Sharing out land: two passages in the Corpus agrimensorum romanorum

Classical Quarterly 45 (02):540- (1995)

Virgil, in his description of the establishment of a new city by Aeneas for those Trojans who wished to remain in Sicily, is thinking of the Roman practice of colonial foundation: ‘Meanwhile Aeneas marked out the city with the plough and allocated the houses ’. We may note the personal role of the founder, the ploughing of the ritual first furrow, the organized grants to the settlers and the equality of treatment implied in the use of lot . Virgil was writing at the end of the first century B.C. at a time of great activity in land distribution, but the Romans had been founding colonies from the mid fourth century. Each colony involved the creation of an urban area and the settlement of people on the surrounding agricultural land, and so perpetuated the city state, which was central to ancient life and culture. Indeed a colony was a smaller image of Rome itself. In the early Republic, colonies, either of Latins or of Roman citizens, were established on the periphery of Roman territory, largely for military and strategic reasons. Between 200 and 173 B.C. more than 40,000 may have received plots of land, amounting to about 1,000 square miles of territory. Later, the motives for colonial foundations became more complex, being closely connected with increasing economic and political problems. There can have been few more important aspects in the development of colonies than the need to find land for discharged troops. These in the main were rank and file soldiers who would expect equal shares in land allocations
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DOI 10.1017/S0009838800043603
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