quod equidem Helvetii
vernaculam linguam affectui dudum imposuerunt, ex dolore amissae dulcedinis Patriae desumptum ...
The 4,000 or so objects unearthed--weapons, tools, items of jewellery, human and animal bones--were rapidly attributed to the second Iron Age (450-50 BC), linking them to the Helvetii
, a Celtic people who, under pressure from Germanic tribes in the 2nd century BC, probably migrated from southern Germany into what is now northern Switzerland.
Another clue to understanding the Swiss historical mindset is in its Latin title (Confoederatio Helvetica, or Helvetic Confederation), named after the earliest-known settlers on the Swiss plateau, the Helvetii
, whose supremacy was dislodged by Julius Caesar.
Immediately, he launched an attack against the Helvetii
, Gauls north of the Alps and Germanic tribes, initiating an ongoing military campaign (the Gallic Wars) which lasted nearly 8 years.
The descriptions of two important opponents of Caesar contain further clues: Orgetorix, by far the noblest and richest (longe nobilissiumus et ditissimus) amongst the Helvetii
, commands a clientele allegedly of 10 000 heads.
At that time, only one understrength Roman legion of around 4,000 men was available north of the Alps to oppose the Helvetii
, but Caesar quickly assembled five legions, each close to its full battle strength of 6,000 men, and moved to stop the invaders.
Caesar mentions that the Helvetii kept extensive lists of supplies and people during their migration (Caes.
Thus we learn a great deal about how the Helvetii organized themselves because their migration across Aeduan lands supposedly gave impetus for war, not because Caesar found them intrinsically interesting.
(51.) Settala: "Homeri quidem tempore Graeciam sub regibus fuisse, at non Hippocratis aetate tunc enim omnes ferma Graeciae populi sine regibus atque tyrannis erant: quoniam quamvis inter se de principatu, et finibus certarent, pro libertate tamen in unum conspirabant adversus tyrannos, non secus, quam nostro tempore Helvetii
consentiunt inter se" (437).
Caesar was provided with his justification for invading Gaul in 58 BC when the Helvetii
, a powerful tribe living between the Alps and the Jura mountains, decided to abandon their overcrowded homeland and migrate to Aquitaine.
The objects found -- amphorae, bronze cooking pots and utensils, ironware and working implements and glass, testify to the degree of sophistication and skill reached in the settlement, while a striking stone representation on a capital on the ground floor of the museum -- of a local horned Celtic water-god -- is a testament to the fusion of Roman culture with that of the native Helvetii