Helvetia is the female national personification of Switzerland, officially Confœderatio Helvetica, the Swiss Confederation. The name is a derivation of the ethnonym Helvetii, the name of the Gaulish tribe inhabiting the Swiss Plateau prior to the Roman conquest.
The fashion of depicting the Swiss Confederacy in terms of female allegories arises in the 17th century. This replaced an earlier convention, popular in the 1580s, of representing Switzerland as a bull (Schweizer Stier).
On federal Swiss coinage, Helvetia was first represented seated, then in a re-design during the 1870-ies Karl Schwenzer introduced Libertas on the centime denominations and this portrait of Helvetia on the 5 Francs denomination. It was only issued until 1916, when the obverse was changed to the current design by Paul Burkhard.
Smaller denominations of current Swiss francs (half franc, one franc and two francs) display Helvetia Standing, in a flowing gown, with a spear and a shield emblazoned with the Swiss flag.