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TROPAEUM ALPIUM (La Turbie) Alpes-Maritimes, France.

Situated in a small market town between Menton (13 km) and Nice (18 km), the Tropaeum Alpium dominates the slopes which descend abruptly to Monaco and the sea. It was built under Augustus and abandoned at the end of the Empire. Included in a fortress in the Middle Ages, it has been dilapidated on many occasions. For a century the Tropaeum Alpium has been the object of numerous investigations and several restoration projects. Recent studies of reconstruction have determined the essential features of its original appearance.

The trophy stands at the highest point crossed by the Via Julia Augusta (built in 13 B.C.) between Albintimilium and Cemelenum. La Turbie is the mansio called Alpis summa in the Antonine Itinerary. On this height, the boundary between Italy and Gaul, the monument was erected to commemorate the pacification of the Alps, between 25 and 14 B.C. The text of the dedication is known to us from Pliny (HN 3.136-38), and excavations have permitted the reconstruction of its location and arrangement. It enumerated the names of the 45 Alpine tribes subjected by the legions of Augustus.

The inscription tells us the date of the monument was begun (between 1 July of the year 7 and 30 June of the year 6 B.C.)—Augustus' 17th year as a tribune—but some years must have been necessary to complete it.

It stood on a site cut out of the rock and covered with flagstones. A socle was made of a single course of large blocks protected at regular intervals by small rectangular fender stones. It supported a base of two courses on which, set slightly back, there stood a high square podium (32.52 m on each side). This podium was faced with large ashlar and included a cement nucleus with 24 foundation piles of big blocks, going from top to bottom. The inscription was placed on its W side. It was carried by a marble slab (17.45 x 2.66 m), framed by two reliefs depicting trophies of arms and four captives in chains. The N and S sides of this podium were pierced by two doors giving access to interior staircases leading to the colonnade on the second story. Above this first podium there rose a second, also square but of smaller size; its corners were adorned by four eagles. The second story had a rectangular plan. It included a large ashlar base which supported a cylindrical shell surrounded by a colonnade of 24 unfluted columns. These are made of local limestone and adorned with capitals of white Carrara marble. The metopes of the architrave presented reliefs in a local style (breast plates, ornamental ox-skulls, bows of ships, etc.). Behind the columns, sunk into the ashlar walls of the cylindrical shell, there were niches containing statues. The whole was crowned by a final story, conical and apparently stepped. It carried a monumental statue (of Augustus? a trophy?). The total height of the edifice was probably 49.68 m, or, in other words, three times the diameter of the central shell.

At the museum on the site, there are inscriptions, fragments of architectural pieces and of reliefs.


J. Formigé, “Le Trophée des Alpes, la Turbie,” Gallia Suppl. 6 (1949)PI; G. C. Picard, Les trophées romains (1957) 291ff; N. Lamboglia, “Le trophée d'Auguste à la Turbie,” Itinéraires ligures 4 (1964); G. Barruol, Les peuples préromains du Sud-Est de la Gaule (1969).


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