Roman Provincias > Provincia Raetia

Provincia Raetia

Roman History - Pax Romana Decoration


Coordinates: 47.3600°N 8.5600°E

Raetia (/ˈriːʃə/ or /ˈriːʃiə/, Latin: [rajtia], also spelled Rhaetia) was a province of the Roman Empire, named after the Rhaetian (Raeti or Rhaeti) people. It bordered on the west with the country of the Helvetii, on the east with Noricum, on the north with Vindelicia, on the west with Transalpine Gaul and on south with Venetia et Histria.It thus comprised the districts occupied in modern times by eastern and central Switzerland (containing the Upper Rhine and Lake Constance), southern Bavaria and the Upper Swabia, Vorarlberg, the greater part of Tirol, and part of Lombardy.Later Vindelicia (today south-eastern Wuerttemberg and south-western Bavaria) formed part of Raetia. The northern border of Raetia during the times of Augustus and Tiberius was the River Danube. Later the Limes Germanicus marked the northern boundary, stretching for 166 km north of the Danube.Raetia linked to Italy across the Alps over the Reschen Pass, by the Via Claudia Augusta. The Romansh people living in Southeast Switzerland are believed[by whom?] to be direct descendants of the Raetians. However, the exact lineage of the Romansh (or Romansch) people remains incomplete.The Rätikon mountain range derives its name from Raetia.


Little is known of the origin or history of the Raetians, who appear in the records as one of the most powerful and warlike of the Alpine tribes. Livy states distinctly[1] that they were of Etruscan origin (a belief that is favored by Niebuhr and Mommsen). A tradition reported by Justin[2] and Pliny the Elder[3] affirmed that they were a portion of that people who had settled in the plains of the Po and were driven into the mountains by the invading Gauls, when they assumed the name of "Raetians" from an eponymous leader Raetus.Even if their Etruscan origin be accepted, at the time when the land became known to the Romans, Celtic tribes were already in possession of it and had amalgamated so completely with the original inhabitants that, generally speaking, the Raetians of later times may be regarded as a Celtic people, although non-Celtic tribes (es. Euganei) were settled among them.The Raetians are first mentioned (but only incidentally) by Polybius,[4] and little is heard of them till after the end of the Republic. There is little doubt, however, that they retained their independence until their subjugation in 15 BC by Tiberius and Drusus.[5]At first Raetia formed a distinct province, but towards the end of the 1st century AD Vindelicia was added to it; hence Tacitus (Germania, 41) could speak of Augusta Vindelicorum (Augsburg) as "a colony of the province of Raetia". The whole province (including Vindelicia) was at first under a military prefect, then under a procurator; it had no standing army quartered in it but relied on its own native troops and militia for protection until the 2nd century AD.During the reign of Marcus Aurelius, Raetia was governed by the commander of the Legio III Italica, which was based in Castra Regina (Regensburg) by 179 AD . Under Diocletian, Raetia formed part of the diocese of the vicarius Italiae, and was subdivided into Raetia prima, with a praeses at Curia Raetorum (Chur) and Raetia secunda, with a praeses at Augusta Vindelicorum (Augsburg), the former corresponding to the old Raetia, the latter to Vindelicia. The boundary between them is not clearly defined, but may be stated generally as a line drawn eastwards from the lacus Brigantinus (Lake Constance) to the Oenus (River Inn).

Collapse of the Western Roman Empire

See Collapse of the Western Roman Empire

During the last years of the Western Roman Empire, the land was in a desolate condition, but its occupation by the Ostrogoths in the time of Theodoric the Great, who placed it under a dux, to some extent revived its prosperity. Much of Raetia prima remained as a separate political unit, Raetia Curiensis, for several centuries, until it was attached to the Duchy of Swabia in the 10th century.


The economy of Raetia was most supported by cutting timber, breeding cattle and pillaging towns and settlements of other cultures. There was also trade in pitch, honey, wax, and cheese as well. The people of Raetia practiced very little agriculture however, some of the fertile valleys were used to produce wine. According to accounts Augustus Caesar preferred Raetian wine to even wines from Italia.

Major Cities

The major settlements of Provincia Raetia were Tridentum (Trento) and Curia (Coire or Chur). They were connected by the Via Claudia Augusta which led from Verona and Tridentum across the Reschen Pass into the Fern Pass and finally into Augusta Vindelicorum (Augsburg). The settlements were also connected from Brigantium (Bregenz) on Lake Constance by Chur and Chiavenna to Como and Milan.

Provincia RaetiaProvince of the Roman Empire15–476 → → → →Location of RaetiaCapitalAugusta VindelicorumHistorical eraAntiquity • Established15 • Ostrogothic conquest[citation needed]476Today part of Austria Germany Switzerland Italy Liechtenstein

Roman Provincias

Roman Provincias List


Primary Sources

Ab Urbe Condita v. 33

xx. 5

Naturalis Historia, iii. 24, 133

Histories xxxiv. 10, iS

Secondary Sources

Horace, Odes, iv. 4 and 14

Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Raetia". Encyclopædia Britannica. 22 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 812–813.

PC von Planta, Das alte Rätien (Berlin, 1872)

T Mommsen in Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, iii. p. 706

Joachim Marquardt, Römische Staatsverwaltung, 1. (2nd ed., 1881) p. 288

Ludwig Steub, Ueber die Urbewohner Rätiens und ihren Zusammenhang mit den Etruskern (Munich, 1843)

Julius Jung, Römer und Romanen in den Donauländern (Innsbruck, 1877)

Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1873)

T Mommsen, The Roman Provinces (English translation, 1886), i. pp. 16, 161, 196

Mary B Peaks, The General Civil and Military Administration of Noricum and Raetia (Chicago, 1907).

Bagnall, R., J. Drinkwater, A. Esmonde-Cleary, W. Harris, R. Knapp, S. Mitchell, S. Parker, C. Wells, J. Wilkes, R. Talbert, M. E. Downs, M. Joann McDaniel, B. Z. Lund, T. Elliott, S. Gillies. "Places: 991348 (Raetia)". Pleiades. Retrieved March 8, 2012.

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