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date: 03 December 2020


  • Ian Archibald Richmond,
  • John North
  •  and Andrew Lintott

Pomerium—explained in antiquity as meaning what comes after, or before, the wall—was the line demarcating an augurally constituted city. It was a religious boundary, the point beyond which the auspicia urbana (see auspicium) could not be taken (Varro, Ling. 5. 143), and was distinct both from the city-wall and the limit of actual habitation, although it might coincide with the former and was often understood as the strip inside or outside the wall (cf. Livy 1. 44; Plut.Rom. 11). Almost every aspect of the history of the pomerium of Rome is debatable. Our sources refer to an original Palatine pomerium, later extended by Servius Tullius and then unchanged until Sulla’s day (sources in Lugli, Fontes 2. 125 ff.); Tacitus (Ann. 12. 24), perhaps following the emperor Claudius, describes a circuit round the Palatine. Although this circuit has been thought to result from confusion with the circuit of the Lupercalia, recent excavations on the north-east slope of the Palatine have revealed a series of ditches and walls from the regal period, which seem from their size to be more of symbolic value than a real system of defence and thus perhaps confirm the literary tradition. Varro's account (Ling. 5. 46–54) of the city of the four regions may correspond to the pomerium at some early date. Gellius (NA 13. 14. 4–7, quoting the augur M. Valerius Messalla ‘Rufus’, consul 53 bce), mentions extensions by Sulla—perhaps to be connected with the boundary-stones to the Campus Esquilinus (ILLRP 485)—and also by Caesar (cf. Cic.Att. 13. 20; Dio 43. 50. 1). On the other hand, Augustus' silence in Res gestae suggests that he made none, despite the statement of Tacitus (Ann. 12. 23). Later extensions were made by Claudius, who was the first to include the Aventine (Tac. loc. cit.; Gell. loc. cit.; CIL 6. 31537a–d, 37023–4; Not. Scav.1912, 197; 1913, 68), and by Vespasian (CIL 6. 31538a–c; Not. Scav.1933, 241; cf. CIL 6. 930. 14–16). The cippi (boundary stones) dating from Hadrian (CIL 6. 31539a–c; Not. Scav.1933, 241) seem only to be restorations, while the account of Aurelian's later extension is doubtful (SHA Aurelian 21). The imperial pomerium, as loosely defined by the cippi, is thought to have coincided on the east with the republican wall, breaking away to include the Aventine and the Emporium, the southern half of the Campus Martius and all the Pincian hill, at the last point extending beyond Aurelian's later wall.


  • M. Labrousse, Mélanges d'archéologie et d'histoire 1937.
  • P. Grimal, Mélanges d'archéologie et d'histoire 1959.
  • E. Rodríguez-Almeida, Rendiconti della pontificia accademia romana di archeologia 1978–1979.
  • Bolletino della Commissione Archeologica Communale in Rome 1986, 411 ff.