Ancient history


Gallic people, the Allobroges were Celts and originally spoke the Celtic language whose patois has kept a few words. They were a people of proud and tough warriors, grouping together many tribes, who became sedentary and devoted themselves to agriculture. The name Allobroge would come from the roots allo (other) and brog (country), meaning people from other countries. Courageous fighters, these Celtic peoples would have settled in the Northern Alps at the beginning of the 3rd century BC. J.-C.. The Greeks will call them "Allobriges".

Allobroges and Allobrogia

The territory of the Allobroges extended over most of the current territories of the original Savoy, the old Sapaudia ("the Country of the Fir Trees"). But, on this territory, the Tarentaise valley and the Arve valley were occupied by the Ceutrons - in fact the two large valleys surrounding the Mont-Blanc massif - and the current Maurienne valley, the third large valley was occupied by the Medulla. The Allobroges therefore essentially occupied the vast territory of the Savoyard Pre-Alps and the south of Lake Geneva.

The Allobrogie usually considered by historians as inhabited by a homogeneous people is, in reality, made up of numerous territories separated by borders indicated by Gallic toponyms which still exist today. The Allobroges, like many other Gallic peoples, are also a "confederation".

The Allobroges were reputed to be good warriors, some of whom were mercenaries - the gesates. After the constitution of the Narbonnaise province by Rome, the pseudo-Allobroges or Viennese of the Rhone Valley were zealous collaborators of the Roman power, while the true Allobroges of the mountains never accepted the presence of the Roman invader and led frequent revolts (-77, -61, -43).

The Romans actually gave, out of convenience or ignorance, the name of Allobroges to all the Gallic peoples living in the civitate (city) of Vienne, to the west and south of Sapaudia. These tribes were in fact a mixture of various tribes, the most important of which were the Ambar cousins ​​of the Aedui, the Cavares and the Voconces cousins ​​of the Allobroges. These pseudo-Allobroges adopted Vienna as their capital and federated. The whole of Allobrogie is therefore usually defined as the territory corresponding in large part to the current departments of the two Savoies, Isère and the canton of Geneva.

The Allobroges seen by the Romans

Livy reports that the dwellings in the mountains were shapeless, placed on the rocks - Les Échines above Bourg-Saint-Maurice on the road to the Petit-Saint-Bernard pass
Livy reports that the dwellings in the mountains were shapeless, placed on the rocks - Les Échines above Bourg-Saint-Maurice on the road to the Petit-Saint-Bernard pass

Various testimonies describe the Allobroges as one of the richest and most powerful peoples of Gaul, with a large population. They plowed with a coarse plow and cultivated famous wheat, but also rye and vines. They practiced animal husbandry and made cheese, exploited their vast forests, and extracted minerals. They controlled part of the Rhône valley (Viennois) and were at the end of all the routes that crossed the Alps, including international routes, on which they charged tolls.

Around the year -150 or -130, the Greek historian Polybius was the first to mention the Allobroges, on the occasion of the story of the passage of the Alps by the army of General Hannibal in -218, when they tried in vain to block the way.

Livy relates that the dwellings in the mountains were formless, placed on the rocks, that the mules and the cattle were benumbed by the cold and that the men were hairy and without care. It may be a reference to the upper valley of the Maurienne or the Tarentaise.

Pliny and Strabo evoke marmots, hares, roe deer, stags, chamois, ibexes and wild horses. Pliny also reports that three-month-old wheat is known throughout the Alps, and that the "vatusic" cheese of Ceutrons is famous in Rome, that cows, despite their small size, give a lot of milk and that oxen are harnessed by the head and not the neck. (Aimé Bocquet, Savoy from its origins to the year one thousand).

The Roman conquest

The Allobroges were long rebels against Roman authority and the conquest of the territory of the Allobroges by the Romans took place in several stages between -122 and -60 BC:

* In the 2nd century BC. J.-C., the Romans having conquered a part of Gaul, in the north of Marseilles, began to go up along the valley of the Rhone, to extend their conquest there. The Allobroges feeling threatened joined forces with the Arvernes (Gauls of Auvergne) and other Gallic tribes to stop the Romans. But the Gallic troops were beaten at Vindalium, near the Durance, where the Roman general Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus frightened them with a troop of elephants loaded with armed men and routed them in the year -122 BC. .)

* In -121, the Allobroges rose again en masse and fought at the confluence of the Rhône and the Isère, a tough battle against the consul Fabius Maximus, who took the nickname of "the Allobrogique":nearly one hundred and twenty thousand fighters (?) Allobroges remained on the ground. This victory opened up the conquest of the Allobroges country to the Romans, and its incorporation into the Roman province of Narbonnaise.

* But the Romans crush the country with heavy taxes. In -69, a delegation of Allobroges goes to Rome to complain about the governor Fonteius, defended by Cicero. In -63, a delegation will again complain to Rome. She misses being involved in the Catiline conspiracy, but denounces the conspirators to the Roman Senate.

* In -62, the Allobroges revolted in the Viennese foreland and led by Chief Catugnatos (from the Gallic catu, fight) took up arms again. He led his troops against Narbo and Massalia (Narbonne and Marseille) with the aim of plundering them. Opposing the legions of Manlius Lentinus, he set a trap for them on the Isère and crushed them, but he was in turn beaten in -60 at a place called "Solo" near Ventia. These places should probably be interpreted as being the Malpas oppidum in Soyons (07) located opposite Valence (Ventia/Valentia).

Allobrogia was therefore conquered long before the rest of Gaul, which only became Roman in -50 BC. Having become Viennese in Roman times, the Allobroges acquired a capital, Vienne, which was of the most sumptuous cities of the Roman West, whose territory was dotted with large rural estates where commercial and industrial agglomerations such as Boutae (Annecy), Aosta or Genova (Geneva) flourished.

Under the influence of Roman civilization, the Celtic language gradually disappeared and was replaced by the popular Latin spoken by Roman merchants and soldiers. This is where the Savoyard patois came from, like the Provençal to which it is linked linguistically.

However, the Allobroges of the mountains, long remained permanent rebels against Roman authority, Atrox coelum, perinde ingenium, their character is as terrible as their climate. When in -58 the Roman general Julius Caesar crossed the Alps by the Petit Saint-Bernard pass to drive back the Helvetians in their mountains, a Celtic people then living in part of present-day French-speaking Switzerland, who threatened Roman Gaul with an invasion , the Allobroges let him cross their country, but they helped the people of the Helvetii and supplied them when Julius Caesar starved them to conquer them.

Roman Allobrogy

Gaul after the conquest of Julius Caesar took the name of Transalpine Gaul and Allobrogia became part of the Roman province of Vienne. Wealthy Roman patrician families came to settle in this new Roman territory and the country was covered with villas covered in tiles, Roman camps, temples with marble columns, paved roads crossed by chariots, stone bridges, landmarks. New cities took off like Boutae (Annecy), and Aquae grationae (Aix-les-Bains) or Romilia (Rumilly).

Towards the end of the Roman Empire, in the 4th century, the old country of the Allobroges, began to be called Sapaudia (country of fir trees), from which derived the names of Sabaudia, then Savogia, Savoye, then finally Savoie.

In the 5th century, the province of Vienne and Sapaudia underwent, like the rest of Gaul, the pressure and then the invasion of the great Barbarian tribes, starting with the Burgundians.

The culture of the Allobroges

The rediscovery of the Allobroges culture dates back to 1818 during the first excavation of a Gallic tomb found in Savoy.

Even after the Roman conquest, the Allobroges continued to cultivate their particularities - lifestyles adapted to the mountains, beliefs, religious ceremonials, hierarchical social organization, craftsmanship - while adapting to the customs of the Roman conquerors, showing intelligence and skills. asserted artistic talents, which can be found in the various objects discovered:statues and statuettes, models, tools and jewelry.

Among the remarkable pieces and constructions:

* "Etruscan" type statuettes (second iron age) found in Menthon-Saint-Bernard;

* a wooden statue of a "heroized" warrior (100-50 BC) found on the shores of Lake Geneva;

* jewelry (bracelets, brooches and necklaces) found in a tomb in Corsier (Switzerland);

* a ceramic vase in the shape of a rabbit (1st century) found in a tomb in Voiron;

* Albens aqueduct (1st century);

* the thermal baths of Boutae (Annecy) (1st century) and its warehouses, including one of 2,000 m²;

* the sanctuary of Châteauneuf-les-Boissons (1st century).

* In 2005, during preparatory work for the future A 41 motorway, a Gallo-Roman site was discovered at the foot of Mount Sion, consisting of ten temples and a sacred enclosure.

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