Castra, castrum, castellum

Statistics and interpretation

I my thesis, I am investigating the meaning and usage patterns of castra, castrum and castellum in antiquity. For this analysis, I have collected all occurrences of these words in the sources that form the base material of the investigation. These include literary sources from the Bibliotheca Teubneriana Latina (CD-ROM, 2002), Latin language inscriptions from the Epigraphische Datenbank Clauss-Salby (EDCS) and normative legal texts from The Latin Law Library. Furthermore, the Holy Scripture provides the unique opportunity to compare side-by-side the parallel Greek and Latin texts of the Septuagint/Greek New Testament and Vulgate. Finally, I am compiling a table of castra, castrum and castellum settlement/fortification names, as well as analysing some of their properties. The table and the analysis includes all names from the sources mentioned above (except for the Holy Scripture), as well incorporates those found in the Itinerarium Antonini, the Ininerarium Burdigalense (or Hierosolymitanum), the Tabula Peutingeriana and the Barrington Atlas.

My study is largely based on statistical analysis. This approach allows us to view the same words from a different perspective (compared to more traditional approaches, like that of the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae), and to demonstrate the differences (or similarities) between the usage patterns of these words in different source groups. Beyond that, the detailed investigation of some of the more interesting passages found in these sources may help us better understand the core meaning of these words, and occasionally correct certain misconceptions promulgated by several commonly used dictionaries. This is especially true in the case of the castellum settlement type. Many dictionaries define the castellum settlement type as if its inherent traits would include some form of fortification, or an elevated position. By analysing the pertaining (especially literary) sources, it can be demonstrated that it is only one aspect of the castellum settlement type. In other contexts, it has the general meaning of small, subordinate rural settlement, or ‘village’, without the connotation of fortification or elevated position.

Finally, the analysis of settlement names reveals the applied naming conventions, and in certain cases may allow us to draw limited conclusions about the nature and origin of the settlements themselves.


The theses of my dissertation can be downloaded in English from here. The full dissertation can be downloaded from here (in Hungarian).