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PAGUS a canton. The meaning of this word cannot be given in precise and absolute terms, partly because we can have no doubt that its significance varied greatly between the earliest and the later times of Roman history, partly because its application by Latin writers to similar, but not identical, communities outside Italy (especially in Gaul) and their comparison of pagi with the Greek δῆμοι tend to complicate the question. Latium was anciently divided into a number of clan-settlements or villages which were an aggregate of dwellings gathered round a central enclosed or fortified space, an arx or castellum [cf. OPPIDUM]. As regards the terms vicus (οἶκος) and pagus in reference to these ancient settlements, we may gather from various passages that vicus meant houses closely connected, and so a small village or hamlet of a continuous street, pagus a district including scattered houses or scattered hamlets (Varro, L. L. 5.145; Festus, p. 371; Amm. Marc. 31.2, 17; VICUS). This will hold good, whether we take its etymology (pango) to signify “buildings” or “fixed boundary” (cf. Mommsen, Roman Hist. vol. i. p. 38, with Staatsrecht, iii. p. 116). Old writers have connected it with πήγη, the central village well, or with πάγος, i. e. a hill-fort (Festus, s.v. Serv. ad Georg. 2.381; Dionys. A. R. 4.15): but the first would rather suit the vicus or hamlet, since the pagus would have many wells, and the second would do better for the arx than for the district round it. In speaking of clan-settlements, we must guard against the notion that the gens and pagus could be identified the one with the other: the pagus was purely local and would remain, if the main body of the gens dwelling in it migrated elsewhere: so long only as they dwelt there, they would be pagani of that pagus. We cannot even assume that the inhabitants of a pagus were, except perhaps in altogether prehistoric times, members of the same gens. It is [p. 2.310]probable indeed that originally they were so, and that afterwards in some cases two or more gentes might have joined in the same pagus; in others some portions of the old gens or gentes may have left the district, and their places have been filled up by others. Accordingly we find the names of pagi mostly local with the termination--anus, but some few gentile, as pagus Valerius, pagus Julius, or the Roman pagus Lemonius for instance (see Mommsen, Staatsr. 3.113): and even where pagi have gentile names, we cannot always say whether the name belonged to it, as the original clan-settlement, or was given in honour of some member of the gens afterwards connected with it.

Politically, as both Mommsen and Marquardt are careful to point out, the pagus did not form an independent community. Here again, however, we cannot say that this was always true, and the original pagi may have been purely independent clan-settlements: such an opinion would, after all, be in accord with a dictum in Mommsen's Rome, “All history begins, not with the union but with the disunion of a nation.” But whatever the pre-historic condition of these cantons, we know them as only single members of an aggregate state called civitas or populus, which gathered together in fora or conciliabula for markets or for legislation, and, as one people, combined for defensive or offensive warfare. This is indeed clearly indicated by Isidore (Orig. 15.2, 11). The stages were, probably, first the pagus with its own centre of refuge and its own sovereign rights, then several pagi gathering round a common centre for refuge--such, for instance, as Tusculum, which became the urbs or oppidum of the combined pagi, and then a league of various canton centres, such as Alba.

Though, however, the pagus was not (unless in primitive times) an independent state, it had an organisation analogous to that of a collegium: we find that magister pagi=aediles pagi (sometimes a single magister pagi)--whom Dionys. A. R. 2.76, ascribing the institution to Numa, calls πάγων ἄρχοντας--are annually elected with priestly functions, to look after the sacred rites of the pagus, with some police control also of local matters, such as the roads (Siculus Flaccus, p. 146), and perhaps of water-supply (cf. Festus, s. v. sifus): a power of fining the members of the pagus appears in inscriptions (C. I. L. 9.3513), and a common council for such local business (C. I. L. 1.571). It is clear that their administrative importance, whatever it had been once, dwindled to almost nothing,--to nothing in fact, apart from the religious rites, but what necessarily followed on the pagus having common as well as private property,--but to a late period it remained as a geographical term for the district of woodland and tillage outside a town and attached to it for all real administration, containing within itself villages (vici), country houses (villae), and farms (fundi or praedia): often several pagi attached to one large town, as for instance 11 pagi to Beneventum (see Isid. Orig. 15.2, 11; and the inscriptions cited by Marquardt, Staatsr. i. p. 11).

It may be seen from the above description that the pagi resembled in many respects village communes or Gemeinde, particularly those in Switzerland [cf. DEMUS], and they have often been compared to the Attic δῆμος It is highly probable that the primitive δῆμος and the primitive pagus were essentially the same, but it would be misleading to regard them as identical in historic times, as may be readily seen by comparing the accounts in the separate articles. One salient point of difference was that the connexion with the δῆμος was retained whether the members of it dwelt in Athens or not, whereas the contrary was the case with the pagus. Hence Mommsen in his Staatsrecht deprecates the comparison with the δῆμος, and prefers to compare the pagus with the Egyptian νόμος or the subdivision τοπαρχία (for an account of which see Marquardt, Staatsverw. i. pp. 447 f.): it must be observed, however, that the extent and the administrative importance of the nome were much greater than those of the Italian pagus.

At Rome the inhabitants of the old city (for which see SEPTIMONTIUM) were called montani; the accretion of other settlements, or pagi, later included in the city, furnished the pagani. Hence in the age of Cicero montani et pagani would come to mean all the inhabitants of the city, as in Cic. de Domo, 27, 74; Q. Cic. de pet. Cons. 8, 30 (if the reading montium for omnium is adopted). So the Capitol, the Aventine, and the Janiculum were pagi, not montes; and the terms pagus Janicolensis, pagus Aventinensis lasted down to the year B.C. 7, when Augustus re-arranged the city.

The Celtic pagus, at the time of the Roman conquest, had at once a greater extent than the Italian, and a greater power from the fact that these cantons were not in the same way changed from their primitive condition and absorbed into a regularly constituted state, but still retained their own clan government with generally a somewhat loose combination in the civitas (closer, however, among the Belgae than among other Gallic tribes). The political state to some extent represents what Aristotle gives as ἔθνος in contradistinction to πόλις--a people dwelling κατὰ κώμας κεχωρισμένοι. From the direct information which we possess about Gaul, we see that a certain number of pagi made up a civitas (Liv. Ep. 65): of the Helvetii there were four pagi which made up the civitas Helvetica (Caes. Gal. 1.37): and four was probably the normal number, though Caesar (4.1) tells us of the nation which he calls the Suevi with 100 pagi, each contributing 1000 warriors in a national war. The most powerful of the Helvetic pagi was the pagus Tigurinus, whose chief place was Aventicum (Avenches, near the Lake of Morat; (C. I. Helvet. 159). It would seem that the Pays de Vaud to some extent geographically represents the pagus Tigurinus, as etymologically pagus is represented by pays. After the Roman conquest and the dissolution of the Helvetic civitas, the political and administrative importance of the pagus ceases, and it retains only its religious functions (inser. cit.): that the vici subsequently had the power of making decrees is seen in several Helvetic inscriptions (149, 241, &c.). Perhaps some indication of the nature and origin of the Celtic pagus may be found in the fact that Strabo (iv. p.193) calls it φῦλον, and Mommsen (Hermes, xix. p. 316) considers that it resembles [p. 2.311]a Roman tribus in its original composition. In the same article he shows that the clue to the real nature and constitution of these cantons may be found in the account of the Galatian state given in Strabo. The τετραρχία of the Galatians is one-fourth of the cicitas or ἔθνος: each tetrarchy had for matters of justice or for command in war a head-man (τέτραρχος): the office is for life and hereditary (Strabo xii. p.547, πατρῴα τετραρχία τῶν Γαλατῶν: cf. p. 541, τοῖς ἀπὸ γένους τετράρχοις); under the tetrarch are officials called δικαστὴς and στρατοφύλαξ, and two ὑποστρατοφύλακες. There was a national council of the three ἔθνη or civitates who occupied Asia, composed of the twelve tetrarchs and three hundred senators; but except for cases of murder and the national concerns of peace and war, the twelve tetrarchies or pagi had independent local government. For national interests the three ἔθνη at various periods had separate princes, whom Strabo calls ἡγεμόνες or a single ἡγεμὼν for the three combined (Strabo, xii. pp. 566, 567). It is not improbable that we have here an organisation belonging to the Celts in Gaul as well as in Asia. The fourfold division may be traced in the four “kings,” or tetrarchs, of the Cantii (Caes. Gal. 5.22), whom we see acting together in a national war under the leadership of “Cassivellaunus,” but apparently having rule over their respective tetrarchies.

Paganalia.--The Italian pagi had their tutelary deities and sanctuaries, which are mentioned even in Christian times (as in a conservative decree of Constantine, Cod. Theod. 16.10, 3). Here were celebrated in January at the end of seed-time, “semente peracta,” the country paganalia, which corresponded to the feriae sementivae. (Preller, however, believes in a festival at the beginning as well as the end of seed-time: the evidence for his view is not satisfactory.) An offering was made to Tellus (in later times to Ceres) of cakes of meal and a pregnant sow. At this festival also masks or small images were hung up [OSCILLA], and there were games and rustic songs. (Ov. Fast. 1.667 ff.; Dionys. A. R. 4.15; Verg. G. 2.385; Hor. Ep. 1.1, 49; 2.1, 140.) The lustratio pagi at this festival was a rustic Ambarvalia, which, besides its religious significance, had the advantages of fixing the boundaries of the pagus. [AMBARVALIA; LUSTRATIO.] At the festival of the Paganalia the magister pagi presided, and his wife (magistra) assisted.

Pagani.--It remains only to remark on special acquired senses of this word, which strictly meant only those who for the time being dwelt in any pagus. We find pagani used in contradistinction to milites or to armati (Juv. 16.33; Plin. Ep. 7.25, 10.86; Suet. Aug. 27, Galb. 19;--Tac. Hist. 1.53; 2.14, 88; 3.24, 43, 77; 4.20; Dig. 48, 19, 14). From these passages, and especially from Tacitus, taking also notice of the date when the usage began, it is tolerably clear that the original distinction was between the regularly enrolled soldiers and the irregular undrilled half-armed bands of rustics who in the Roman campaigns fought sometimes against them for their country like the rustics in Verg. A. 7.505 or modern francs-tireurs, sometimes in the ranks of one Roman army against another in times of civil war. The famous “Vos nisi vincitis pagani” (Tac. Hist. 3.24) is not the same as Caesar's use of “Quirites” : the word “yokel” might be used, but “militiamen,” i. e. rustic levies, would more nearly express the taunt which Antonius Primus addressed to his soldiers. The more general opposition of the word to miles followed. The modern use of the word “pagan,” from the fact that the old religion lingered most in the rural districts, first appears in a law of Valentinian A.D. 368, when the old religion is called religio paganorum (Cod. Theod. 16.2, 18; cf. Isid. 8.10).

(For the pagus, see Mommsen, Rom. Hist. 1.37-40; Staatsrecht, iii. pp. 112-119; Marquardt, Staatsverwaltung, i. pp. 1.3-15;--for the Gallic pagi, Mommsen in Hermes, 16.449 ff, 19.316 ff.;--for the paganalia, Marquardt, Staatsverw. 3.199; Preller, Röm. Myth. 404.)


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  • Cross-references from this page (18):
    • null, 8
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 1.37
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 5.22
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 7.505
    • Vergil, Georgics, 2.385
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 27
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 2.14
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 2.88
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 3.24
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 3.43
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 3.77
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 4.20
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 1.53
    • Pliny the Younger, Epistulae, 7.25
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 31.2.17
    • Horace, Epistulae, 1.1
    • Horace, Epistulae, 2.1
    • Ovid, Fasti, 1
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