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The entire territory of today's Switzerland has been occupied by the Romans since the first century BCE. The original Celtic tribes living in the area slowly adopted the Roman culture, and the usage of Latin became widespread. When the Roman Empire began to collapse in the fifth century, two Germanic tribes migrated to Switzerland: the Alamanni moved into the North and the East, whereas the Burgundians, who had just lost their war against the Romans, were placed in the West as auxiliaries of the Roman army. While the Alamanni kept their Germanic language, which later evolved into Swiss-German, Burgundians had to adopt Latin, which over time would evolve into French. In the East, a few alpine valleys escaped the Germanic influence and maintained their Latin language, which would eventually evolve into the Romansh language. The Italian spoken in the Southern part of Switzerland is derived from the Latin of the Roman occupiers.
At the beginning of the 13th Century, a small alpine community belonging to the Holy Roman Empire through the intermediary of the Hapsburg lords made up the road to the Gotthard pass, allowing trade between Northern Europe and Italy to more easily cross the Alps. To keep control of this new strategic route, the Emperor granted the special right of imperial immediacy to the alpine communities along the route, putting them under direct jurisdiction of the Emperor without the intermediation of feudal lords. This was not appreciated by the Hapsburg family, who soon tried to regain control over their lost territories. To resist these attempts, three valley communities of the central Alps made an alliance in 1291 to ensure "perpetual mutual assistance". This is considered to be the foundation of the Swiss Confederacy. The alliance resisted the Hapsburg attacks, and, over time, other communities (later called "cantons") joined in or were conquered.
After an aggressive period of expansion, the Swiss Confederacy was defeated by a French coalition in the Battle of Marignan (1515). This marks the end of the involvement of the Swiss Confederacy in European conflicts, but Swiss mercenaries continued to serve European powers. This is nowadays forbidden by law, with the exception of the Vatican Guard, which is still made up of Swiss mercenaries.
During the Thirty Years war, Switzerland did not get involved in the conflict, but had to defend its borders against foreign attacks. This would be later considered as the forerunner of the Swiss "armed neutrality" policy. But Switzerland had to wait for the Paris Treatise (1815) to have its neutrality recognised by other nations. Attracted by this official status, numerous international organizations have settled in Geneva since the 19th Century.
As a consequence of its neutrality, Switzerland has a defensive army. This army originates from the cantonal troops of the old Confederacy: in case of threat, each canton had to put a contingent of its population at the disposal of the Confederacy. Nowadays the Swiss army is still mainly composed of male citizen-soldiers who keep their military equipment at home, including their Swiss army knife.