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GENAVA or Genua (Geneva) Genève, Switzerland.

At the W end of Lake Geneva, on the left bank of the Rhone. (Caes., B.Gall. 1.6; Ant. It. 347.12; Tab. Peut.; Not. Gall. 9.4). Oppidum, then vicus of the Allobroges, and belonging to the civitas Viennensium centered on Vienna (Vienne, France). It was in this area, on the border between the provincia Narbonnensis and the Helvetii, that in 58 B.C. Caesar warded off the attempt of the latter to force their way into the Roman province. Vienna became a colonia in A.D. 14, and the inhabitants of Genava received Roman citizenship in A.D. 40, together with the rest of the civitas. Because of its strategic position at the entrance to the Swiss plateau, where the main roads to Italy and the Narbonnensis met, and because of its two harbors, Genava grew into a wealthy urban settlement despite the fact that legally it was only a vicus. The flourishing traffic on the waterways, managed since pre-Roman times by transportation corporations, made Genava also a toll station of the quadragesima Galliarum, and a military post manned by beneficiarii guarded the bridge over the Rhone. Destroyed during the raids of the Alamanni in 260-65, the settlement was again fortified by the end of the 3d c. By the early 5th c. it was the seat of a bishop.

The oppidum was on a promontory (the later Cité or Haute Ville) surrounded on three sides by the lake, the Rhone, and a tributary, the Arve, which joins the Rhone near the tip of the spur. Timber and earth defenses enclosed an area of 5 ha. The main road along the ridge of the spur was closed off by two gates: the E gate at the neck (now the Boung de Four), the other at the tip of the spur (Fusterie), leading to the Rhone bridge. The pre-Roman wooden bridge crossed the river a little beyond the modern Pont de l'Isle, using an island in midstream as a support. Not until the 2d c. A.D. was it reinforced by wooden piles.

The Roman vicus retained the road system and replaced the wooden structures by buildings of stone and mortar. Three distinct quarters developed along the lake: the official center on the oppidum hill, with sanctuaries (under the cathedral and surrounding churches) and the main forum (Boung de Four); the commercial quarter connecting the river port with the lake harbor; the residential quarter on the plateau beyond the hill (Tranchées). The river port was connected with the larger lake harbor (Longemalle) by a paved road, and near this harbor lay a secondary forum with a basilica and a temple of Maia (Madeleine church). The residential section was laid out on a regular grid. One of the suburban villas on the lake is partly preserved in the Parc de la Grange.

The Late Roman city walls followed the course of the pre-Roman walls, but two gates replaced the earlier ones. The E gate, flanked by rectangular towers (Porte du Bourg de Four), was still visible in the 19th c. The walls (av. thickness 2.75-3 m) are built of large stone blocks and much reused material; portions of them can still be seen near the Cathedral. Inside the walls the remains of a large 4th c. praetorium with peristyle and atrium have been found on the edge of the forum.

Finds are in the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire.


L. Blondel, “Le développement urbain de Genève à travers les siècles,” Cahiers de Préhistoire et d'Archéologie 3 (1946) 16-30PI; id., “Le pont romain de Genève,” Genava NS 2 (1954) 205-9PI; F. Staehelin, Die Schweiz in römischerZeit (3d ed. 1948) 38-41, 150-53, 286-88, 614-15; M. R. Sauter & C. Bonnet, “Nouvelles observations sur l'enceinte romaine tardive de Genève,” Jb. Schweiz. Gesell. f. Urgeschichte 56 (1971) 165-72PI.


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