Antonietta Castiello


Participation, Religion and Identity Building: The Roman Pomerium.

In Roman understanding, the pomerium was a sacred boundary delineating the primordial housing area of a newly founded city. The word is a contraction of post-moerium i.e. beyond the (city) walls, as the original term defined a stretch of land along the inside and outside of the city walls where neither housing nor farming was permitted to not impair the military function of the walls. Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome, marked the pomerium with the help of a plough, thus drawing a symbolic line of demarcation defining who belonged to the community of Roman citizens and who did not. So, the pomerium marked a physical and a social as well as political boundary. When looking at the social and political meaning, participation is to be at the heart of the idea of the pomerium, touching upon questions of inclusion and exclusion. Indeed, the formation of a city’s pomerium did not only shape the territory that formed the core area of the new polity, but also included the symbolic act of a ritual to distinguish the native inhabitants of that area as “core population” of the newly founded city. Participating in this ritual granted the status of citizen to everybody taking part in the religious ceremony irrespective whether they belonged to the noble families or not.

It is the objective of this project to study the concept of the pomerium under the perspective of participation. To achieve this, we first need to have a closer look at the structure of Roman society, which consisted of the plebs - the common people - and the patricians, the most ancient and renowned noble families having peculiar rights. These two classes of Roman society were in conflict with each other.

Second, the role of religion as a means of participation has to be determined. Since the invention of the pomerium has not yet been considered under this point of view, it will be important to analyse all factors contributing to the sacred boundary’s role in processes of inclusion and exclusion.

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