Aosta Valley in the 5th century BCE was settled by Celtic peoples who moved from the north of Europe through the Alps in the direction of the Po Plain. The lands of northern Europe, present-day France, northern Italy and Belgium were a historic land called Gaul, inhabited by the Celts. The presence of the Celts, and the addition of the Salassi people, is evidenced by, inter alia, found Celtic and Roman coins, which prove that the Salassi controlled the access routes from the north to the south of Europe. The location of the valley was already strategic at that time and guaranteed a lot of tax revenues for crossing the alpine passes: the Little Saint Bernard Pass and the Great Saint Bernard Pass.
Salassi and the Roman Empire
In 143 BCE The military expedition of the Roman consul Appius Claudius Pulcher, who attacked the Alpine tribe of Salassus, ended in defeat, but since then there has been historical evidence of numerous armed conflicts between the Roman Empire and the Alpine people. Around 100 BCE, the Roman Empire, in the conquered territories, established a new settlement of Eporedia (today’s Ivrea), which was located a short distance from the Aosta Valley and posed a real threat to the Salass people. The empire was increasingly interested in controlling the entire alpine range and the valleys that provided access to northern Europe.
Conquest of Gaul
In the 1st century BCE, the Roman Empire successively conquered the historic land of Gaul and saw in the Salass tribe an obstacle to the construction of the great Roman road, Via delle Gallie, which was to pass through two passes in the Aosta Valley and connect Rome with northwest Europe. The conquest of the Salassian people would guarantee the Roman Empire free access to the pass not only for Roman troops but also for merchants.
Conquest of the Salass in the Aosta Valley
In 25 BCE the Roman emperor, Octavian Augustus, tired of skirmishes at the border to definitively conquer the Salassian people, sent a powerful military expedition led by a console Terenzio Varrone. The Roman Empire emerged victorious from the battle and the Aosta Valley was finally subjugated to Rome. This event undoubtedly marked a turning point in the history of the Aosta Valley. During the reign of the Salassians, the settlements of the inhabitants of the valley were scattered and there were no urban settlements. After the arrival of the Romans, there was a quick reorganization, which assumed not only the continuation of the construction of the famous Roman road Via delle Gallie, the routes of which have survived to this day, but most of all the establishment of a new settlement Augusta Praetoria Salassorum (today’s Aosta, the capital of the Aosta Valley region). The Augusta Praetoria Salassorum was built at a rapid pace following the example of Roman military camps, at the crossroads of the Great and Little St Bernard Pass and at the confluence of the Dora Baltea and Buthier rivers.
Augusta Praetoria Salassorum
The settlement with an area of 414,128 m2 was surrounded by defensive walls and 4 entrance gates led to it. The main road that runs through the city centre, decumanus maximus (now via Porta Pretoria, via de Tillier and via Aubert), was a natural part of the Via delle Gallie in Rome, which led from Milan to two Alpine passes, allowing for a connection with northwest Europe.
To this day, a lot of monuments from the Roman period have been preserved in Aosta, which makes Aosta the Rome of the Alps.