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Pagus

Pagus

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. Previously it had been an informal designation for a rural district, as flexible in regard to its imprecise borders as the cultural horizons of those folk whose lives were circumscribed by their locality: agricultural workers, peasants, slaves. Within the reduced area of Diocletian's subdivided provinces, the pagi 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 rural center called 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.

Away from the administrative center, whether that was the seat of a bishop, a walled town or merely a fortified village, the inhabitants of the outlying districts, the pagi, tended to cling to the old ways and gave their name to "pagans": see Pagan.

True to its Greek origin pagos ("that which is fixed"), 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.

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