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p651 Jugerum (Jugus)

Article by Philip Smith, B.A., of the University of London
on pp651‑652 of

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

JUGERUM or JUGUS (the latter form, as a neuter noun of the third declension, is very common in the oblique cases and in the plural), a Roman measure of surface, 240 feet in length and 120 in breadth, containing therefore 28,800 square feeta (Colum. R. R. V.I § 6; Quintil. I.18). It was the double of the Actus Quadratus, and from this circumstance, according to some writers, it derived its name (Varro, L. L. V.35, Müller, R. R. I.10). [Actus.] It seems probable that, as the word was evidently originally the same as jugus or jugum, a yoke, and as actus, in its original use, meant a path wide enough to drive a single beast along, that jugerum originally meant a path wide enough for a yoke of oxen, namely, the double of the actus in width; and that when actus quadratus p652was used for a square measure of surface, the jugerum, by a natural analogy, became the double of the actus quadratus; and that this new meaning of it superseded its old use as the double of the single actus. The uncial division [As] was applied to the jugerum, its smallest part being the scrupulum of 10 feet square, = 100 square feet. Thus the jugerum contained 288 scrupula (Varro, R. R. l.c.). The jugerum was the common measure of land among the Romans. Two jugera formed an heredium, a hundred heredia a centuria, and four centuriae a saltus. These divisions were derived from the original assignment of landed property, in which two jugera were given to each citizen as heritable property (Varro, l.c.; Niebuhr, Hist. of Rome, vol. II pp156, &c., and Appendix II.).


Thayer's Note:

a That's 240 × 120 Roman feet (296 mm to a foot); the 28,800 square feet are thus equivalent to 233 × 116.5 English feet (305 mm to a foot), or 27,144 square feet — equivalent in turn to 0.623 acre, or 0.252 hectare. (For several years a much-trafficked cult site got the conversions wrong by assuming 240 × 120 English feet, but Pliny, N. H. III.9, a passage which Smith's Dictionary inexplicably fails to cite, clearly defines the measure in Roman feet, as might be expected. The difference is small, close enough for government work as they say, but it's still an unnecessary overstatement by 4%. That site made the correction in December 2012, but many of its clones still have the mistake, of course: reader beware.)


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Page updated: 14 Jan 13