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p31 Agger

Unsigned article on p31 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

AGGER (χῶμα), from ad and gero, was used in general for a heap or mound of any kind which might be made of stones, wood, earth or any other substance. It was more particularly applied to a mound, usually composed of earth, which was raised round a besieged town, and which was gradually increased in breadth and height, till it equalled or overtopped the walls. Hence we find the expressions aggere oppidum oppugnare, aggere oppidum cingere; and the making of the agger is expressed by the verbs exstruere, construere, jacere, facere, &c. Some of these aggeres were gigantic works, flanked with towers to defend the workmen and soldiers, and surmounted by parapets, behind which the soldiers could discharge missiles upon the besieged towns. At the siege of Avaricum, Caesar raised in twenty-five days an agger 330 feet broad, and 80 feet high (B.G. VII.24). As the agger was sometimes made of wood, hurdles, and similar materials, we sometimes read of its being set on fire (Liv. XXVI.23; Caes. B. G. VII.24, B. C. II.14, 15). The word agger was also applied to the earthen wall surrounding a Roman encampment, composed of the earth dug from the ditch (fossa) which was usually nine feet broad and seven feet deep; but if any attack was apprehended, the depth was increased to twelve feet, and the breadth to thirteen feet. Sharp stakes, &c., were usually fixed upon the agger, which was then called vallum. When both words are used (as in Caesar, B. G. VII.72, agger ac vallum), the agger means the mound of earth; and the vallum the sharp stakes (valli), which were fixed upon the agger.

At Rome the formidable rampart erected by Servius Tullius to protect the western side of Rome was called agger. It extended from the further extremity of the Quirinal to that of the Esquiline. It was fifty feet broad, having a wall on the top, defended by towers, and beneath it was a ditch a hundred feet wide and thirty feet deep (Cic. de Rep. II.6; Dionys. IX.68). Pliny (H. N. III.5 s9) attributes the erection of this rampart to Tarquinius Superbus, but this is in opposition to all the other ancient writers who speak of the matter.


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