The Trophée des Alpes, or Trophy of Augustus, was a 50 m high monument to the power of Rome and the glory of Augustus. Now only 35 m high and half in ruin, it's still an imposing monument, over 2000 years after it was built.
In 13 BC, during the reign of Augustus (who had been Octavian until 31 BC) the Romans planned a new coast 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 lowest point on a 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 Trophy that was built in 6 BC on this Alpine Summit (Summa Alpe) was a massive structure, and even the truncated ruin dominates the village today and is visible from long distances to the east and west. Only a few of the columns that once circled the colonnade remain today [photo 1], and the stepped conical roof, topped probably by a statue of Augustus, are long gone. A model of the presumed original can be seen in the museum.
The ruin of the Trophy began about 15 centuries ago, with the decline of the Roman Empire. In early 400 AD the Wisigoths entered Provence, the Vandals passed through and other "barbarians" added to the general destruction of the area and the Trophy.
The religious powers that increased towards the end of the Merovingian dynasty disliked the Trophy, considering it as dedicated to the pagen Apollo, and around 700 AD, the Monks of Lérins arrived to destroy the statues.
During the Middle Ages, the site was converted into a fortress, and occupied by the troups in command at the moment (see La Turbie history).
Louis IV ordered the Trophy blown up in 1705, but the 17-century-old construction largely withstood his efforts. The durable stone was pillaged to build the Saint-Michel church as well as numerous other constructions, a typical sequel to chateaux at the end of the Middle Ages.
Just before the Conté de Nice and Savoy were reattached to Fance in 1860, the Savoy royal family ordered restoration to begin. Not much was actually done, but it prevented further decay. Casimir, a local archeologist began excavations in 1900. The archeologist Formigé became interested and, in the 1920's, the wealthy American Dr Edward Tuck worked the Formigés (including the architect son) to restore the Trophy, including replacing stones to where they deduced they belonged. The restoration was completed in 1934.
Trophée d'Auguste - Trophée des Alpes
This small but interesting museum is located on the grounds of the Trophy. The entry price is a bit high just to see the trophy and the museum, but a must if you're interested in history, especially Roman history. The entrance is around to the left of the village (when facing the trophy hill from the road).
The grounds are in a nice garden setting, but not extensive, although there is a great view from the edge down onto Monaco below. The museum contains a model replica of what the original Trophy was thought to look like [photo 4], statues and busts of Augustus [photo 5; [ 6]], Roman milestones and other artifacts, and drawings and photos of the restoration.
- Open: 21 Sept - 31 Mar, 10h-17h
- open: 1 Apr - 20 June, 9h30-18h
- open: 21 June - 20 Sept, 9h30-19h
- Closed: Mondays
- Entry: about 5 €
- open: 1 Apr - 20 June, 9h30-18h