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The Groma and the Gladius: Roman Surveyors in the Later Republic

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posted on 2021-11-10, 07:23 authored by Morris, Jason C

Boundaries have been a concern for all settled peoples in all times and places. The Romans  were no exception to this rule. Literary documents from the second century B.C. right  through to the end of the Western Empire in the fifth century A.D. show a continuous  preoccupation with the delineation of boundaries and the ownership or control of land. As part of this preoccupation, the Romans developed a complex legal framework for coping with property ownership. To accompany this legal framework, they developed a sophisticated system of boundary marking and land surveying known as centuriation. A great deal of scholarly attention has been expended on understanding both the system of centuriation and the legal framework governing Roman land use. Far less attention has been paid to the social development of the agrimensores or land surveyors who actually carried out the operation of centuriation and dealt with the problems of property disputes in the Imperial period. This thesis will focus on the social identity of the Roman land surveyors with a particular emphasis on understanding their origins in the surveying institutions of the later Republic. To accomplish this study, the thesis will be broken down into three broad chapters, each chapter containing two or three subsections. The first chapter will examine the social identity and evolution of the finitor, who has traditionally been considered the surveyor of the Roman Republic. The second chapter will examine the identity of the agrimensores or mensores in the particular context of the Roman army in an effort to distinguish them from the metatores, three names which have been considered to refer to the same or a similar occupation. The third chapter will examine the mensor in the context of the Roman Republic and trace the social forces that shaped their identity as specialists in land law and surveying.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies


Trundle, Matthew; Pomeroy, Arthur