Publications/Dec 13, 2018

New Perspectives on Byzantine Spain: the Discriptio Hispaniae

New Perspectives on Byzantine Spain: the Discriptio Hispaniae lead image

Oriol Olesti Vila, Ricard Andreu Expósito, and Jamie Wood. "New perspectives on Byzantine Spain: the Discriptio Hispaniae." Journal of Ancient History, volume 6, issue 2 (December 2018).

The Discriptio Hispaniae is a passage from the Geometry of Gisemundus, also entitled Ars Gromatica Gisemundi (AGG), a medieval treatise of agrimensura written by an unknown author, probably a monk known as Gisemundus who had some agrimensorial experience. The work was compiled around AD 800 by collecting passages of a range of sizes, from just a few words to several pages, extracted from ancient and medieval sources. Although modern research into Roman agrimensorial texts has admitted the importance of the AGG, its corrupt condition has not invited sustained analysis. The passage now known as the Discriptio Hispaniae, a short section from chapter three of the second book of the AGG entitled III De segregatione provinciarum ab Augustalibus terminis, is particularly interesting for the information that it provides concerning the territorial division of Hispania in Late Antiquity. This article presents an edition and English translation of the Discriptio Hispaniae and argues that the most likely point of origin for the Discriptio Hispaniae is during the Byzantine occupation of parts of southern Spain during the second half of the sixth century and the first quarter of the seventh century. We suggest that the Discriptio Hispaniae was preserved because the Byzantine authorities were keen to keep on record information about the borders of the province of Carthaginensis, perhaps the main theme in the text.