Canton Geneva

The area of the present canton and city of Geneva was already inhabited around 10 000 B.C. In the ninth century B.C., the water level of Lake Geneva rose 5 metres, and the inhabitants left the area. In the second century B.C., the Celtic tribe of Allobrogen inhabited the banks of the lake and the hill of the present city.

Roman period

In 121 BC, the Romans conquered this area and integrated it into Gallia transalpina, later Gallia Narbonensis (from Emperor Augustus from 20. B.C.).

In the pax romana, the vicus Genava (the Roman name) expanded more and more. The French name lac Léman for Lake Geneva derives from the Latin Lemanus.

Even then, the area was an important trade route, connecting Italy, eastern France and northern Europe.

Lake Geneva, the Rhone and other trade routes led to Aventicum (Avenches), Augusta Raurica (Augst), Nviodunum (Nyon) and Lousanne (Lausanne).


Christianity established itself in the third century. The first bishop is known in the fourth century. The first name dates from the year 400 (Bishop Isaac). The foundations of the first cathedral also date from this period (see also the archaeological site:

The first Burgundian kingdom

By the fifth century, Geneva was already an important episcopal city. During this period, the town was part of the first Burgundian kingdom (443-534). Its territory stretched from Avignon in the south to Langres in the north, the Rhine in the east and the Loire in the west.

Geneva fell under the area called Sapaudia (from which Savoy is derived), roughly the Haute-Savoie, the cantons of Geneva, Jura, Neuchâtel and northern parts of Vaud and Bern.

In 534, the Franks conquered this area. In 563, a great tsunami took place that also flooded Geneva. It resulted from 250 million cubic metres of rock from Mount Grammont (2 172 metres). The mountain is located in the Chablais in the east of Lake Geneva. (The Tauredunum catastrophe).

Merovingians, Carolingians, Holy Roman Empire

The kingdoms of the Merovingians (534-751) and the Carolingians ruled until 888. From 888 to 1032, the city of Geneva and the diocese of Geneva were part of the Second Burgundian Kingdom (888-1032). From 1032, the area belonged to the Holy Roman Empire. Geneva became a county during this period.

The count recognised the bishop’s secular power over the city in 1124 (Treaty of Seyssel). In 1162, Emperor Barbarossa (1122-1190) granted it Reichsunmittelbarkeit or the status of a free Reich city.


The Counts of Savoy captured the castle and city in 1250. However, the counts of Geneva continued to resist.


In 1477, the Duke of Savoy was expelled from Geneva with support from Bern and Fribourg. The city allied with these cantons. This alliance lasted until the French invasion in 1798.

Geneva adopted the other faith in the Reformation, and in 1533 the bishop disappeared from the city, and the diocese no longer existed. In 1536, Calvin (Jehan Cauvin, 1509-1564) appeared, and Geneva became the international capital of Calvinism with a Calvinist academy.

Until the French annexation in 1798, many military conflicts and (broken) peace treaties with Savoy existed. It was an internationally complicated complication involving the French king, the Spanish Habsburgs and the Confederation of 13 cantons.

French period

Until the French annexation on 26 April 1798, Geneva enjoyed a period without armed (religious) conflict.

It is remarkable in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe. The Eidgenossenschaft had other brief religious conflicts in 1656 and 1712 (the Villmergen wars).

From 26 April 1798 to 31 December 1813, Geneva was part of the French department of Léman. In 1815, the canton joined the Confederation and followed its history.

1814-1816 saw a period of negotiations between the canton of Geneva, the kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia and France for affiliation with Confederation territory.

Between the Canton of Geneva and the Canton of Vaud was French territory. About 20 French villages were added to the canton of Geneva.


Although French-speaking Geneva was located in the far west of Switzerland and surrounded by French territory, it was never part of France, apart from 1798-1813. The citizens and Congress of Vienna chose to join the Confederation in 1815.

At the time of the dissolution of the kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia (1720-1860), the Confederation wanted to annex the French regions of Chablais and Faucigny. Through the Treaty of Turin (24 March 1860) and a referendum (21 and 22 April 1860), this area became part of France in 1860.

The Flag

The elements of the flag are a crowned black half-eagle on a yellow background and a yellow key on a red background.

The eagle symbolises the bishop’s imperial power and refers to the eagle in the coat of arms of the Holy Roman Empire. The key is an attribute of the Apostle Saint Peter, patron saint of the Church of Geneva and the city’s cathedral.

The Geneva Revolution in December 1792 introduced three colours: red and yellow, separated by a black stripe. The new canton of Geneva confirmed the current flag in 1815.

Source: G. Andrey, La Suisse Romande. Une histoire à nulle autre pareille, Pontarlier, 2012; M. Caesar, Histoire de Genève. Tome I, Neuchâtel 2014); C. Barbier, P.-F. Schwarz, Atlas historique du pays de Genève, La Salévienne, 2014).