Rhodanic Republic

The Rhodanic Republic, also known as the Republic of Valais or Vallais, was a sister republic that existed in the French-speaking part of Switzerland during the Napoleonic wars. It was called after the Latin name for the River Rhône, Rhodanus.

Rhodanic Republic

Republique Rhodanique
StatusClient state of France
Historical eraNapoleonic Wars
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Helvetic Republic
Simplon (department)

Napoleon had long sought to make Switzerland dependent on him in order to facilitate his military operations in Italy and around the Alps. Therefore, he had been trying various options in order to subjugate its territory or at least a part of its territory. The lands of French-speaking and French-oriented cantons of Geneva, Vaud and Valais seemed to him as especially convenient to fulfill these aims. Napoleon planned to form several puppet states in the realm of these three cantons. When the canton of Leman was formed, Napoleon tried to push through his idea of making a part of its territory into the so-called Rhodanic Republic.

A république rhodanique (or Rhodanie) had already been envisaged in March 1798 by French general Guillaume Brune as one of three successor republics of the Swiss Confederacy (the other two being Tellgovie and Helvétie). Rhodanie would have incorporated Vaud, Valais, Ticino and Fribourg, with capital Lausanne. The canton was to be divided into 17 administrative districts, each with a sous-prefet. However, this idea was put aside. In 1798, when Napoleon's troops invaded, the Valais people declared a Revolutionary Republique du Valais (March 16) which was swiftly incorporated (May 1) into the Helvetic Republic.

The puppet Helvetic Republic served Napoleon's purposes well for some time, until it became ridden with internal strife and disputes and became unstable. The inner crisis in the Helvetic Republic became especially tangible by 1802. At the very same time, Napoleon felt great need to secure the passages to Italy and stabilise connections between France and Italy. Therefore, the old idea of Rhodanic Republic became revitalized. This time, Napoleon simply made the whole canton of Valais into the Rhodanic Republic, fully independent of the Helvetic Republic which had still a few months to live. Thus, Napoleon's hands were free and he had got a sure method of securing a safe passage into Italy.

In 1810, Napoleon just as abruptly declared this ephemeral state a part of the French empire under the name of Department of the Simplon. Independence was restored in 1813, and, on August 4, 1815, the Valais finally entered the Swiss confederation as a canton. Thus, the Rhodanic Republic lived for 11 years. It was initially planned in 1798, formed in 1802 and lived until Napoleon's full defeat in 1813.


  1. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica (April 9, 2013). "Valais". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. Retrieved November 11, 2019.

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