climatic optimum of the Roman times .

Incorporation of Helvetia into the Roman Empire

Location Thermengasse in the Roman vicus Turicum ( Zurich ): remains of window glass from the thermal baths .
Hairpins, pens and game pieces made of bone from the Roman vicus turicum

The conquest of today's Swiss area by the Roman Empire began with the subjugation of southern Ticino . The local territory of the Insubrians was 197–194 BC. Incorporated into the Roman Empire. Shortly before the Gallic War , the area of ​​the Allobrogians with Genava (Geneva) became part of the Narbonensis province .

According to the reports of the Roman general Gaius Julius Caesar , the Helvetians wanted in the 1st century BC. Emigrate from the area of ​​today's Swiss Plateau to the Rhone Valley . The Roman state and other Gallic tribes saw themselves threatened by this, which is why Caesar used force to prevent the Helvetii from emigrating at the Battle of Bibracte and sent them back to the Central Plateau. Until the 1st century BC After that, the entire area of ​​today's Switzerland was gradually integrated into the Roman Empire. Numerous Roman colonies were established in the Central Plateau to secure Roman rule, the Rhine border and the subjugation of the Alpine peoples in Valais and Graubünden took place at the latest by the end of Augustus' reign (31 BC-14 AD). This secured the strategically important Alpine passes.

Roman structures in today's Switzerland

The ruins of the Roman amphitheater at Aventicum

Most of today's Switzerland was assigned to the Roman province of Germania superior during the imperial era . Eastern Switzerland, Valais and Graubünden belonged to the province of Raetia , parts of Ticino finally to the province of Gallia Transpadana . Under Emperor Claudius , Valais was separated from Raetia around 43 AD and assigned to the province of Alpes Graiae et Poeninae , because the Great St. Bernhard between Aosta and Octodurum ( Martigny ) - was raised to the rank of an imperial road.

Since 17 AD, the southern section of the army on the Rhine border was defended by the legionary camp Vindonissa ( Windisch AG ) in the canton of Aargau , which also became an important road junction. When the border was shifted to the north by the construction of the Limes , Vindonissa lost its importance from 101 AD. The camp was not revived until late antiquity. The border between the provinces of Raetia and Germania superior ran from Lake Constance over Lake Walen and the Bernese Oberland to Lake Geneva. The centers of Roman Switzerland were the old Helvetic capital Aventicum ( Avenches ) and the Roman colonies Julia Equestris ( Nyon ), Augusta Raurica and Forum Claudii Vallensium ( Martigny ). The better legal position of the colonies induced many Roman citizens to settle in Helvetia.

By 260 AD, Roman Switzerland experienced an economic and cultural boom. The acculturation between the Celtic tradition and the new Mediterranean influences took place without conflict. Urbanization and the construction of many streets also spread new ideas and lifestyle habits, such as: B. the many bathing facilities that were built in the small vici (villages). The vicus Lousonna ( Lausanne ), for example, owed its importance not to political rank, but solely to economic prosperity. Other vici excavated were Aquae Helveticae ( Baden AG ) and Lenzburg , Bern-Engehalbinsel , Turicum ( Zurich ) and Vitudurum ( Winterthur ). Vici known by name are Viviscus ( Vevey ), Uromagus ( Oron-la-Ville ), Pennelocus ( Villeneuve ) and Tasgetium ( Eschenz ).

In late antiquity , Switzerland became a border area again. During the reorganization of the Roman provinces in the 3rd century by Emperor Diocletian , northern Switzerland was assigned to the new Maxima Sequanorum province and a dense chain of fortified towns, forts and watchtowers was created along the Rhine ( Danube-Iller-Rhine-Limes ). After the Goths invaded the Western Roman Empire in 401, all Roman troops were withdrawn from the areas north of the Alps to protect Italy. Dominion over western Switzerland passed to the empire of the Burgundians , central and eastern Switzerland were controlled and settled by the Alamanni , while the Alpine regions remained in the hands of local Gallo-Roman rulers; z. B. in that of the bishops of Chur or the diocese of Sitten .

Christianization in late antiquity

The historical ecclesiastical division of Switzerland

The occurrence of Christianity in Switzerland is proven from the 3rd century. It spread along the Roman structures, that is, in the ancient Roman cities and along the Roman trade routes. There it met the ancient religious traditions of the Celts, the Romans and various religious currents that had gained a foothold in the Imperium Romanum from the Near East, e. B. the Mithras cult or the worship of Isis or the Alma Mater .

The initial focus was on what is now western Switzerland. For example, the legend of the martyrdom of the Theban Legion spread from Martigny via Saint-Maurice ( Mauritius ), Solothurn ( Ursus and Victor ) to Zurich ( Felix and Regula ).

Through the Milan Agreement of 313, Christians were tolerated in the Roman Empire and Christianity was declared the state religion under Theodosius I in 380 .

As a result, churches and bishoprics were built in Geneva, Martigny, Avenches, Augusta Raurica, Chur and Vindonissa. In Geneva and Martigny there are remains of sacred buildings from this period. Church documents testify to a bishop Theodul in the city of Martigny in 381 , a bishop Isaac of Geneva around 400 , and a bishop Asinio of Chur in 451 . The episcopal seats of Martigny, Avenches, Augusta Raurica and Vindonissa went under during the Great Migration and were moved to Sion, Lausanne, Basel and Constance. In Chur and Sion, the bishops succeeded in becoming local rulers as early as the early Middle Ages.

In the areas more or less unaffected by the migration of peoples, in Graubünden and Ticino, numerous churches and some monasteries were built in the 5th century. In western Switzerland, Christianization was promoted after a short break by the Burgundian kings . B. founded the Abbey of Saint-Maurice and the Romainmôtier Monastery . When the Germanic Franks replaced the Burgundians in the 6th century , the inhabitants of western Switzerland were already Christianized.

In eastern Switzerland there were a few Christian communities from Roman times (e.g. Arbon ), but the old Germanic belief in gods was widespread among the immigrating Alemanni. When the Irish wandering monks Columban , Gallus and Fridolin came to Lake Constance in the 7th century , they encountered strong resistance because the residents there worshiped Wodan . The first churches in Alemannic territory were Säckingen and the hermitage of Gallus an der Steinach , which later became the St. Gallen monastery . The wandering monks, however, were quite successful in their mission, and the numerous foundations of monasteries in eastern Switzerland in the 8th century (e.g. St. Gallen , Disentis , Pfäfers , Einsiedeln , Lucerne , Zurich ) took place in a predominantly Christianized country. As elsewhere, however, pagan folk customs remained parallel to Christianity until the High Middle Ages, and in isolated cases even to this day.

See also