Map of the Roman Empire - Alps

Alps
B-7 on the Map

Alps (Latin Alpes) One of the great mountain ranges of the Roman Empire, stretching from the Danube River in the east to the Saonne River in the West and the Rhine River in the North.

Alpes (λπεις). A name derived probably from the Keltic alb or alp, “a height.” The mountains forming the boundary of northern Italy, which were distinguished by the following names. We enumerate them in order from west to east.

1. Alpes Maritimae, the Maritime or Ligurian Alps, from Genua (Genoa), where the Apennines begin, run west as far as the river Varus (Var), and then north to Mt. Vesulus (Monte Viso), one of the highest points of the Alps.

2. Alpes Cottiae or Cottianae, the Cottian Alps (so called from a King Cottius in the time of Augustus), from Monte Viso to Mont Cenis, contained Mt. Matrona, afterwards called Mt. Ianus or Ianua (Mont Genèvre), across which Cottius constructed a road, which became the chief means of communication between Italy and Gaul.

3. Alpes Graiae, also Saltus Graius (the name is probably Keltic, and has nothing to do with Greece), the Graian Alps, from Mont Cenis to the Little St. Bernard inclusive, contained the Iugum Cremonis (le Cramont) and the Centronicae Alpes, apparently the Little St. Bernard and the surrounding mountains. The Little St. Bernard, which is sometimes called Alpis Graia, is probably the pass by which Hannibal crossed the Alps; the road over it, which was improved by Augustus, led to Augusta (Aosta) in the territory of the Salassi.

4. Alpes Penninae, the Pennine Alps, from the Great St. Bernard to the Simplon inclusive, the highest portion of the chain, including Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, and Mont Cervin. The Great St. Bernard was called Mons Penninus, and on its summit the inhabitants worshipped a deity whom the Romans called Iupiter Penninus. The name is probably derived from the Keltic pen, “a height.”

5. Alpes Lepontiorum or Lepontiae, the Lepontian or Helvetian Alps, from the Simplon to the St. Gothard.

6. Alpes Rhaeticae, the Rhaetian Alps, from the St. Gothard to the Orteler by the pass of the Stelvio. Mt. Adula is usually supposed to be the St. Gothard.

7. Alpes Tridentinae, the mountains of southern Tyrol, in which the Athesis (Adige) rises, with the pass of the Brenner.

8. Alpes Noricae, the Noric Alps, northeast of the Tridentine Alps, comprising the mountains in the neighbourhood of Salzburg.

9. Alpes Carnicae, the Carnic Alps, east of the Tridentine, and south of the Noric, to Mt. Terglu.

10. Alpes Iuliae, the Alps, from Mt. Terglu to the commencement of the Illyrian or Dalmatian mountains, which are known by the name of the Alpes Pannonicae. The Alpes Iuliae were so called because Iulius Caesar or Augustus constructed roads across them. They are also called Alpes Venetae. - Harry Thurston Peck. Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. New York. Harper and Brothers. 1898.
 

Map of the Roman Empire - Ancient Cities, Rivers, and Mountains during the first century A.D.

Burdigala Douro River Hispania Tagus River Tarraconensis Emerita Augusta Valentia Balearic Islands Guadalquivir River Baetica Ebro River Tarraco Sardinia Corsica Guadiana River Gades Malta Syracuse Sicilia Messana Panormus Agrigentum Thapsus Numidia Carthage Utica Hippo Reglus Sahara Desert Mauritania Caesariensis Mauritania Tingitana Sabratha Oea Africa Lepis Magna Lesser Syritis Greater Syrtis Pyrenees Cyrene Cyrenaica Phoenix Creta Fair Havens Lasea Salmone Mediterranean Sea Paphos Aegyptus Memphis Heliopolis Nile River Alexandria Naucratis Canopus Sais Pelusium Gaza Sinus Arabicus Arabian Desert Mount Sinai Petra Alla Jerusalem Joppa Samaria Nabataean Kingdom Nabataean Kingdom Judaea Caesarea Tiberias Ptolemais Tyre Sidon Berytus Tripolis Syria Jordan River Damascus Caesarea Philippi Emesa Palmyra Epiphania Apamea Antioch Orontes River Salamis Carchemish Zeugma Tarsus Euphrates River Nicephorium Haran Samosata Edessa Lycia Derbe Cappadocia Lystra Cilicia Myra Antioch Perga Rhodes Halicarnassus Attalia Iconium Mazaca Ancyra Comana Side Trapezus Amisus Amasea Galatia Taurus Mountains Gordium Pessinus Gangra Heraclea Byzantium Cnidus Patara Patmos Sparta Colossae Laodicea Philadelphia Prusa Sinope Amastris Nicaea Thayatira Pergamum Smyrna Abydos Cyzicus Sardis Miletus Magnesia Ephesus Aegean Sea Troas Adramyttium Athens Thebes Thrace Larissa Achaea Delphi Corinth Actium Nicopolis Apollonia Cenchreae Macedonia Rhodes Apollonia Dyrrhachium Beroea Amphipolis Thessalonica Philippi Neapolis Kure Mountains Pontus Euxinus Heraclea Messembria Istros Odessus Dacia Moesia Philippopolis Tomi Nicomedia Chios Scodra Salonae Sea of Adria Ancona Italia Illyricum Pannonia Siscia Rome Antiium Terracini 3-Taverns Forum Appius Paestum Capri Puteoli Pompeii Neapolis Pola Ravenna Po River Arretium Florentia Tiber River Appennines Luca Porta Veneris Genua Massilia Nemausus Sarmatia Prut River Driester River Scythians Danube River Danube River Danube River Germania Seine River Gallia Garonne River Lugdunensis Belgica Free Germania Narbonensis Saonne River Lusitania Corduba Hispalis The Alps Bononia Oceanus Atlanticus Enlarged Clickable Map of the Roman Empire with Provinces and Placenames About 14 A.D. Asia - The Roman Province of Asia

Map of the Roman Empire (Enlarged)

Click on a Location
Map of the Roman Empire

Places   Map

Alps ALPES
ALPES (ἁι Ἄλπεις; sometimes also, but rarely τὰ Ἀλπεινα ῎ορη and τὰ Ἄλπια ὄορη), was the name given in ancient as well as modern times to the great chain of mountains--the most extensive and loftiest in Europe,--which forms the northern boundary of Italy, separating that country from Gaul and Germany. They extend without interruption from the coast of the Mediterranean between Massilia and Genua, to that of the Adriatic near Trieste, but their boundaries are imperfectly defined, it being almost impossible to fix on any point of demarcation between the Alps and the Apennines, while at the opposite extremity, the eastern ridge of the Alps, which separate the Adriatic from the vallies of the Save and the Drave, are closely connected with the Illyrian ranges of mountains, which continue almost without interruption to the Black Sea. Hence Pliny speaks of the ridges of the Alps as softening as they descend into Illyricum ( “mitescentia Alpium juga per medium Illyricum,” 3.25. s. 28.), and Mela goes so far as to assert that the Alps extend into Thrace (Mela, 2.4). But though there is much plausibility in this view considered as a question of geographical theory, it is not probable that the term was ever familiarly employed in so extensive a sense. On the other hand Strabo seems to consider the Jura and even the mountains of the Black Forest in Swabia, in which the Danube takes its rise, as mere offsets of the Alps (p. 207). The name is probably derived from a Celtic word Alb or Alp, signifying “a height:” though others derive it from an adjective Alb “white,” which is connected with the Latin Albus, and is the root of the name of Albion. (Strab. p. 202; and see Armstrong's Gaelic Dictionary.)

It was not till a late period that the Greeks appear to have obtained any distinct knowledge of the Alps, which were probably in early times regarded as a part of the Rhipaean mountains, a general appellation for the great mountain chain, which formed the extreme limit of their geographical knowledge to the north. Lycophron is the earliest extant author who has mentioned their name, which he however erroneously writes Σάλπια (Alex. 1361): and the account given by Apollonius Rhodius (4.630, fol.), of the sources of the Rhodanus and the Eridanus proves his entire ignorance of the geography of these regions. The conquest of Cisalpine Gaul by the Romans, and still more the passage of Hannibal over the Alps, [1.107] first drew general attention to the mountains in question, and Polybius, who had himself visited the portion of the Alpine chain between Italy and Gaul, was the first to give an accurate description of them. Still his geographical knowledge of their course and extent was very imperfect: he justly describes them as extending from the neighbourhood of Massilia to the head of the Adriatic gulf, but places the sources of the Rhone in the neighbourhood of the latter, and considers the Alps and that river as running parallel with each other from NE. to SW. (Plb. 2.14, 15, 3.47.) Strabo more correctly describes the Alps as forming a great curve like a bow, the concave side of which was turned towards the plains of Italy; the apex of the curve being the territory of the Salassi, while both extremities make a bend round, the one to the Ligurian shore near Genoa, the other to the head of the Adriatic. (Strab. pp. 128, 210.) He justly adds that throughout this whole extent they formed a continuous chain or ridge, so that they might be almost regarded as one mountain: but that to the east and north they sent out various offshoots and minor ranges in different directions. (Id. iv. p. 207.) Already previous to the time of Strabo the complete subjugation of the Alpine tribes by Augustus, and the construction of several high roads across the principal passes of the chain, as well as the increased commercial intercourse with the nations on the other side, had begun to render the Alps comparatively familiar to the Romans. But Strabo himself remarks (p. 71) that their geographical position was still imperfectly known, and the errors of detail of which he is guilty in describing them fully confirm the statement. Ptolemy, though writing at a later period, seems to have been still more imperfectly acquainted with them, as he represents the Mons Adula (the St. Gothard or Splügen) as the point where the chain takes its great bend from a northern to an easterly direction, while Strabo correctly assigns the territory of the Salassi as the point where this change takes place.

As the Romans became better acquainted with the Alps, they began to distinguish the different portions of the chain by various appellations, which continued in use under the empire, and are still generally adopted by geographers. These distinctive epithets are as follows:


1. ALPES MARITIMAE (Ἄλπεις παράλιοι, or παραθαλάσσιοι), the Maritime Alps, was the name given, probably from an early period, to that portion of the range which abuts immediately upon the Tyrrhenian Sea, between Marseilles and Genoa. Their limit was fixed by some writers at the Portus Monoeci or Monaco, immediately above which rises a lofty headland on which stood the trophy erected by Augustus to commemorate the subjugation of the Alpine tribes. [TROPAEUM AUGUSTI.] Strabo however more judiciously regards the whole range along the coast of Liguria as far as Vada Sabbata (Vado), as belonging to the Maritime Alps: and this appears to have been in accordance with the common usage of later times, as we find both the Intemelii and Ingauni generally reckoned among the Alpine tribes. (Strab. pp. 201, 202; Liv. 28.46; Tac. Hist.

2.12; Vopisc. Procul. 12.) From this point as far as the river Varus (Var) the mountains descend quite to the sea-shore: but from the mouth of the Varus they trend to the north, and this continues to be the direction of the main chain as far as the commencement of the Pennine Alps. The only mountains in this part of the range of which the ancient names have been preserved to us are the MONS CEMA, in which the Varus had its source (Plin. Nat. 3.4. s. 5),, now called la Caillole; and the MONS VESULUS, now Monte Viso, from which the Padus takes its rise. (Plin. Nat. 3.16. s. 20; Mela, 2.4; Serv.ad Aen. 10.708.) Pliny calls this the most lofty summit of the Alps, which is far from being correct, but its isolated character, and proximity to the plains of Italy, combined with its really great elevation of 11,200 feet above the sea, would readily convey this impression to an unscientific observer.

At a later period of the empire we find the Alpes Maritimae constituting a separate province, with its' own Procurator (Orell. Inscr. 2214, 3331, 5040), but the district thus designated was much more extensive than the limits just stated, as the capital of the province was Ebrodunum (Embrun) in Gaul. (Böcking, ad Notit. Dign. pp. 473, 488.)

2. ALPES COTTIAE, or COTTIANAE, the Cottian Alps, included the next portion of the chain, from the Mons Vesulus northward, extending apparently to the neighbourhood of the Mont Cenis, though their limit is not clearly defined. They derived their name from Cottius, an Alpine chieftain, who having conciliated the favour and friendship of Augustus, was left by him in possession of this portion of the Alps, with the title of Praefect. His territory, which. comprised twelve petty tribes, appears to have extended from Ebrodunum or Embrun in Gaul, as far as Segusio or Susa in Italy, and included the pass of the Mont Genêvre, one of the most frequented and important lines of communication between the two countries. (Strab. pp. 179,204; Plin. Nat. 3.20. s. 24; Tac. Hist. 1.61, 4.68; Ammian. 15.10.) The territory of Cottius was united by Nero to the Roman empire, and constituted a separate province under. the name of Alpes Cottiae. But after the time of Constantine this appellation was extended so as to. comprise the whole of the province or region of Italy previously known as Liguria. [LIGURIA] (Orell. Inscr. 2156, 3601; Notit. Dign.. ii. p. 66, and Backing, ad loc.; P. Diac. 2.17.) The principal rivers which have their sources in this part of the Alps are the DRUENTIA (Durance) on the W. and the DURIA (Dora Riparia) on the E., which is confounded by Strabo (p. 203) with the river of the same name (now called Dora Baltea) that flows. through the country of the Salassi.

3. ALPES GEAIAE (Ἄλπεις Γραῖαι, Ptol.) called also MONS GRAIUS (Tac. Hist. 4.68), was the name given to the Alps through which lay the pass now known as the Little St. Bernard. The precise extent in which the term was employed cannot be fixed, and probably was never defined by the ancients themselves; but modern geographers generally regard it as comprising the portion of the chain which extends from the Mont Cenis to Mont Blanc. The real origin of the appellation is unknown; it is probably derived from some Celtic word, but the Romans in later times interpreted it as meaning Grecian, and connected it with the fabulous passage of the Alps. by Hercules on his return from Spain. In confirmation of this it appears that some ancient altars (probably Celtic monuments) were regarded as having been erected by him upon this occasion, and the mountains themselves are called by some writers ALPES GRAECAE. (Plin.3.20. s. 24; Ammian. 15.10.9; Petron. de B.C. 144-151; Nep. Hann. 3.) Livy appears to apply the name of “Cremonis jugum” to this part of the Alps (21.38), a name which has been supposed to be retained by the Cramont, a [1.108] mountain near St. Didier. Pliny (11.42. s.97) terms them ALPES CENTIRONICAE from the Gaulish tribe of the Centrones, who occupied their western slopes.

4. ALPES PENNINAE, or POENINAE, the Pennine Alps, was the appellation by which the Romans designated the loftiest and most central part of the chain, extending from the Mont Blanc on the, W., to the Monte Rosa on the E. The first form of the name is evidently the most correct, and was derived from the Celtic “Pen” or “Ben,” a height or summit; but the opinion having gained ground that the pass of the Great St. Bernard over these mountains was the route pursued by Hannibal, the name was considered to be connected with that of the Carthaginians (Poeni), and hence the form Poeninae is frequently adopted by later writers. Livy himself points out the error, and adds that. the name was really derived, according to the testimony of the inhabitants, from a deity to whom an altar was consecrated on the summit of the pass, probably the same who was afterwards worshipped by the Romans themselves as, Jupiter Penninus. (Liv. 21.38; Plin. Nat. 3.17. s. 21; Strab. p. 205; Tac. Hist. 1.61, 87; Ammian. 15.10; Serv. ad Virg. Aen. 10.13; Orell. Inscr. vol. i. p. 104.) The limits of the Pennine Alps are nowhere very clearly designated; but it seems that the whole upper valley of the Rhone, the modern Valais, was called Vallis Poenina (see Orell. Inscr. 211), and Ammianus expressly places the sources of the Rhone in the Pennine Alps (15.11.16), so that the term must have been frequently applied to the whole extent of the mountain chain from the Mont Blanc eastward as fart as the St. Gothard. The name of ALPES LEPONTIAE from the Gaulish tribe of the Lepontii, is frequently applied by modern geographers to the part of the range inhabited by them between the Monte Rosa and the Mont St. Gothard, but there is no ancient authority for the name. The “Alpes Graiae et Poeninae,” during the later periods of the Roman empire, constituted a separate province, which was united with Transalpine Gaul. Its chief towns were Darantasia and Octodurus. (Ammian. 15.11.12; Orell. Inscr. 3888; Not. Dign. ii. p. 72; Booking, ad loc. p. 472.) Connected with these we find mentioned the Alpes Atractianae or Atrectianae, a name otherwise wholly unknown.

5. The ALPES RHAETICAE, or Rhaetian Alps, may be considered as adjoining the Pennine Alps on the east, and including the greater part of the countries now called the Grisons and the Tyrol. Under this more general appellation appears to have been comprised the mountain mass called Mons Adula, in which both Strabo and Ptolemy place the sources of the Rhine [ADULA MONS], while Tacitus expressly tells us that that river rises in one of the most inaccessible and lofty mountains of the Rhaetian Alps. (Germ. 1.) The more eastern portion of the Rhaetian Alps, in which the Athesis and Atagis have their sources, is called by Pliny and by various other writers the ALPES TRIDENTINAE,from the important city of Tridentum in the Southern Tyrol. (Plin. Nat. 3.16. s. 20; D. C. 54.22; Flor. 3.4.)

6. The eastern portion of the Alps from the valley of the Athesis and the pass of the Brenner to the plains of Pannonia and the sources of the Save appear to have been known by various appellations, of which it is not easy to determine the precise extent or application. The northern arm of the chain, which extends through Noricum to the neighbourhood of Vienna, was known as the ALPES NORICAE (Flor. 3.4; Plin. Nat. 3.25. s. 28), while the more southern range, which bounds the plains of Venetia, and curves round the modern Frioul to the neighbourhood of Trieste, was variously known as the ALPES CARNICAE and JULIAE. The former designation, employed by Pliny (l.c.), they derived from the Carni who inhabited their mountain fastnesses: the latter, which appears to have become customary in later times (Tac. Hist. 3.8; Ammian. 21.9, 31.16; Itin. Hier. p. 560; Sex. Ruf. Breviar. 7), from Julius Caesar, who first reduced the Carni to subjection, and founded in their territory the towns of Julium Carnicum and Forum Julii, of which the latter has given to the province its modern name of the Frioul. We find also this part of the Alps sometimes termed ALPES VENETAE (Ammian. 31.16.7) from their bordering on the province of Venetia. The mountain ridge immediately above Trieste, which separates the waters of the Adriatic from the valley of the Save, and connects the Alps, properly so called, with the mountains of Dalmatia and Illyricum, was known to the Romans as MONS OCRA (Ὄκρα, Strab. p. 207; Ptol. 3.1.1), from whence one of the petty tribes in the neighbourhood of Tergeste was called the Subocrini. (Plin. Nat. 3.20. s. 24.) Strabo justly observes that this is the lowest part of the whole Alpine range: in consequence of which it was from a very early period traversed by a much frequented pass, that became the medium of active commercial intercourse from the Roman colony of Aquileia with the valleys of the Save and Drave, and by means of those rivers with the plains on the banks of the Danube.

7. We also find, as already mentioned, the name of the Alps sometimes extended to the mountain ranges of Illyricum and Dalmatia: thus Pliny (11.42. s. 97) speaks of the ALPES DALMATICAE, and Tacitus of the ALPES PANNONICAE (Hist. 2.98, 3.1), by which however he perhaps means little more than the Julian Alps. But this extensive use of the term does not seem to have ever been generally, adopted.

The physical characters of the Alps, and those natural phenomena which, though not peculiar to them, they yet exhibit on a greater scale than any other mountains of Europe, must have early attracted the attention of travellers and geographers: and the difficulties and dangers of the passes over them were, as was natural, greatly exaggerated. Polybius was the first to give a rational account of them, and has described their characteristic features on occasion of the passage of Hannibal in a manner of which the accuracy has been attested by all modern writers. Strabo also gives avery good account of them,noticing particularly the danger arising from the avalanches or sudden falls of snow and ice, which detached themselves from the vast frozen masses above, and hurried the traveller over the side of the precipice (p. 204). Few attempts appear to have been made to estimate their actual height; but Polybius remarks that it greatly exceeds that of the highest mountains of Greece and Thrace, Olympus, Ossa, Athos, &c.: for that almost any of these mountains might be ascended by an active walker in a single day, while he would scarcely ascend the Alps in five: a statement greatly exaggerated. (Polyb. ap. Strab. p. 209.) Strabo on the contrary tells us, that the direct ascent of the highest summits of the mountains in the territory of the Medulli, did not exceed 100 stadia, and the same distance for the descent on the other side into Italy (p. 203), while Pliny [1.109] (2.65) appears to estimate the perpendicular height of some of the loftiest summits at not less than fifty miles! The length of the whole range is estimated by Polybius at only 2200 stadia, while Caelius Antipater (quoted by Pliny iii. .18. s. 22) stated it as not less than 1000 miles, reckoning along the foot of the mountains from sea to sea. Pliny himself estimates the same distance calculated from the river Varus to the Arsia at 745 miles, a fair approximation to the truth. He also justly remarks that the very different estimates of the breadth of the Alps given by different authors were founded on the fact of its great inequality: the eastern portion of the range between Germany and Italy being not less than 100 miles across, while the other portions did not exceed 70. (Plin.3.19. s. 23.) Strabo tells us that while the more lofty summits of the Alps were either covered with perpetual snow, or so bare and rugged as to be altogether uninhabitable, the sides were clothed with extensive forests, and the lower slopes and vallies were cultivated and well peopled. There was however always a scarcity of corn, which the inhabitants procured from those of the plains in exchange for the productions of their mountains, the chief of which were resin, pitch, pine wood for torches, wax, honey, and cheese. Previous to the time of Augustus, the Alpine tribes had been given to predatory habits, and were continually plundering their more wealthy neighbours, but after they had been completely subdued and roads made through their territories they devoted themselves more to the arts of peace and husbandry. (Strab. pp. 206, 207.) Nor were the Alps wanting in more valuable productions. Gold mines or rather washings were worked in them in various places, especially in the territory of the Salassi (the Val d'Aosta), where the Romans derived a considerable revenue from them; and in the Noric Alps, near Aquileia, where gold was found in lumps as big as a bean after digging only a few feet below the surface (Strab. pp. 205, 208). The iron mines of the Noric Alps were also well known to the Romans, and highly esteemed for the excellent quality of the metal furnished by them, which was peculiarly well adapted for swords. (Plin. Nat. 34.14. s.41; Hor. Carm. 50.16. 9, Epod. 17.71.) The rock crystal so abundant in the Alps was much valued by the Romans, and diligently sought for in consequence by the natives. (Plin. Nat. 37.2. s. 9,10.)

Several kinds of animals are also noticed by ancient writers as peculiar to the Alps; among these are the Chamois (the rupicapra of Pliny), the Ibex, and the Marmot. Pliny also mentions white hares and white grouse or Ptarmigan. (Plin. Nat. 8.79. s. 81, 10.68. s. 85; Varr. de R. R. 3.12.) Polybius described a large animal of the deer kind, but with a neck like a wild boar, evidently the Elk (Cervus Alces) now found only in the north of Europe. (Polyb.ap. Strab. p. 208.)

It would be impossible here to enumerate in detail all the petty tribes which inhabited the vallies and slopes of the Alps. The inscription on the trophy of Augustus already mentioned, gives the names of not less than forty-four “Gentes Alpinae devictae,” many of which are otherwise wholly unknown (Plin. Nat. 3.20. s. 24). The inscription on the arch at Susa mentions fourteen tribes that were subject to Cottius, of which the greater part are equally obscure. (Orell. Inscr. 626; Millin, Voy. en Pièmont, vol. i. p. 106.) Those tribes, whose locality can be determined with tolerable certainty, or whose names appear in history, will be found under their respective articles: for an examination of the whole list the reader may consult Walckenaer, Geographie des Gaules vol. ii. pp. 43-66.

The eternal snows and glaciers of the Alps are the sources from which flow several of the largest rivers of Europe: the Rhone, the Rhine, and the Po, as well as the great tributaries of the Danube, the Inn, the Drave and the Save. It would be useless here to enter into a geographical or detailed enumeration of the countless minor streams which derive their sources from the Alps, and which will be found under the countries to which they severally belong.


Passes of the Alps.

Many of the passes across the great central chain of the Alps are so clearly indicated by the course of the rivers which rise in them, and the vallies through which these flow, that they must probably have been known to the neighbouring tribes from a very early period. Long before the passage of the western Alps by Hannibal, we know that these mountains were crossed by successive swarms of Gaulish invaders (Plb. 3.48; Liv. 5.33), and there is every reason to suppose that the more easily accessible passes of the Rhaetian and Julian Alps had afforded a way for the migrations of nations in still earlier ages. The particular route taken by Hannibal is still a subject of controversy.1 But it is clear from the whole narrative of Polybius, that it was one already previously known and frequented by the mountaineers that guided him: and a few years later his brother Hasdrubal appears to have crossed the same pass with comparatively little difficulty. Polybius, according to Strabo, was acquainted with only four passes, viz.: 1. that through Liguria by the Maritime Alps; 2. that through the Taurini, which was the one traversed by Hannibal; 3. that through the Salassi; and 4. that through the Rhaetians. (Polyb. ap. Strab. p. 209.) At a later period Pompey, on his march into Spain (B.C. 77), opened out a passage for his army, which he describes as “different from that of Hannibal, but more convenient for the Romans.” (Pompeii Epist. ap. Sallust. Hist. iii. p. 230, ed. Gerlach.) Shortly after this time Varro (in a passage in which there appears to be much confusion) speaks of five passes across the Alps (without including the more easterly ones), which he enumerates as follows: “Una, quae est juxta mare per Liguras; altera qua Hannibal transmit; tertia qua Pompeius ad Hispaniense bellum profectus est: quarta qua Hasdrubal de Gallia in Italiam venit: quinta, quae quondam a Graecis possessa est, quae exinde Alpes Graeciae appellantur.” (Varr. ap. Serv. ad Aen. 10.13.) From the time of the reduction of the Transalpine Gauls by J. Caesar, and that of the Alpine tribes by Augustus, the passes over the Alps came to be well known, and were traversed by high roads, several of which, however, on account of the natural difficulties of the mountains, were not practicable for carriages. These passes were the following:--


1. PER ALPES MARITIMAS, along the coast of Liguria, at the foot of the Maritime Alps from Genua to the mouth of the Varus. Though the line of seacoast must always have offered a natural means of communication, it could hardly have been frequented by the Romans until the wild tribes of the Ligurians had been effectually subdued; and it appears certain that no regular road was constructed [1.110] along it till the time of Augustus. The monument which that emperor erected over the highest part of the pass (just above the Portus Monoeci), to commemorate the reduction of the Alpine tribes, is still extant, and the Roman road may be distinctly traced for several miles on each side of it. [TROPAEA AUGUSTI] It did not follow the same line as the modem road, but, after ascending from near Mentone to the summit of the pass at Turbia, descended a side valley to Cemenelion (Cimiez), and proceeded from thence direct to the mouth of the Varus, leaving Nicaea on the left. The stations along this road from Vada Sabbata (Vado) to Antipolis are thus given in the Itin. Ant. p. 296:--

M.P. M.P.
Pullopice xii. Lumone x.
Albingauno Alpe Summa (Turbia) vi.
(Albenga) viii. Cemenelo (Cimiez) viii.
Luco Bormani xv. Varum flumen vi.
Costa Balenae xvi. Antipolis (Antibes) x.
Albintimilio (Vintimiglia) xvi.


This line of road is given in the Itinerary as a part of the Via Aurelia, of which it was undoubtedly a continuation; but we learn from the inscriptions of the mile-stones discovered near Turbia that it was properly called the Via Julia.


2. PER ALPES COTTIAS, by the pass now called the Mont Genèvre, from Augusta Taurinorum to Brigantio (Briançon) and Ebrodunum (Embrun) in Gaul. This was the most direct line of communication from the north of Italy to Transalpine Gaul: it is evidently that followed by Caesar when he hastened to oppose the Helvetil, “qua proximum iter in ulteriorem Galliam per Alpes erat” (B. G. 1.10), and is probably the same already mentioned as having been first explored by Pompey. It was after-wards one of the passes most frequented by the Romans, and is termed by Ammianus (15.10) “via media et compendiaria.” That writer has given a detailed account of the pass, the highest ridge of which was known by the name of MATRONAE MONS, a name retained in the middle ages, and found in the Itin. Hierosol. p. 556. Just at its foot, on the Italian side, was the station AD MARTIS, probably near the modern village of Oulx. The distances given in the Itin. Ant. (p. 341) are, from Taurini (Augusta Taurinorum) to Segusio (Susa) 51 M. P. (a great overstatement: the correct distance would be 36); thence--

Ad Martis xvi. Ramae xviii.
Brigantio xviii. Eburodono xviii.

Though now little frequented, this pass is one. of the lowest and easiest of those over the main chain.


3. PER ALPES GRAIAS, by the Little St. Bernard. This route, which led from Milan and the plains of the Po by the valley of the Salassi to Augusta Praetoria (Aosta), and from thence across the mountain pass into the valley of the Isara (Isère), and through the Tarentaise to Vienna and Lugdunum, is supposed by many writers to have been that followed by Hannibal. It was certainly crossed by D. Brutus with his army after the battle of Mutina, B.C. 43. But though it presents much less natural difficulties than its neighbour the Great St. Bernard, it appears to have been little frequented, on account of the predatory habits of the Salassians, until Augustus, after having completely subdued that people, constructed a carriage road over the Graian Alps, which thenceforward became one of the most important and frequented lines of communication between Italy and Gaul. (Strab. p. 208; Tac. Hist. 2.66, 4.68.)

The stations on this route are thus given in the Itinerary, beginning from Eporedia, at the entrance of the Val d'Aosta:--

M.P.
Vitricium (Verrez) xxi.
Augusta Praetoria (Aosta) xxv.
Arebrigium (S. Didier) xxv.
Rergintrum (Bourg. S. Maurice) xxiv.
Darantasia (Moustiers) xviii.
Obilinum xiii.
Ad Publicanos (Conflans) iii.

From thence there branched off two lines of road, the one by Lemincum (Chambery) and Augusta Allobrogum to Vienna, the other northwards to Geneva and the Lacus Lemannus.


4. PER ALPES PENNINAS, by the Great St. Bernard. This route, which branched off from the former at Augusta Praetoria, and led direct across the mountain, from thence to Octodurus (Martigny) in the valley of the Rhone, and the head of the Lake Lemannus, appears to have been known and frequented from very early times, though it was never rendered practicable for carriages. Caesar speaks of it as being used to a considerable extent by merchants, and traders, notwithstanding the exactions to which they were subjected by the wild tribes that then occupied this part of the Alps. (B. G. 3.1.) The numerous inscriptions and votive tablets that have been discovered sufficiently attest how much this pass was frequented in later times: and it was repeatedly traversed by Roman armies. (Orell. Inscr. vol. i. p. 104; Tac. Hist. 1.61, 4.68.) The distances by this road are thus given in the Itinerary. From Augusta Praetoria to the summit of the pass, Summo Pennino, where stood a temple of Jupiter--M. P. xxv.; thence to Octodorus (Martigny) xxv.; and from thence to Viviscum (Vevay) 34 miles, passing two obscure stations, the names of which are probably corrupt.


5. The next pass, for which we find no appropriate name, led from the head of the Lacus Larius to Brigantia (Bregenz), on the Lake of Constance. We find no mention of this route in early times; but it must have been that taken by Stilicho, in the depth of winter, when he proceeded from Mediolanum through the Rhaetian Alps to summon the Vindelicians and Noricans to the relief of Honorius. (Claudian. B. Get. 5.320--360.) The Itineraries give two routes across this part of the Alps; the one apparently following the line of the modern pass of the Splügen, by Clavenna (Chiavenna) and Tarvessedo (?) to Curia (Coire): the other crossing the pass of the Septimer, by Murus and Tinnetio (Tinzen) to Curia, where it rejoined the preceding route.


6. PER ALPES RHAETICAS or TRIDENTINAS, through the modern Tyrol, which, from the natural facilities it presents, must always have been one of the most obvious means of communication between Italy and the countries on the S. of the Danube. The high road led from Verona to Tridentum (where it was joined by a cross road from Opitergium through the Val Sugana), and thence up the valley of the Athesis as far as Botzen, from which point it followed the Atagis or Eisach to its source, and crossed the pass of the Brenner to Veldidana ( Wilden, near Insbruck), and from thence across another mountain pass to Augusta Vindelicorum. [RHAETIA]


7. A road led from Aquileia to Julium Carnicum (Zunglio), and from thence across the Julian Alps to [1.111] Loncium in the valley of the Gail, and by that valley and the Puster Thal to join the preceding road at Vipitenum, near the foot of the Brenner. The stations (few of which can be determined with any certainty) are thus given (Itin. Ant. p. 279):--

M.P.
From Aquileia Ad Tricesimum xxx.
Julium Carnicum xxx.
Loncio xxii.
Agunto xviii.
Littamo xxiii.
Sebato xxxiii.
Vipiteno xxxiii.

8. Another high road led from Aquileia eastward up the valley of the Wippach, and from thence across the barren mountainous tract of comparatively small elevation (the Mons Ocra), which separates it from the valley of the Savus, to Aemona in Pannonia. There can be no doubt that this pass, which presents no considerable natural difficulties, was from the earliest ages the highway of nations from the banks of the Danube into Italy, as it again became after the fall of the Roman empire. (P. Diac. 2.10.) The distance from Aquileia to Aemona is given by the Itin. Ant. at 76 Roman miles, which cannot be far from the truth; but the intermediate stations are very uncertain. - Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) William Smith, LLD, Ed.
 

Return to the Map of the Roman Empire

Bible Maps

Return to Bible History Online