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King and prefect of the Alpes Cottiae
IssueMarcus Julius Cottius
Julius Vestalis
Full name
Marcus Julius Cottius

Marcus Julius Cottius was king of the Celtic and Ligurian inhabitants of the mountainous region then known as Alpes Taurinae and now as the Cottian Alps early in the 1st century BC. He was the son and successor of King Donnus and negotiated a dependent status with Rome that preserved considerable autonomy for his country.

Early relationship with Rome[edit]

The friendship between Cottius's realm and Rome goes back at least to the reign of his father; there is numismatic evidence which suggests that Donnus established friendly relations with Caesar.[1] During the civil wars which followed Caesar's death, many Gallic tribes rebelled. At the end of these wars Augustus' took charge in Rome, he suppressed the Gallic revolts. The destruction of the Salassi and the subjugation of the Liguri in 14 BC must have convinced Cottius "to press the advantage and use his control of the Alpine passes as leverage for an alliance with Rome that would allow him to maintain his position."[1] Ammianus Marcellinus remarked that even after Gaul had been subdued, Cottius alone continued to rely on the strategic position his kingdom afforded him;[2] the arrangement benefited both parties, as Augustus wanted to maintain good relations with the people who lived along the Montgenevre pass over the Alps, which was on the road to Gaul.

Alliance with Rome[edit]

The Roman alliance was established in 13 or 12 BC, and is attested in an inscription in the Arch of Susa, which was erected to commemorate this agreement between 9 and 8 AD. Augustus attended its unveiling.[3][4] By it Cottius became a client king of Rome, with his authority was reduced in exchange of the retention of his autonomy. While deferring authority to Augustus, he continued to hold his hereditary position in his land. Millar called such an arrangement as a dual sovereignty.[5] Cottius became a Roman citizen, Latinising his name as Marcus Julius Cottius, and was appointed præfectus civitatium. Areas assigned to this type of prefect were areas newly brought under Roman administration in the Augustan period; these officials oversaw areas with a number of tribes and had a fixed term of office. However, this post in Cottia was permanent and hereditary.[6]

Reign as client ruler[edit]

Cottius enriched himself through the trade between Italy and Gaul, his capital, Segusium (today's Susa, Piedmont) grew and was adorned with public monuments. Under his guidance his people adopted Roman aspects in their customs, laws and language. However, they retained their religious cults intact; the identification of their gods with Roman ones occurred later.[7]

Death and legacy[edit]

Cottius was revered as a fair king who had foresight, he was laid to rest in a mausoleum still visited in the fourth century AD. After his passing the territory of the Alpes Taurinae that he had ruled began to be identified with the name Alpes Cottiae, it seems to have been seen as having a special status to the Romans compared to that of other non-Roman peoples. Strabo described the areas where the tribes of southern Gaul lived, which he named by their ethnic names; however, he used the term country of Cottius for the Cottian Alps. Vitruvius and Suetonius used the terms kingdom of the Cottians and Cottian kingdom respectively.[3][8] Ammianus Marcelinus used the term Cottianae civitiate.[2]


Cottius was succeeded by his son Gaius Julius Donnus II (reigned 3 BC-4 AD), and his grandson Marcus Julius Cottius II (reigned 5-63 AD),during whose long reign Tiberius deployed a cohort from "the kingdom of Cottius" to suppress a revolt in Pollentia.[9] Cottius II was subsequently given additional land by the emperor Claudius and according to Cassius Dio "was then called king for the first time";[10] this was a restoration of the title of king formerly held and surrendered by Cottius I.[11] Cottius II also received additional land from Nero.[8]

Another of the elder Cottius' sons was the Roman centurion Julius Vestalis, who retook the frontier post of Aegyssus (modern Tulcea) on the Danube after it was captured by the Getae, a deed celebrated by Ovid in his Epistulae ex Ponto IV.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Cornwell, H., Alpine Reactions to Roman Power, in Varga, R., Rusu-Bolindeț, V., (eds) Official Power and Local Elites in the Roman Provinces, p. 59
  2. ^ a b Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae, 15.10.2
  3. ^ a b Vitruvius, On architecture, 8,3,17
  4. ^ Goodman, M., The Roman World 44 BC–AD 180, p. 120
  5. ^ Millar, Rome, the Greek World and the East: Government, Society and Culture in the Roman Empire, edited by F.,Cotton H., Roger G., p. 229
  6. ^ Cornwell, H., Alpine Reactions to Roman Power, in Varga, R., Rusu-Bolindeț, V., (eds) Official Power and Local Elites in the Roman Provinces, p. 59
  7. ^ Cornwell, Hannah (2015). "The King Who Would Be Prefect: Authority and Identity in the Cottian Alps". Journal of Roman Studies. 105: 43. doi:10.1017/s0075435815000957.
  8. ^ a b Suetonius, Nero, 18
  9. ^ Suetonius, Tiberius, 37,3
  10. ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History, 60.24.4
  11. ^ Cornwell, H., Alpine Reactions to Roman Power, in Varga, R., Rusu-Bolindeț, V., (eds) Official Power and Local Elites in the Roman Provinces, p. 60