The goal of this project was to determine what qualities the boundaries of ancient Rome possessed, and to comment on those qualities in a monograph.


In Roman culture there were a multitude of spatial conceptions which enabled the tangible natural space to be structured as a cultural space. Given the size and complexity of the Roman Empire, it is no wonder there was a large number of borders and boundaries of varying degrees of importance. There are surviving examples of borders that were defined in architectural terms: temples and city walls are just as important here as borders which delimited fields or, in the form of ramparts, towers, fortifications, walls and forts, served not only to defend the Roman Empire, but also to structure transportation routes. But borders could also be indicated through clearly defined points (boundary stones) and finally through processions and circumambulation. They marked diverse spaces as falling within a specific jurisdiction or as subject to certain regulations.

The ancient city of Rome was itself characterized by diverse, coexisting boundary systems of varying degrees of importance. There were essentially two border systems, which competed with each other and differed in terms of importance: On the one hand, there were borders that played a constitutional and administrative role. On the other hand there were those defined by the pontifices, and especially by the priesthood of the augurs, as mediators between human and divine spheres. These borders had constitutional and religious significance as a part of the sacral landscape. Among the augurs, the auspices were of particular importance to Roman culture, for it is in this area more than any other that politics and religion came together; indeed, public ceremonies were very rarely performed without auspicium.

Preparatory work on the borders of Rome has already been done in the first funding-phase of Topoi (research group B-I-2 “Fuzzy Borders”, and C-III “Acts”). The goal of the current project was to build on the approaches developed in Topoi I and to release a joint publication by a group of authors. Where applicable, the individual chapters also included research by other Topoi fellows based on surveys of border temples or the excavation of a border temple.

The research explicated the various qualities of borders, both those that were physically determined by city walls and stones and those that were defined through rituals, so that subsequent research could lead to an understanding of how the competing borders of Rome shaped the perception of space and behavior in space. This research also investigated the interdependence between borders and ideological conceptions (imperium sine fine etc.).

So far a documentation of Etruscan headstones (cippi) in the National Roman Museum Terme di Diocleziano has been organised by the photographical department of the DAI Rome. In the meantime a large list of literature and sources is available.

The workshop “Prestige und politische Intention von Großbauwerken im Zeitalter des Hellenismus und der römischen Kaiserzeit” (Rome 2015) has been focusing on the project´s research subject.