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"Pagi" redirects here. For the Greek city, see Pagoi.
Pagi in Burgundy, 9th century

In the later Western Roman Empire, following the reorganization of Diocletian, a pagus (compare French pays, Spanish pago, "a region, terroir") became the smallest administrative district of a province. By that time the word had long been in use with various meanings. Smith's Dictionary says of it, "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 of its application by Latin writers to similar, but not identical, communities outside Italy ..."[1]

Etymology[edit]

Pāgus is a native Latin word from a root pāg-, a lengthened grade of Indo-European *pag-, a verbal root, "fasten" (English peg), which in the word may be translated as "boundary staked out on the ground."[2] In semantics, *pag- used in pāgus is a stative verb with an unmarked lexical aspect of state resulting from completed action: "it is having been staked out," converted into a 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 πήγη, "village well," or πάγος, "hill-fort." William Smith opposed these on the grounds that neither the well nor the hill-fort appear in the meaning of pāgus.[1]

Roman usage[edit]

In classical Latin, pagus referred to a country district or to a community within a larger polity;[3] Julius Caesar, for instance, refers to pagi within the greater polity of the Celtic Helvetii.[4]

The pagus and vicus (a small nucleated settlement or village) are characteristic of pre-urban organization of the countryside. In Latin epigraphy of the Republican era, pagus refers to local territorial divisions of the peoples of the central Apennines and is assumed to express local social structures as they existed variously.[5]

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) were administered through the villa 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 to demean those who declined to convert from the traditional religions of antiquity.[6]

Post-Roman pagus[edit]

The pagus survived the collapse of the Empire of the West, retained to designate the territory controlled by a Merovingian or Carolingian count (comes). Within its boundaries, the smaller subdivision of the pagus was the manor. The majority of modern French pays are roughly coextensive with the old counties (e.g., county of Comminges, county of Ponthieu, etc.) To take an instance, at the beginning of the 5th century, when the Notitia provinciarum was drawn up, the Provincia Gallia Lugdunensis Secunda formed the ecclesiastical province of Rouen, with six suffragan sees; it contained seven cities (civitates). For civil purposes, the province was divided into a number of pagi: the civitas of Rotomagus (Rouen) formed the pagus Rotomagensis (Roumois); in addition there were the pagi Caletus (Pays de Caux), Vilcassinus (the Vexin), the Tellaus (Talou); Bayeux, the pagus Bajocassinus (Bessin), and the Otlinga Saxonia; that of Lisieux the pagus Lexovinus (Lieuvin); that of Coutances the p. Corilensis and p. Constantinus (Cotentin); that of Avranches the p. Abrincatinus (Avranchin); that of Sez the p. Oximensis (Hiémois), the p. Sagensis and p. Corbonensis (Corbonnais); and that of Evreux the p. Ebroicinus (Evrecin) and p. Madriacensis (pays de Madrie) (EB "Normandy").

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 of the Helvetic Confederacy is rendered pagus.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Smith, William; Wayte, William; Marindin, George Eden (1891). "Pagus". A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. Volume 2 (Third ed.). London: John Murray. pp. 309–311. 
  2. ^ Watkins, Calvert (1992). "Indo-European Roots". pag-. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Third ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 
  3. ^ Oxford Latin Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1982, 1985 printing), entry on pagus, p. 1283.
  4. ^ Commentarii de Bello Gallico 1.12.4: nam omnis civitas Helvetia in quattuor pagos divisa est ("for the Helvetian nation as a whole was divided into four cantons"). Pagus in this sense is sometimes translated "tribe"; the choice of "canton" may be influenced by later usage of the word in regard to Helvetia.
  5. ^ Guy Jolyon Bradley, Ancient Umbria: State, Culture, and Identity in Central Italy from the Iron Age to the Augustan Era (Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 56 online.
  6. ^ Peter Brown, entry on "Pagan," Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Postclassical World, edited by G.W. Bowersock, Peter Brown, and Oleg Grabar (Harvard University Press, 1999), p. 625 online: "The adoption of paganus by Latin Christians as an all-embracing, pejorative term for polytheists represents an unforeseen and singularly long-lasting victory, within a religious group, of a word of Latin slang originally devoid of religious meaning. The evolution occurred only in the Latin west, and in connection with the Latin church. Elsewhere, 'Hellene' or 'gentile' (ethnikos) remained the word for 'pagan'; and paganos continued as a purely secular term, with overtones of the inferior and the commonplace."

Bibliography[edit]


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2024 news items

Irish Times

Irish Times
Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:00:00 -0700

Verona is surrounded by some of the most famous wine-growing regions of Italy, Valpolicella, Amarone and Soave. Pagus Wine Tours in Verona organise daily tours to the wine regions. You have a choice of visiting a vineyard for an afternoon, take in ...

GhanaWeb

GhanaWeb
Fri, 24 Jul 2015 05:33:45 -0700

Pagus:Africa”, a non-governmental organization working in the Ho Airfield Basic School has scaled down its activities in the school. This followed hostile reactions from the school, the local community and some officials of the Ghana Education Service ...

Atlantico.fr

Atlantico.fr
Sat, 23 Apr 2016 01:03:45 -0700

Chaque village, chaque vallée, a fortiori chaque pays – ces petites unités locales, pays de Bray, pays de Caux, etc., dont le nom dérive du pagus gaulois –, chaque ville, chaque région, chaque province ont leur originalité nette. Et pas seulement les ...

Umbria Journal il sito degli umbri

Umbria Journal il sito degli umbri
Sun, 06 Mar 2016 04:54:57 -0800

Dieci anni fa il progetto europeo Interreg III C Pagus (di cui la Regione Umbria ne era capofila e il Comune di Perugia partner insieme alla Spagna con la Xunta de Galicia, il Portogallo con l'Associaçao Municipios AMAVE, la Grecia con l'Est ...

The Times Herald

The Times Herald
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 16:57:41 -0800

Visitors to the Norristown Art Building's opening reception for the Pagus Gallery mingle, discuss art, and enjoy refreshments. Photo by Brendan Wills\Times Herald Staff. NORRISTOWN — The Norristown Arts Building held its opening reception for the ...
 
Le Républicain Lorrain
Sat, 26 Dec 2015 20:20:29 -0800

Le n° 60 de Pagus Orniensis est sorti juste à temps pour garnir la hotte du père Noël. Quelques sujets passionnants à lire y sont proposés par les membres de La Mémoire du Pays de l'Orne. La revue peut-être achetée au siège de l'association. Au menu ...
 
Le Huffington Post
Mon, 18 Apr 2016 08:33:45 -0700

Ceux qui cultivent le "pagus" ou "pays" sont pourtant bien des paysans si l'on s'en tient à l'étymologie. Les paysans de 2016 se revendiquent comme les tenants d'un monde proche de la nature et qui travaillent - surtout une grande partie des éleveurs ...

Comic Book Resources

Comic Book Resources
Sun, 03 Apr 2011 08:37:33 -0700

Today we look at Michael Kupperman's Tales Designed to Thrizzle #1. The problem was picking the funniest bit from this great issue, which had a number of awesome one-page jokes. I've decided on Pagus. NOTE: The following comic contain blasphemy!
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