16 May 2023

What is pomerium? – Discover the meaning of the Roman pomerium

By Donald

the pomerium it’s a sacred border which was marked by several large stones at the changes of direction and which allowed the delimitation of the city of Rome. This border was characterized by being an imaginary line, since it did not have any wall that separated Rome from the rest of the lands. So, if you want to know what it is, who created it, what was the goal and more, here we show you.

Definition and concept of pomerium

the pomerium is an imaginary line which was religiously and legally defined to mark the sacred border of the city of Rome. This was delimited in an intangible way, since it did not follow the line of any wall. Not even the Servian Wall, which was one of the most famous barriers around Rome and was built in the fourth century BC of the Gregorian calendar.

The pomerium, from the Latin ‘postmoerium’ meaning ‘past the wall’, is an imaginary sacred border that it did not cover the entire metropolitan area of ​​Rome. It even excluded the seven hills from its borders. Although the Palatine Hill, which is the most central of the seven hills, was within the terrain. But that excluded Mount Capiton and the Aventine. The latter, being important points within the economy and control of the city.

Legally, it was established that Rome was only what existed inside the pomerium. However, all the land outside this border was still land that belonged to Rome, but was not itself part of the city as such. Likewise, within the jurisdiction of the imperium and its laws, any funeral event within this border was completely prohibited. Even the dead could not be buried, no matter who it was, since it was considered the ground of the Roman gods.

From this border, the only thing that has been found have been rare stones and cairns that marked the city limit in some points. Likewise, small descriptions and legends are obtained that allow us to know how the Roman Empire was managed in antiquity.

What was the purpose of the pomerium?

The pomerium had the objective of acting as a fronteer that isolated the city of Rome from the rest of the land. This had a high relevance for the Roman religion, due to the fact that it affected a large number of laws and rules, in addition to prohibitions, which could only be carried out within these borders.

For example, the pomerium It helped to distinguish the nobles from the commoners, since the latter were restricted from entering the city of Rome. Although, it should be noted that this restriction lasted until the mandate of Augustus, who sought that those people who did not have imperium (military power) or who were not part of the Senate, could enter the city with some limitations.

Likewise, these limitations did not only exist for mortals, since even some gods were forbidden to enter. Because it was considered a sacred field, only the Roman gods, who each had their own temple within the city, were allowed to enter. On the other hand, those gods imported from other cultures could not touch the soil or the sacred air of Rome.

In this way, as the years passed, the pomerium ceased to be a fictitious line, since signs were later established in order to show people where the holy city began. During the time of the Empire, it was marked by blocks of various minerals of approximately 2 meters. These were only found in places where the pomerium changed direction.

Who created the pomerium?

There is not very clear information about who was the original creator of the pomerium. However, Roman legends say that it was Romulus who created the pomerium, which only delimited the Palatine area. This, being the founder of Rome, could have made a border that helped distinguish the city from the rest of the lands. Some excavations have even managed to find a circuit made of large rocks and walls that are believed to be the physical representation of the pomerium.

However, this border was officially inaugurated by Servio Tulio, the sixth king of Rome. This king was one of the first to modify and expand the pomerium, thus making the first extension. Then, it was not until the emperors Cesar, Claudius and Vespasian that they modified the number of hectares that shelter the city of Rome.

How long was the pomerium respected?

The pomerium was respected since the creation of the sacred city of Rome, even during the execution and presence of the Roman Empire. Although there is no date Exactly from what year this border was not stopped being respected. However, it is said that it was after the appearance of Christ, around the first century, after the exercise of the imperium stopped being practiced.