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Pomerium: Wikis


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The pomerium or pomoerium (Latin, from post + moerium > murum, "wall"), was the sacred boundary of the city of Rome. In legal terms, Rome existed only within the pomerium; everything beyond it was simply land belonging to Rome.


Location and extensions

Tradition maintained that it was the original line ploughed by Romulus around the walls of the original city, and that it was inaugurated by Servius Tullius. It did not follow the line of the Servian walls, although it remained unchanged until the Dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla, in a demonstration of his absolute power, expanded it in 80 BC. Several white cippi stones commissioned by Claudius have been found in situ and several have been found away from their original location. These stones mark the boundaries and relative dimensions of the pomerium extension by Claudius. This extension is recorded in Tacitus. Aulus Gellius also reports extensions by Caesar Augustus, Nero, and Trajan, but no other written or archaeological evidence supports this.

The pomerium was not a walled area (unlike the Chinese Forbidden City), but rather a legally and religiously defined one marked by cippi: It encompassed neither the entire metropolitan area nor even all the proverbial Seven Hills (the Palatine Hill was within the pomerium, but the Capitoline and Aventine Hills were not). The Curia Hostilia and the well of the Comitium in the Forum Romanum, two extremely important locations in the government of the city-state and its empire, were located within the pomerium. The temple of Bellona was beyond the pomerium.

Associated restrictions

  • The magistrates who held imperium did not have full power inside the pomerium. They could have a citizen beaten, but not sentenced to death. This was symbolised by removing the axes from the fasces carried by the magistrate's lictors. Only the dictator's lictors could carry fasces containing axes.
  • Religious and political constraints forbade any anointed sovereign from entering the pomerium. As a result, visits of state were somewhat awkward; Cleopatra, for example, never actually entered the city of Rome when she came to visit Julius Caesar.
  • It was forbidden to bury the dead inside the pomerium. During his life, Julius Caesar received in advance the right to a tomb inside the pomerium, but his ashes were actually placed in his family tomb.[1] However, Trajan's ashes were interred after his death in AD 117 at the foot of his Column,[2] which was within the pomerium.[1]
  • Furthermore, (provincial) promagistrates and generals were forbidden from entering it, and resigned their imperium immediately upon crossing it (as it were the superlative form of the ban on armies entering Italy). As a result, a general waiting to celebrate a triumph with his victorious troops was required to wait outside the pomerium until his triumph. Under the Republic, soldiers also lost their status when entering, becoming citizens. The soldiers when they participated in their general's triumph wore their civilian outfits. The Comitia Centuriata, one of the Roman assemblies, consisting of centuriae (voting units, but originally military battalions within the legions), was required to meet on the Campus Martius outside the pomerium.

Pompey's Theater, where Julius Caesar was murdered, was also outside the pomerium and included a Senate chamber where the Senate could meet with the attendance of individual senators who were forbidden to cross the pomerium and thus would not have been able to meet in the Curia Hostilia.

Weapons were also banned inside the pomerium for religious and traditional reasons. Praetorian guards were allowed in only in civilian dress (toga), and were then called collectively cohors togata. But it was possible to sneak in daggers (the proverbial weapon for political violence, see sicarius). Since Julius Caesar's assassination occurred outside this boundary, the senatorial conspirators could not be charged with blasphemy for carrying weapons inside the sacred city.


  1. ^ a b Beard, Mary; John North and Simon Price (1998). Religions of Rome Volume 1: A History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 180. ISBN 0-521-30401-6. 
  2. ^ Epitome de Caesaribus 13.11; Eutropius 8.5.

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