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A ''pagus'' (plural ''pagi'') was a Roman administrative term designating a rural subdivision of a tribal territory, which included individual farms, villages ('' vici''), and strongholds (''
oppida An ''oppidum'' (plural ''oppida'') is a large fortified Iron Age The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age system, three-age division of the prehistory and protohistory of Homo sapiens, humanity. It was preceded by the Stone Age (Pal ...
'') serving as refuges, as well as an early medieval geographical term. From the reign of
Diocletian Diocletian (; la, Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus; born Diocles; 22 December c. 244 – 3 December 311) was from 284 to 305. Born to a family of low status in , Diocletian rose through the ranks of the military to become a commander of ...
(284–305 AD) onwards, the ''pagus'' referred to the smallest administrative unit of a
province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many similar terms, are g ...
. These geographical units were used to describe territories in the
Merovingian The Merovingian dynasty () was the ruling family of the Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of whose name was first mentioned in 3rd-century Roman sources, and associated with tribes between the and the , on the edge of the ...
and
Carolingian The Carolingian dynasty (known variously as the Carlovingians, Carolingus, Carolings, Karolinger or Karlings) was a Frankish Frankish may refer to: * Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples The historic ...
periods, without any political or administrative meaning.


Etymology

Pāgus is a native
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...
word from a root pāg-, a lengthened grade of
Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together with those of the northern Indian subcontinent and the Iranian Plateau. Some European languages of ...
*pag-, a verbal root, "fasten", which in the word may be translated as "boundary staked out on the ground". In
semantics Semantics (from grc, σημαντικός ''sēmantikós'', "significant") is the study of reference Reference is a relationship between objects in which one object designates, or acts as a means by which to connect to or link to, another ...
, *pag- used in pāgus is a
stative verb According to some linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic anal ...
with an unmarked
lexical aspect Lexical may refer to: Linguistics * Lexical corpus or lexis, a complete set of all words in a language * Lexical itemIn lexicography, a lexical item (or lexical unit / LU, lexical entry) is a single word, a part of a word, or a chain of words ( ...
of state resulting from completed action: "it is having been staked out", converted into a
noun A noun () is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many l ...

noun
by -us, a type recognizable in English adjectives such as surveyed, defined, noted, etc. English does not use the noun: "the surveyed", but Latin characteristically does. Considering that the ancients marked out municipal districts with boundary stones, the root meaning is nothing more than land surveyed for a municipality with stakes and later marked by boundary stones, a process that has not changed over the millennia. Earlier hypotheses concerning the derivation of pāgus suggested that it is a Greek loan from either ', "village well", or ', "hill-fort". William Smith opposed these on the grounds that neither the well nor the hill-fort appear in the meaning of pāgus. The word ''pagus'' is the origin of the word for
country A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutionalisation, institutionalized social ...

country
in
Romance languages The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin is a range of informal sociolects of Latin Latin (, or , ) ...

Romance languages
, such as ''pays'' (French) and ''país'' (Spanish).


Roman usage

In
classical Latin Classical Latin is the form of Latin language Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestur ...
, ''pagus'' referred to a country district or to a community within a larger
polity A polity is an identifiable political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions In psychology, decision-making (also spelled decision making and decisionmaking) is regarded as the Cognition, cog ...
;
Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome *', shortened ...

Julius Caesar
, for instance, refers to ''pagi'' within the greater polity of the
Celtic The words Celt and Celtic (also Keltic) may refer to: Ethno-linguistics *Celts The Celts (, see pronunciation of ''Celt'' for different usages) are. "CELTS location: Greater Europe time period: Second millennium B.C.E. to present ancestry: ...

Celtic
Helvetii The Helvetii ( ), anglicized as Helvetians, were a Celts, Celtic tribe or tribal confederation occupying most of the Swiss plateau at the time of their Switzerland in the Roman era, contact with the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC. Accord ...
. The ''pagus'' and ''
vicus In Ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian ...
'' (a small nucleated settlement or village) are characteristic of pre-urban organization of the countryside. In Latin
epigraphy Epigraphy () is the study of inscriptions, or epigraphs, as writing Writing is a medium of human communication that involves the representation of a language with written symbols. Writing systems are not themselves human languages (with th ...
of the Republican era, ''pagus'' refers to local territorial divisions of the peoples of the central
Apennines The Apennines or Apennine Mountains (; grc-gre, links=no, Ἀπέννινα ὄρη or Ἀπέννινον ὄρος; la, Appenninus or  – a singular with plural meaning;''Apenninus'' (Greek or ) has the form of an adjective, which woul ...

Apennines
and is assumed to express local social structures as they existed variously. As an informal designation for a rural district, ''pagus'' was a flexible term to encompass the cultural horizons of "folk" whose lives were circumscribed by their locality: agricultural workers, peasants, slaves. Within the reduced area of Diocletian's subdivided provinces, the ''pagani'' could have several kinds of focal centers. Some were administered from a city, possibly the seat of a bishop; other ''pagi'' were administered from a ''vicus'' that might be no more than a cluster of houses and an informal market; yet other ''pagi'' in the areas of the great agricultural estates (''
latifundia A latifundium is a very extensive parcel of privately owned land. The latifundia (Latin: ''latus'', "spacious" and ''fundus'', "farm, estate") of Roman Empire, Roman history were great landed property, landed estates specializing in agriculture dest ...
'') were administered through the
villa with early terraced hillside landscape A landscape is the visible features of an area of land Land is the solid surface of Earth that is not permanently submerged in water. Most but not all land is situated at elevations above sea leve ...
at the center. The historian of Christianity Peter Brown has pointed out that in its original sense ''paganus'' meant a civilian or commoner, one who was excluded from power and thus regarded as of lesser account; away from the administrative center, whether that was the seat of a bishop, a walled town or merely a fortified village, such inhabitants of the outlying districts, the ''pagi'', tended to cling to the old ways and gave their name to "pagans"; the word was used pejoratively by Christians in the
Latin West Greek East and Latin West are terms used to distinguish between the two parts of the Greco-Roman world Roman Theatre of Mérida, Spain. The term "Greco-Roman world" (also "Greco-Roman culture" or ; spelled Graeco-Roman in the Commonwealth), ...
to demean those who declined to convert from the traditional religions of antiquity.


Post-Roman ''pagus''

The concept of the ''pagus'' survived the collapse of the Empire of the West. In the Frankish kingdoms of the 8th–9th centuries, however, the ''pagus'' had come to serve as a local geographical designation rather than an administrative unit. Particular localities were often named as parts of more than one ''pagus'', sometimes even within the same document. Historians traditionally considered the ''pagus'' under the
Carolingian Empire The Carolingian Empire (800–888) was a large Frankish Frankish may refer to: * Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples The historical Germanic peoples (from lat, Germani) are a category of ancient nort ...
to be the territory held by a count, but Carolingian sources never refer to counts of particular ''pagi'', and from the 10th century on the "county" or ''comitatus'' was sometimes explicitly contrasted to the ''pagus''. Unlike the ''comitati'', the centers of which are often identifiable as the count's seat, towns are not known to have derived any special political significance from serving as the ostensible centers of ''pagi''. The majority of modern French ''pays'' are roughly coextensive with the old counties (e.g., county of
Comminges The Comminges (; Gascon language, Gascon: ''Comenge'') is an ancient region of southern France in the foothills of the Pyrenees, corresponding closely to the arrondissement of Saint-Gaudens in the departments of France, department of Haute-Garonne. ...

Comminges
, county of
Ponthieu Ponthieu (, ) was one of six feudal counties that eventually merged to become part of the Province of Picardy Picardy (; Picard and french: Picardie, , ) is a historical territory and a former administrative region of France France (), ...
, etc.) For instance, at the beginning of the 5th century, when the '' Notitia provinciarum et civitatum Galliae'' was drawn up, the Provincia Gallia Lugdunensis Secunda formed the ecclesiastical province of
Rouen Rouen (, ; or ) is a city on the River Seine in northern France. It is the prefecture of the Regions of France, region of Normandy (administrative region), Normandy and the Departments of France, department of Seine-Maritime. Formerly one of ...

Rouen
, with six suffragan sees; it contained seven cities (''
civitates In the history of Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg , map ...
''). The province of Rouen included the ''civitas'' of Rotomagus (Rouen), which formed the ''pagus Rotomagensis'' (
Roumois The Roumois () is a region in the northwestern part of the Eure Eure () is a department in the north of France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a country primarily located in Western ...

Roumois
); in addition there were the ''pagi'' ''Caletus'' (
Pays de Caux The Pays de Caux (, , literally ''Lands of Caux'') is an area in Normandy Normandy (; french: link=no, Normandie ; nrf, Normaundie; from Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language of the Ind ...
), ''Vilcassinus'' (the
Vexin Vexin () is an historical county of northwestern France. It covers a verdant plateau on the right bank (north) of the Seine ) , mouth_location = Le Havre Le Havre (, ; nrf, Lé Hâvre) is an urban French Communes of France, commune a ...
), the ''Tellaus'' ( Talou);
Bayeux Bayeux () is a commune An intentional community is a voluntary residential community designed from the start to have a high degree of group cohesiveness, social cohesion and teamwork. The members of an intentional community typically ho ...

Bayeux
, the pagus Bajocassinus (
Bessin The Bessin is an area in Normandy Normandy (; french: link=no, Normandie ; nrf, Normaundie; from Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the ...
, including briefly in the 9th century the ''Otlinga Saxonia''); that of
Lisieux Lisieux () is a commune An intentional community is a voluntary residential community designed from the start to have a high degree of group cohesiveness, social cohesion and teamwork. The members of an intentional community typically ho ...
the pagus Lexovinus (
Lieuvin
Lieuvin
); that of
Coutances Coutances () is a commune An intentional community is a voluntary residential community designed from the start to have a high degree of group cohesiveness, social cohesion and teamwork. The members of an intentional community typically h ...

Coutances
the p. Corilensis and p. Constantinus (
Cotentin The Cotentin Peninsula (, ; nrf, Cotentîn ), also known as the Cherbourg Peninsula, is a peninsula in Normandy Normandy (; french: link=no, Normandie ; nrf, Normaundie; from Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( ...

Cotentin
); that of
Avranches Avranches () is a Communes of France, commune in the Manche department in the Normandy region in northwestern France. It is a subprefecture of the department. The inhabitants are called ''Avranchinais''. History By the end of the Roman Empire, Ro ...

Avranches
the p. Abrincatinus (
Avranchin The Avranchin is an area in Normandy, France corresponding to the territory of the Abrincatui, a tribe of Celts The Celts (, see pronunciation of ''Celt'' for different usages) are. "CELTS location: Greater Europe time period: Second mille ...

Avranchin
); that of Sez the p. Oximensis (
Hiémois Exmes is a former Communes of France, commune in the Orne Departments of France, department in north-western France. On 1 January 2017, it was merged into the new commune Gouffern en Auge.Evreux
Evreux
the p. Ebroicinus (Evrecin) and p. Madriacensis (pays de Madrie). The Welsh successor kingdom of
Powys Powys (; ) is a county A county is a geographical region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geography), and the interaction of hu ...
derived its name from ''pagus'' or ''pagenses'', and gives its name to the modern . The ''pagus'' was the equivalent of what English-speaking historians sometimes refer to as the "Carolingian shire", which in German is the '' Gau''. In Latin texts, a
canton Canton may refer to: Administrative division terminology * Canton (administrative division), territorial/administrative division in some countries, notably Switzerland * Township (Canada), known as ''canton'' in Canadian French Arts and entert ...
of the is rendered ''pagus''.


Notes


Bibliography


Ivan Sache, "The formation of the French provinces"


External links

* {{Types of administrative country subdivision Western Roman Empire Subdivisions of the Roman Empire Types of administrative division