John Hessler, Fellow Royal Geographical Society* - Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division
The practice of Roman land surveying and cartography provided the basis for the future western form of the discipline and is well attested to in documentary evidence such as the 6th century compilation of surveying manuals known as Corpus Agrimensorum. Physical evidence for Roman surveying and cartography can be found in the form of epigraphic inscriptions on cadastral maps, such as the Orange cadasters, the Henchir Mettich Inscription, the inscriptions found on boundary stones, and in the form of surviving field lines from Italy, France, and most importantly, North Africa.
The following paper seeks to synthesize the surviving physical and documentary evidence from Roman surveying and mapping practices to show that the beginnings of what we consider cartography, at least in the west, stemmed from important economic and political innovations in Roman agrarian law, and the politics of colonial land ownership and taxation. The theoretical foundation for this study finds its inspiration in Max Weber's doctorial dissertation, Die Römische Agrargeschichte in ihrer Bedeutung für das Staats- und Privatrecht (Roman Agrarian History and its significance in private and public law), written in 1891. Weber attempted to show that new institutions brought about by private land ownership and the social implications of changes in Roman agrarian law led to significant shifts in the political and social perceptions of the concept of territory. In this study we will extend Weber's ideas and discuss the origin of the cadastral map as an outgrowth of these changing social and legal perceptions.