The Trophy of Augustus in La Turbie

The Trophy of Augustus is a historical monument that was built in the year VI B.C. in honor of Octavian, the future emperor Augustus, who had conquered the Alps. It was built in La Turbie, in the continuity of a sanctuary dedicated to Heracles Monoikos (who gave his name to Monaco), on the border between Gaul and Italy to mark the power of Rome and the unity of the empire. The Trophy of Augustus is an exceptional monument, it is one of the few of its kind that can still be seen today.

Located on the Via Julia Augusta, the place where the Trophy was built was carefully chosen. From this site on the heights, the panorama is magnificent. It embraces the French Riviera and stretches from the Esterel to the Italian coast.

A Trophy to celebrate the victory

With the submission of 44 rebellious peoples of the Alps to the soldiers sent by Octavian, nephew of Caesar, the Alps are pacified and the Roman Empire unified. To celebrate this victory, the people and the Senate erected the Trophy of Augustus in honor of the emperor. The erection of a trophy is a very important ancient military rite. At the end of antiquity, the monument was abandoned and looted.

In the Middle Ages, the Trophy of Augustus was transformed into a fortress. It would play this role for several centuries, until its dismantling, ordered by Louis XIV in May 1705 during the War of the Spanish Succession. It then became an open-air quarry. Blocks and fragments were notably used in the construction of the nearby church of Saint-Michel.

In the middle of the 19th century, the sovereigns of the House of Savoy saved the monument from ruin by consolidating it. A few years later, in 1865, the Trophy of victory was classified as a Historical Monument.

In the 20th century, excavations were carried out on the site and anastylosis was undertaken. The dismembered elements that were found were reassembled on the structure. In the inter-war period, a partial reconstruction was carried out in order to restore the original nature of the Trophy of Augustus.

The Romans: excellent builders

The construction techniques used by the Romans were remarkable. The Trophy of Augustus is an excellent testimony to these different methods. In the south-east, the building is composed of aggregates (pebbles, prunings, rock fragments, etc.) bound together by a mortar made from slaked lime. This technique is called Opus Caementicium. It was economical and made it possible to create large structures with a long lifespan. This element of the Trophy has moreover partially remained in place despite the dismantling ordered by the Sun King.

To build this monument, the Opus Caementicium was cast between walls made with the opus quadratum method. This technique consists of laying out in a regular pattern parallelepipedal blocks with sharp joints measuring, in this case, 70 x 40 x 40 centimeters.

In the south-west, anastylosis has made it possible to restore a hypothetical image of what the Trophy of Augustus must have been like before it was ruined. Jean Formigé, the chief architect of Historical Monuments was able to reassemble two columns and a piece of entablature during this operation.

The west side was almost entirely rebuilt by Jean Formigé’s son between 1929 and 1934. A real study of the remains was undertaken so that the materials used would be identical to those of the time: La Turbie limestone for the large blocks and columns, and Carrara marble for the sculptures.

Behind this reconstructed façade the medieval tower still stands with its decorative blind arcades. It was built in the Middle Ages when the Trophy was transformed into a fortress.

From an emperor to a god?

At the time, the Trophies were dedicated to the deities who had ensured victory. The singularity of the La Turbie Trophy is that it was dedicated to Emperor Augustus. The inscription engraved in the stone of this monument is still visible and means:

“To Emperor Caesar Augustus, son of the divine,

Grand Pontiff, acclaimed Imperator for the 14th time and clothed in the 17th Tribunician Power.

(Editor’s note: signed) The Senate and the people of Rome…

Because, under his leadership and auspices, all the Alpine peoples

Which were between the upper and lower seas…

were subjected to the power of the Roman people.

The list of defeated peoples follows. »

With this monument, of exceptional and colossal dimensions, the Emperor Augustus is honored like a god. As the Trophy is located on a part of the space of the sanctuary dedicated to Hercules, it associates Augustus with this deity. He becomes a son of God, dedicated to divination. The glorification of the acts of the emperor was intended to accentuate this divine filiation.

Prepare your visit

The site of the Trophy of Augustus is open all year round from Tuesday to Sunday inclusive (closed every Monday). The monument is closed on January 1, May 1, November 1 and 11, December 25.

The schedule changes according to the seasons:

  • From January 2 to May 18: from 10:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • From May 19 to September 20: from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
  • From September 21 to December 31: from 10:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

A visit document is available at the reception desk in French, English, German, Italian, Spanish and Russian.

Guided tours in French are included in the entrance fee. They present the museum, the monument with its Roman inscription and the panoramic terrace for about 50 minutes. In low season, they start at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. In high season they start at 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Groups must book 15 days in advance.

The monument is not accessible to people with reduced mobility.