Zur Toponymie der civitas Helvetiorum. Namenarchäologische Untersuchungen



  • Albrecht Greule Universität Regensburg
  • Andrea Francesco Lanzicher Bildungs- und Kulturdirektion des Kantons Bern (BKD)




Recent archaeological research has made it possible to map out the settlement area of the Helvetii (in western Switzerland) by marking 14 late La Tène oppida [towns]. The oppida also appear on the map with their Celtic names. The range of names extends from Geneva along the River Aare via Solothurn to Rheinau. The list of names shown on the map is historically interesting insofar as Caesar, in the “Bellum Gallicum”, mentions that the Helvetii had burnt all (twelve) oppida and around 400 rural settlements and farmsteads before leaving their ancestral settlement area (though he does not mention any names). It is known that the Helvetii were forced back into their old homeland and Romanized after the battles of Bibracte and Alesia (58 and 52 BC). The question arises as to whether the Helvetian toponyms that have been handed down or reconstructed only from Roman times are the old Celtic names, having survived the period of emigration, or whether they were newly formed under pressure from the Roman administration, i.e. are ultimately Romanized names or “mixed names”. In order to settle this question, it is necessary to examine etymologically all the oppida and their names shown on the map and relate them to the archaeological findings, the latter is achieved by Andrea Francesco Lanzicher’s additions.