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'From Territorium to Territory' talk by Professor Stuart Elden at CCIG Forum 14

In this talk, given as part of CCIG Forum 14 Professor Stuart Elden from Durham University asks; what is the Latin word for ‘territory’? How should we translate territorium?

This talk will suggest that neither question has a straight-forward answer. Beginning with the rare instances of the use of the word territorium in classical Latin, I discuss the variant meanings given to the term in Cicero, Varro, and Pomponius. Rather, in writers such as Caesar, Tacitus and Livy a number of different expressions are used to outline control of terrain and possession of land. The term becomes more common in the early Middle Ages, in writers such as Isidore of Seville and Gregory of Tours. Yet even here the term admits of a number of meanings and can only crudely be equated with ‘territory’. The last part of the paper shows how the question of territorium became a key concern in debates around the interpretation of Roman law in the fourteenth century. In the post-glossators territorium becomes the object of jurisdiction, of political and legal power, and defines its extent. It thus becomes a term much closer to the contemporary meaning of ‘territory’. The talk concludes with some discussion of why thinking territory historically is helpful in understanding contemporary global politics.


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