Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s time to take a look at another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Last week we were in the Tunisia to uncover the Amphitheatre of El Jem.

Today we’re traveling back into Europe as we head to Switzerland to check out the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch!

The extension of the natural World Heritage property of Jungfrau – Aletsch – Bietschhorn (first inscribed in 2001), expands the site to the east and west, bringing its surface area up to 203,615 acres (up from 133,190). The site provides an outstanding example of the formation of the High Alps, including the most glaciated part of the mountain range and the largest glacier in Eurasia.

 

It features a wide diversity of ecosystems, including successional stages due particularly to the retreat of glaciers resulting from climate change. The site is of outstanding universal value both for its beauty and for the wealth of information it contains about the formation of mountains and glaciers, as well as ongoing climate change.

It is also invaluable in terms of the ecological and biological processes it illustrates, notably through plan succession. Its impressive landscape has played an important role in European art, literature, mountaineering and alpine tourism.

How This Relates to Rome:

Julius Caesar and Divico parley after the battle at the Saône (Karl Jauslin, 19th Century).

One of the most important tribal groups in the Swiss region was the Helvetii. Steadily harassed by the Germanic tribes, in 58 BC the Helvetii decided to abandon the Swiss plateau and migrate to western Gallia, but Julius Caesar‘s forces pursued and defeated them at the Battle of Bibracte, in today’s eastern France, forcing the tribe to move back to its original homeland.

In 15 BC, Tiberius, who was destined to be the 2nd Roman Emperor and his brother, Drusus, conquered the Alps, integrating them into the Roman Empire. The area occupied by the Helvetii—the namesakes of the later Confoederatio Helvetica—first became part of Rome’s Gallia Belgica province and then of its Germania Superior province, while the eastern portion of modern Switzerland was integrated into the Roman province of Raetia.

Remains of the Roman Theatre of Vindonissa.

Sometime around the start of the Common Era, the Romans maintained a large Legionary Camp called Vindonissa. Now a ruin at the confluence of the Aare and Reuss rivers, the Roman camp was near the modern town of Windisch.

The 1st and 2nd Century AD were an age of prosperity for the population living on the Swiss plateau. Several towns, like Aventicum, Iulia Equestris and Augusta Raurica, reached a remarkable size. Also, hundreds of agricultural estates (Villae rusticae) were founded in the countryside.

The Roman Empire in AD 120 and Germania.

Around 260 AD, the fall of the Agri Decumates territory north of the Rhine transformed today’s Switzerland into a frontier land of the Empire. Repeated raids by the Alamanni tribes provoked the ruin of the Roman towns and economy, forcing the population to find shelter near Roman fortresses, like the Castrum Rauracense.

The Empire built another line of defense at the north border (the so-called Donau-Iller-Rhine-Limes), but at the end of the 4th Century the increased Germanic pressure forced the Romans to abandon the linear defense concept, and the Swiss plateau was finally open to the settlement of Germanic tribes.

Thanks for taking the tour with us today. We hope you’re inspired to take further adventures within the Roman Empire.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!