Limitation (measurement)

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Scheme of Decumanus and Kardo on Cadastral Plan B of Orange. West is up.

Limitation ( Latin limitatio ) describes the Roman surveying system as a general term .

Specifically referred limitatio an act of worship, wherein the main axes of a set were to be established settlement according to which minor axes was then applied, from which a rectangular lattice and thus a first subdivision of the settlement system resulted. The (main) axis , which usually runs in a west-east direction, is called the decumanus (maximus), the (main) axis that runs at right angles to it is called the cardo (maximus).

From the two main axes, there was initially a division into four sub-areas (regiones) :

  • DD VK: dextra decumanum ultra cardinem "to the right of the decumanus, beyond the cardo" (corresponds to the north-west)
  • SD VK: sinistra decumanum ultra cardinem "left of the decumanus, beyond the cardo" (corresponds to the southwest)
  • DD KK: dextra decumanum citra cardinem "to the right of the Decumanus, this side of the Cardo" (corresponds to the northeast)
  • SD KK: sinistra decumanum citra cardinem "left of the Decumanus, this side of the Cardo" (corresponds to the southeast)

The minor axes were numbered with increasing distance from the major axis. For example, VK I was the first minor axis beyond (west) the Cardo , SD III the third minor axis to the left (south) of the Decumanus . This resulted in a system for clearly identifying the intersection points: SD IV KM was the intersection of the 4th minor axis south of the Decumanus with the Cardo maximus (KM). The Decumanus maximus was accordingly designated with DM. The point of intersection of the two main axes (designated DM KM) was called locus gromae (after the measuring instrument used, the groma ) or umbilicus (navel).

One parcel then corresponded to the intersection of the axes given by the system described. Since the distance between the parallel axes was mostly 20 actus (approx. 711 m), the plot areas were 200 iugera (“yoke”) or 100 heredia (“morning”, approx. 50.6 ha), which is why the plots are also centuriae (100 hereadiae = 1 centuria , "large hooves") were called.

The process as a cultic act goes back to the Etruscans , which is why in the early days the limitation was the task of a priest, later the act lost some of its religious significance.

Large-scale Roman limitations can still be seen today in the network of paths and in aerial photographs of some areas, such as in North Africa , Provence , Spain and Istria .

The Roman military camps were also created using this method. The main axes were called via principalis (cardo maximus) or via praetoria (decumanus maximus). The four main gates were called:

  • porta praetoria , the main (eastern) gate
  • porta decumana , the (western) back gate
  • porta principalis dextra , the (northern) right gate of the via principalis
  • porta principalis sinistra , the (southern) left gate of the via principalis

The cardinal directions given in brackets refer to the usual orientation. At the intersection of the two main axes was the Principia , the command building.

For the Greeks, the limitation corresponded to the Hippodamian scheme .


  • Okko Behrends, Luigi Capogrossi Colognesi (ed.): The Roman art of field measurement. Interdisciplinary contributions on their significance for the history of civilization in Rome. Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Göttingen 1992, ISBN 3-525-82480-7 .
  • Heinrich Chantraine : Limitation. In: The Little Pauly (KlP). Volume 3, Stuttgart 1969, column 666 f.
  • Oswald Ashton Wentworth Dilke: The Roman land surveyors. An introduction to the Agrimensores. Hakkert, Amsterdam 1992, ISBN 90-256-1000-5 . Reprint of the 1971 Newton Abbot edition.
  • Ursula Heimberg : Roman land surveying. Limitatio. Small writings on the knowledge of the Roman occupation history of Southwest Germany No. 17. Society for Prehistory and Early History in Württemberg and Hohenzollern / Württembergisches Landesmuseum, Stuttgart 1977.
  • Werner Müller: The holy city - Roma quadrata, Jerusalem and the myth of the world navel. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1961.
  • Charlotte Schubert : Land and Space in the Roman Republic - the art of sharing. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1996, ISBN 3-534-13189-4
  • Sebastian Matz: The Centuriation / Limitation of the Province of Africa - an example of Romanization processes in the Roman Empire? In: Günther Schörner (Ed.), Romanization - Romanization. Theoretical models and practical case studies, British Archaeological Reports International Series 1427, Archaeopress, Oxford 2005, pp. 187-200, ISBN 1-84171-866-1