The little known but impressive the Trophée des Alpes, erected in the year 5 BC in honour of the emperor Octave Augustus, commemorates the conquest of the Alps and the submission of 45 hostile inhabiting tribes.
In 13 BC, during the reign of Augustus (who had been Octavian until 31 BC) the Romans planned a new coastal road into Gaul (Provence). This road became the Via Julia Augustus (or Via Julia, later to merge into the Aurelian Way that was built 150 years later). Augustus used this route to conquer the Ligurians and bring the Pax Romain to Provence. At La Turbie the road passed over the ridge that ran out from Mont Agel. This was not only a strategic site, it was also the highest point on the long Roman road into Gaul and marked the gateway between Italy and the Roman conquests of Gaul.
The Trophée des Alpes (also called “Trophée d’Auguste”) was erected in the year 5 BC by the Senate and the Roman people in honour of the emperor Octave Augustus. It commemorates the conquest of the Alps, and the submission of the 45 hostile inhabiting tribes, during the campaigns led or directed by Augustus in the years 25, 16 and 15 BC. These tribes were spread over the country that extended from the Adriatic sea to the Lake of Constance and over the Maritime-Alps. Their submission joined Gaul and Germania to Italy.
The unity of the empire thus created resulted in a peace which lasted for three centuries. The historic route from the Mediterranean coast of Italy into Spain then became a great highway and its security was assured. Serving Spain and the valley of the Rhône, pointing the way to Great Britain and the Rhine, this road was the great artery of the Roman world.
At its highest point, on the summit of La Turbie, the Trophée des Alpes (originally 49 metres high but now only 35) was erected to commemorate the definitive opening of the world’s ancient civilisation. Sadly, with the decline of the Roman Empire the monument suffered enormous damage.
By early 400 AD the Wisigoths entered Provence, followed by the Vandals and other “barbarians” who added to the general destruction of the area and the Trophy.
More destruction was to follow at the start of the 5th century when Saint Honorat, then Abbot of Lérins, ordered the statue of Augustus and that of his generals to be smashed considering the monument to be dedicated to the pagan god Apollo. During the 12th and 13th century the Trophy was transformed into a fortress and La Turbie was known as “Castri Torbia”. By 1388 the village came under the rule of the House of Savoy.
In 1765, the Trophy, now fortified but without any military value, was mined and dismantled under the orders of Louis 14th to humiliate the Duke of Savoy. However, the central core of the Trophy resisted his best efforts. Further destruction incurred as the site was used as a quarry as well as by the local inhabitants who used most of the remaining parts of the monument as building materials to erect a new pastoral church in 1764.
But then, in 1857 the princes of Savoy, sons of Victor-Emmanuel II, obtained authorisation to consolidate the rest of the ruins and put a halt to its destruction.
In 1865, five years after the annexation of the county of Nice to France, the Trophy was classified as an Historic Monument.
Excavation work began in 1905 as archaeologists Philippe Casimir and Jules-Camille Formigé set about uncovering the remains and drawing up plans of the original design.
The First World War put a temporary stop on further excavations but afterwards, during the 1920s, the wealthy American Dr Edward Tuck worked with Formigé to restore the Trophy, including replacing stones to where they deduced they once belonged.
Restoration work was completed in 1933 and in 1934 they built a small museum. Further work was carried out during the 1950s when several buildings where demolished to create the present park. Located just opposite the Trophy, the musuem contains a model replica of the original Trophy as well as various busts of Augustus and a number of replica stones.
If your French is good, there is also a short 10 minute film concerning the history of the Trophy and the excavation work undertaken.
If you have a head for heights and walk past the kiosque’s entrance to the monument, at the end of the path there is a truly outstanding view overlooking Monaco.
Trophée d’Auguste des Alpes
Avenue Albert 1er
06320 La Turbie
Tel: 04 93 41 20 84
Access by car from Nice: A8, exit n° 57 to La Turbie
Tuesday to Sunday: 9:30am to 1pm and 2:30 to 6:30pm
Last admission: 1 hour before closing
Shop closes 15 mins before closing time