When you think of the south of France, you probably picture bronze tans, cocktails, and Champagne on the beach… And although I certainly wouldn’t be complaining if that were my holiday, it’s important to realise that this region has a totally rich Roman history. So between your sips of fizz, why not take a jaunt up to La Turbie and visit the Trophy of Augustus.
This limestone white, ruined fortress sits in the hills above Monte Carlo, and can be spied by a keen eye from La Grande Chemaine overlooking the sparkling blue ocean, as it has been since the Roman times: it oooollllld.
History of The Trophy of Augustus, La Turbie
The 24-pillared monument was dedicated to Emperor Augustus by the People of Rome way back in 7-6 B.C. It was built to celebrate the fact that he was a total badass, and had finally shown the people of the Alps who was boss, subjugating them between 25 and 14 B.C. (you go, girl!).
They chose the specific location at the Col de La Turbie, way up high on the Via Julia, because Augustus had really liked that spot, and had used it to chat to the fellas from Gaul.
Over time, it’s been battered quite a lot by general human use and abuse. Fortunately, in 1905 a local scholar called Philippe Casimir was tasked with clearing the remains of the old boy. Rather than just chuck all the ‘rubble’ away, master architects Jean-Camille Formigé and his son Jules rebuilt what they could.
Walking Around The Trophy of Augustus, La Turbie
Firstly, the BIG news is that entry to The Trophy of Augustus is free for 18 to 25 year olds! I can’t remember the last time that I got in anywhere for free, so that was fantastic. For ‘real adults’ it costs six euros.
If you’re keen to try and burn off some of those croissants (sidenote: the bakery in La Turbie does the best croissants and pain au chocolat, be sure to get there in the morning whilst they’re still fresh and nom) then visiting The Trophy of Augustus is perfect, due to the fact that it sits in a nice, big garden. By this point, you can already see the banging views of Monaco. When they landscaped the garden, they made sure to only use endemic mountain plants, so you can really imagine what it used to be like (i.e. the same).
Once you’ve finished gazing lovingly at Monaco Bay, turn your attention to the massive building in front of you. To be honest, being able to look upon something that is partially so old can be pretty breathtaking. Obviously, they had to recreate a lot of it from surrounding rock, and a lack of pictures means there is a fair bit of artists interpretation, but you can get the gist of what it was like.
Find out the ins and outs in the museum before you take a closer look at The Trophy, so that you actually know what it is you’re looking at. You can get a look at old Augustus himself, in the form of a statue from Primaporta.
If you’re lucky, you’ll find a knowledgeable if-not-slightly-cray guide, who will open up the locks and take you up the Trophy itself, allowing you fantastical views of the southern seas.
Arguably the most impressive part of the French landmark in the dedicated inscription, originally made from Carrara marble. Luckily, Formigé had text passed all the way down the years from Pliny the Elder (first century A.D.), and this combined with remaining parts of the original allowed him to reconstruct an inscription praising Emperor Augustus for conquering all of the peeps from the Adriatic to the Tyrrhenean seas.
Fun Facts about The Trophy of Augustus, La Turbie
Fun Fact One: Monaco is so called from the Greek Monoikos: an area of the sanctuary devoted to Heracles, also known as Hercules. This means that Monaco is heavily associated with the Greek God of POWER and fluffy white pegasus’. They say that when Hercules was doing his tours, he touched down in what is now Monaco, so a God has very possibly graced the shores below The Trophy of Augustus. One of the reasons that they chose this location for the construction of The Trophy, is to assimilate Augustus with Hercules, to show how much they really loved him and thought that sun shone out of his behind. There is also evidence to indicate that the Romans were just waiting for the opportunity to praise Augustus like a God, and the subjugation of the Alpines just gave them an excuse to do it.
Fun Fact Two: During the 19th Century, the local people of La Turbie used the rather unloved Trophy of Augustus as a quarry, taking the blocks and using them to build their houses. Due to this thievery, many of the houses in the village are still made of ancient, Emperor/God worthy, local limestone (and marble!).
Fun Fact Three: When you go up the Trophy, or when you’re standing at the bottom of the garden overlooking the ocean, you can see a quarry to your left. This is the original quarry of the area, and where the Romans would have got the rock for building the Trophy of Augustus. If you have the time, the walk down to the quarry only takes about 10 to 15 minutes, where you can still find cut stone.
So there you have it, a little bit of ancient culture to nerd spice up your holiday. You can go back to sunbathing with a book safe in the knowledge that you made an effort to learn more about this beautiful area! If you make a day of it, why not check out the village of Eze, and Fragonard Parfumerie whilst you’re there?