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  • Alex Metcalfe


This paper investigates the development of land registry traditions in the medieval Mediterranean by examining a distinctive aspect of Latin, Greek and Arabic formularies used in boundary clauses. The paper makes particular reference to Islamic and Norman Sicily. The argument begins by recalling that the archetypal way of defining limits according to Classical Roman land surveyors was to begin ab oriente. Many practices from Antiquity were discontinued in the Latin West, but the idea of starting with or from the East endured in many cases where boundaries were assigned cardinal directions. In the Byzantine Empire, the ‘Roman’ model was prescribed and emulated by Greek surveyors and scribes too. But in the Arab-Muslim Mediterranean, lands were defined with the southern limit first. This contrast forms the basis of a typology that can be tested against charter evidence in frontier zones – for example, in twelfth-century Sicily, which had been under Byzantine, Muslim and Norman rulers. It concludes that, under the Normans, private documents drawn up in Arabic began mainly with the southern limit following the ‘Islamic’ model. However, Arabic descriptions of crown lands started mainly in the ‘Romano-Byzantine’ way. These findings offer a higher resolution view of early Norman governance and suggest that such boundary definitions of the royal chancery could not have been based on older ones written in the Islamic period.



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I would like to thank the Arts and Humanities Research Council for their funding of ‘The Norman Edge: Identity and State Formation on the Frontiers of Europe’ project of which the author was a co-investigator (2008–11); the British Academy for their award of a Mid-Career Fellowship (2011–12); Wolfson College, the Oriental Institute and the Khalili Research Centre at the University of Oxford for hosting me as a Visiting Scholar and Research Associate (2010–12). I am also grateful to Chris Wickham and Jon Jarrett for their comments on a draft version of this paper. This is an adapted version of a paper read to the Society.



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1 The gromatic texts have been compiled into a new critical edition by Brian Campbell, The Writings of the Roman Land Surveyors. Introduction, Text, Translation and Commentary (2000). On the constitutio limitum, see Hyginus in ibid., 134–63. Among secondary sources, see Dilke, O. A. W., The Roman Land Surveyors: An Introduction to the Agrimensores (Newton Abbot, 1971); Clavel-Lévéque, M., Cadastres et espace rural. Approches et réalités antiques. Table ronde de Besançon, mai 1980 (Paris, 1983); Chouquer, G., Clavel-Lévéque, M., Favry, F. and Vallat, J.-P., Structures agraires en Italie centro-méridionale. Cadastres et paysages ruraux (Rome, 1987); Nicolet, C., L'inventaire du monde. Géographie et politique aux origines de L'Empire romain (Paris, 1988).

2 For atypical medieval interest in Roman surveying texts, see Toneatto, Lucio, ‘Note sulla tradizione del Corpus agrimensorum romanorum, i. Contenuti e struttura dell'Ars gromatica di Gisemundus (IX sec.)’, Mélanges de l’École française de Rome: Moyen-Âge, 94 (Rome, 1982), i, 191313 .

3 One of the last references to the term ‘agrimensor’ dates to 597 when Gregory the Great dispatched a surveyor from Rome to resolve a dispute on church lands in Sicily where there was presumably no one suitable. Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Epist. I.1, Gregorii I Registri Lib. I–IV, ed. P. Ewald (Berlin, 1887), 484–5, Letter vii.36.

4 Julius Frontinus, De agri mensura, in Campbell, Writings of the Roman Land Surveyors, 10.

5 For issues of document production, survival, as well as notarial status and traditions across medieval south Italy, see the following important collections: Civiltà del Mezzogiorno d'Italia. Libro scrittura documento in età normanno–sveva. Atti del convegno dell'associazione italiana dei paleografi e diplomatisti (Napoli–Badia di Cava dei Tirreni, 14–18 ottobre, 1991), ed. Filippo D'Oria (Salerno, 1994); Per una storia del notariato meridionale, ed. Mario Amelotti et al. (Rome, 1982); Francesco Magistrale, Notariato e documentazione in terra di Bari: ricerche su forme, rogatari, credibilità dei documenti latini nei secoli IX–XI (Bari, 1984).

6 Illustrative examples thus: ‘de secunda parte a medio limite terra qui venit in sorte Nicyfori. Tertia parte a medio limite terra Rodelgardi et Petri. Quarta parte a medio limite terra qui venit in sorte Nicyfori’, Codice diplomatico Barese (Le pergamene di S. Nicola di Bari: periodo greco, 939–1071), ed. F. Nitti di Vito (Bari, 1900), iv, 5–6 from the year 962. For three eleventh-century examples, see Les chartres de Troia. Édition et étude critique des plus anciens documents conservés à l'Archivio Capitolare (1024–1266), ed. J.-M. Martin (Bari, 1976), 87–9 (88) from 1039; 94–5 from 1047; 111–14 (113) from 1083.

7 As frequently found in the Lombard Regnum and later in Campania, for example in an Amalfitan deed of sale from 1080, ‘et predictae casalis fuit divisum capud fixum de susu in iusu et termines de petra e de sabuci inter illam et illam portionem constituti sunt’, Codice diplomatico amalfitano, ed. R. Filangieri di Candida (Naples, 1917), 121–2.

8 As a typical example: ‘primum ab oriente a medio pariete est terra Nicolai pape. Secundus a meridie extra parietem est via publica. Tertium ab occidente extra parietem est introitus et exitus Ursi f. Maionis. Quartus autem finis a septemtrione extra parietem est terra eiusdem Ursi’, see Le pergamene di S. Nicola di Bari: periodo normanno, 1075–1194), ed. F. Nitti di Vito (Bari, 1902) (Cod. dipl. Barese, v), 47 from 1098. For twelfth-century descriptions that are directly comparable, see 145 and 153. In September 1125, a donation of land and an olive grove in Massafra to the church of San Pietro dell'Isola Grande di Táranto gave the limits as ‘ab orientis parte via antica; ab occidente via Patemisium descendens; a boreę parte casilia ecclesiaę Sancti Martini; ab austro clausura Sancti Angeli’. Le pergamene del'archivio arcivescovile di Taranto (1083–1258), ed. F. Magistrale (2 vols., Galatina, 1999), i, 16–18 (17). In a private deed of sale from Brindisi from 1187: ‘ab oriente in occidentem pedes manuales decem et octo et dimidium . . . ab oriente domus Basilii. Ab occidente domus Laurencii. A borea terra mea. Ab austro via publica et introitus et exitus eius’, Codice diplomatico Brindisino (492–1299), ed. A. De Leo and G. M. Monti (Trani, 1940), i, 43, lines 7–8 and 10–12.

9 In a grant from Venosa, an unspecified parcel of lands was accepted to be ‘ut apparet ex instrumento Grece exarato’. See Die Abtei Venosa und das Mönchtum im normannisch-staufischen Süditalien, ed. Hubert Houben (Tübingen, 1995), 327–8 (328). On such Greek deperdita, see Vera von Falkenhausen, ‘L'atto notarile greco in epoca normanno-sveva’, in Civiltà del Mezzogiorno d'Italia, 241–70.

10 Jean-Marie Martin, ‘Perception et description du paysage rural dans les actes notariés sud-italiens (IXe–XIIe siècles)’, in Castrum 5. Archéologie des espaces agraires méditerranéens au Moyen Âge, ed. A. Bazzana (Madrid, Rome and Murcie, 1999), 113–27. No similar survey has been conducted for insular Sicily.

11 On eastward-facing aspects of land and sacred buildings, see Hyginus, ‘Gromaticus’, in Campbell, Writings of the Roman Land Surveyors, 137. For Roman belief in Etruscan precedents, see ibid., xlv and 326.

12 For a recent critique with particular emphasis on visual representation, see Scafi, Alessandro, Mapping Paradise: A History of Heaven on Earth (Chicago, 2006).

13 In part, emulating Saint Anatolius, bishop of Laodicea (d. 283). In twelfth-century south Italy it was attested as both a first name, Ἀνατόλιος and Ἀνατόλης, and as a cognomen as in Νϊκολαος τοῦ Ἀνατολοῦ and Ἰωάννης Ἀνατολός, see Syllabus graecarum membranorum, ed. F. Trinchera (Naples, 1865), 185 and 332. Cf. also the modern Italian surname, Natoli, frequently found in the province of Messina, specifically on the Aeolian islands and to the north of the Nébrodi mountains in what was once the Val Démone of the Norman period. Girolamo Caracausi, Dizionario onomastico della Sicilia (2 vols., Palermo, 1993), ii, 1101.

14 Gervase of Tilbury, Otia imperialia. Recreations for an Emperor, ed. and trans. S. E. Banks and J. W. Binns (Oxford, 2002), i, 10, 64–5; Augustine of Hippo, Homilies on the Gospel according to St. John, and his First Epistle, trans. John Henry Parker (2 vols., Oxford 1848–9), i, Homily x.12, 162. The link between Adam and the Greek cardinal points appears to have derived from apocalyptic literature of the Hellenistic period; cf. the same idea repeated in The Sibylline Oracles, ed. H. N. Bate (1918), Book iii, Prologue, 46, and in 2 Enoch 30, 13.

15 See the collected texts in Géométries du fisc byzantin, ed. J. Lefort, R. Bondoux, J.-CL. Cheynet, J.-P. Grélois and V. Kravari, Réalités byzantines 4 (Paris, 1991). For landholding contexts, see Lemerle, Paul, The Agrarian History of Byzantium from the Origins to the Twelfth Century: Sources and Problems (Galway, 1979); Svoronos, Nicolas, ‘Recherches sur le cadastre byzantin et la fiscalité aux XIe et XIIIe siècle: le cadastre de Thèbes’, Bulletin de Correspondence Hellenique, 83 (1959), 1–164.

16 Classical Greek historians and geographers often alleged that the earliest origins of land division were Egyptian. Herodotus 2.109; Diodorus Siculus 1.81.2; Strabo 17.787. For Byzantine views on these precedents, see Géométries du fisc byzantin, 48–9, §17 and 136–7, §205.

17 Ἀπάρξου, γράϕε καθεξῆς τὰ σύνορα τοιῶσδε· ἀρχὴν λαβὼν ἀνατολῆς ἄπεισιν ὡς πρὸς δύσιν καταλιμπάνων δεξιὰ τὰ δίκαια το δεῖνα, ἐν οἷς καὶ δένδρον ἵσταται, ἐλαί ἢ μυρσίνη ἢ ἔλατος ἢ πλάτονος, ἢ ποταμὸς ἢ ῥύαξ, ἄχρι δὲ τούτου εὕρηνται σχοινία δεκαπέντε. Κλίνει δ’αὖθις, ἀνέρχεται ὡς πρὸς τὴν μεσημβρίαν καταλιμπάνων δεξιὰ χωράϕια το δεῖνα, καὶ κατ’εὐθεῖαν ἄπεισιν ἄχρι το δε το τόπου, ἐν ᾧ λαυράτον ἵσταται λίθινον κεχωσμένον ἔχον σταυρὸν ἢ γράμματα ἢ γνώρισμα τοιόνδε, ἐν ᾧ καὶ τέλος εἴληϕε τὰ ἑκατὸν σχοινία. Στρέϕεται πρὸς ἀνατολάς, κρατεῖ τὸν δρόμον δρόμον, τὸν δρόμον τὸν ἐρχόμενον ἀπὸ το δεῖνα κάστρου, καταλιμπάνει δεξιὰ τὰ δίκαια το δεῖνα καὶ τοὺς κατ’ὄρδινον ἐκεῖ πεϕυτευμένους δρύας, ἐν οἷς καὶ τύπος εὕρηται σχηματισθεὶς εἰς ὥραν ἄνωθεν τούτου δὲ σταυρὸς εἰς γνώρισμα τοῖς πᾶσι, καὶ κατ’εὐθεῖαν ἀπιὼν ἄχρι το δεῖνα τόπου ἀποτελεῖ ποσότητα διακοσίων σχοίνων. Εἶτ’ ἀνατολικώτερον ἄπεισι πρὸς ὀλίγον, καὶ καταντᾷ εἰς ἀγκάλισμα το ποταμο το δεῖνα, ἐν ᾧ καὶ μέτρον εὕρηται σχοινίων δεκαπέντε. Πρὸς ἄρκτον αὖθις ἀνακλᾷ, ἄπεισι κατ’εὐθεῖαν, καταλιμπάνει δεξιὰ ἀμπέλιον το δεῖνα, καὶ καταντᾷ εἰς σύνορα το δεῖνα χωράϕιου, ἐν ᾧ χωματοβούνιον παμπάλαιον εὑρέθη, ὅπερ ἀνακαινίζειν δεῖ εἰς γνώρισμα το τόπου, εἰς ἀληθείας δήλωσιν, εἰς ἀμαχον γειτόνων, σχοῖνοι κἀν τούτῳ εὕρηνται τριάκοντα καὶ πέντε. Εἶτ’ αὖθις πρὸς ἀνατολὰς ἄπεισιν ἀκουμβίζων εἰς σύνορον καὶ δίκαια το κτήματος το δεῖνα, ἐν ᾧ καὶ πέτρα εὕρηται μεγάλη ῥιζημαία, μέτρον δ’ἐν τούτοις εὕρηνται σχοινία εἰκοσιπέντε. Πρὸς ἄρκτον αὖθις ἄπεισι τὸν δρόμον το χωρίου τὸν κατερχόμενον εὐθὺ πρὸς τὴν ἀκτὴν θαλάσσης, καταλαμβάνει σύνορον ὅθεν ἀρχὴν εἰλήϕει, ἐν ᾧ καὶ πάλιν εὕρηνται σχοινία δεκαπέντε. Taken from Το σοϕωτάτου Ψελλο γεωμετρία διὰ στίχων (‘Land surveying in verses of the most learned Psellos’), in Géométries du fisc Byzantin, 191–3, §299. This anonymous work pre-dates 1204 and was optimistically attributed to the eleventh-century historian Michael Psellos.

18 For example, the long praktikon of John Vatatzis from 1341 with its haphazard starting points. Archives d'Athos: Actes d'Iviron IV, ed. J. Lefort, N. Oikonomidès, D. Papachryssanthou and V. Kravari (Paris, 1995), 53–78.

19 From Το σοϕωτάτου Ψελλο γεωμετρία διὰ στίχων (‘Land surveying in verses of the most learned Psellos’), in Géométries du fisc Byzantin, 184–5, §287.

20 From Ἀρχὴ τῆς γεωμετρίας (‘Principle of land surveying’). Greek text in Géométries du fisc Byzantin, 48–9, §21.

21 From Μέθοδος τῆς γεωμετρίας (‘Method of land surveying’), in Géométries du fisc Byzantin, 38–9, §2. This is repeated almost verbatim in the treatise of Γεωργίου γεωμέτρου περὶ γεωδαισίας, 136–7, §207.

22 For example, a donation of various landed properties made to the church of Santa Maria Veteranis in Brindisi in the year 1107, Codice diplomatico Brindisino, i (492–1299), 20–3 (21, lines 17, 30, 42, 49; 22, lines 56, 61, 66 and 84).

23 For early mainland examples from 981 and 1005, see Syllabus Graecarum membranarum, 6–7 and 13 respectively. Cf. inter alia the later βρέβιον (‘inventory’) of Reggio: ἔστιν δὲ ὁ συνορισμὸς πρὸς μὲν ἀνατολὰς τὸ σύνορον τῆς Ἁγιας Θεοτόκου το Ἀθανάτου, πρὸς δὲ δυσμὰς τό σύνορον Μαρίας μοναχῆς τῆς Ταβρομενίτις, ἐπὶ δὲ ἄρκτον εἰς τὸ ῥυάκιν τῆς αυτῆς Ἁγίας Θεοτόκου το Ἀθανάτου. Le Brébion de la métropole byzantine de Région (vers 1050), ed. André Guillou (Vatican City, 1974), 183, lines 18–21.

24 See the important collection of essays in Land Tenure and Social Transformation in the Middle East, ed. Tarif Khalidi (Beirut, 1984); Morimoto, Kosei, ‘Land Tenure in Egypt during the Early Islamic Period’, Orient, 11 (1975), 109–53; Morony, Michael G., ‘Landholding in Seventh-Century Iraq: Late Sassanian and Early Islamic Patterns’, in The Islamic Middle East 700–1900, ed. Udovitch, A. L. (Princeton, 1981), 135–77.

25 al-Qāḍī, Wadād, ‘Population Census and Land Surveys under the Umayyads (41–132/661–750)’, Der Islam, 83 (2006), 341416 .

26 Mammāṭī, Ibn (d. 1209), Qawāwīn wa-Dawāwīn, ed. Atiya, A. S. (Cairo, 1943); Al-Makhzūmī (fl. 1169–85), Kitāb al-minhāj fī ʿilm kharāj Miṣr, ed. C. Cahen and Y. Ragib (Cairo, 1986). For particular reference to terminology arising from this, see Frantz-Murphy, Gladys, The Agrarian Administration of Egypt from the Arabs to the Ottomans (Cairo, 1986).

27 Al-Azdī, Taʾrīkh al-Mawṣil, ed. ʿAlī Ḥabība (Cairo, 1967), 171–2. The grant was made in Rabīʿ al-Thānī, 137 ah. See 158 for the terms of the concession. For a translation and discussion, see Hugh Kennedy, ‘Elite Incomes in the Early Islamic State’, in Studies in Late Antiquity and Early Islam 1. The Byzantine and Early Islamic Near East 6: Elites Old and New in the Byzantine and Early Islamic Near East, ed. John Haldon and Lawrence I. Conrad (Princeton, 2004), 13–28 (17–18).

28 The area was reckoned as fifty-two jarīb. Only two boundaries (the south and the west) were mentioned by name, but the estate appears to have begun with the eastern boundary. Al-Azdī, Taʾrīkh al-Mawṣil, 172.

29 In Muslim tradition, a mosque should ideally be entered with the right foot first, while exiting is done with the left foot first. Similarly, a toilet or place of cleansing (mirḥāḍ) should be entered by leading with the left foot and leaving, cleansed, with the right. Such conceptual links are reflected in Arabic etymology; the right hand and right-hand side (yaman) is fortunate (yumn). The Muslim orientation of the world, from the perspective of the central Arabian Peninsula, connects the right-hand side with the south, and the left (al-shamāl) with the north along a roughly north–south axis between Syria (al-Shām) and Yemen (al-Yaman). There are also associations between elevation (ʿalyāʾ) and the heavenly sublime; and correspondingly negative links between the lower world (al-dunyā) and baseness (danāya). On sacred geography in Islam, see Annemarie Schimmel, Deciphering the Signs of God: A Phenomenological Approach to Islam (Albany, 1994), 47–87; Neuwirth, Angelika, ‘Spatial Relations’, in Encyclopaedia of the Quran, ed. McAuliffe, Jane Dammen (6 vols., Leiden, 2001–6), v, 104–8; Chelhod, Joseph, Les structures du sacré chez les arabes (Paris, 1965; new edn, Paris, 1986), 35–65 and 209–45; Lewis, James R., ‘Some Aspects of Sacred Space and Time in Islam’, Studies in Islam, 19/3 (1982), 167–78; Bennett, Clinton, ‘Islam’, in Sacred Place, ed. Holm, Jean and Bowker, John (London and New York, 1994), 88–114.

30 In Egypt, Syria and al-Andalus, when al-qiblī appears in a quartet of cardinal points it is evident that it referred to the southern limit. The boundary diametrically opposite was often called ẓahr al-qibla, dabūr al-qibla, or al-ḥadd al-dabūrī (literally, ‘the back of the qibla’ i.e. ‘north’). In Sicily, dabūrī/an was translated into Latin as septemtrionaliter, a septemtrionali or versus septemtrionem. However, in Classical Arabic the root d-b-r is associated with the rear or backside of something, of turning one's back or being ‘of the west’. Indeed, al-Dabūr is the west wind attested in the ḥadīth (see Saḥīḥ Bukhārī, 4: 54.427), so called because it was thought to come from the back of the Kaʿba (see M. Forcada, Rīḥ, in Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edn (11 vols. and Supplement, Leiden, 1960–2005) (henceforth EI2 ), viii, 526, and D. A. King, al-Maṭlʿ, in EI2 , vi, 839). The problem of twin meanings for d-b-r was raised, but not solved, by Adalgisa De Simone, ‘Su alcune corrispondenze lessicali in diplomi arabo–latini della Sicilia medievale’, in Gli interscambi culturali e socio-economici fra l'Africa settentrionale e l'Europa mediterranea. Atti del congresso internazionale di Amalfi, 5–8 dicembre 1983, ed. Luigi Serra (Naples, 1986), 469–84 (483–4).

31 On the pre-Islamic precedents for the qibla; its directional switch during the lifetime of Muḥammad; the non-Meccan orientation of early mosques; the cosmological status acquired by the Kaʿba and the qibla's scientific calculation, see Hoyland, Robert G., Seeing Islam as Others Saw It: A Survey and Evaluation of Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian Writing on Early Islam (Princeton, 1997), 560–73; A. J. Wensinck and D. A. King, Ḳibla, in EI2 , v, 82–8. On later mathematical geography, see King, David A., World-Maps for Finding the Direction and Distance to Mecca: Innovation and Tradition in Islamic Science (Leiden, 1999); Schmidl, Petra, Volkstümliche Astronomie im islamischen Mittelalter (2 vols., Leiden, 2007), both with full bibliographies.

32 W. B. Hallaq, ‘Sharṭ’, in EI2 , ix, 358–9; Émile Tyan, Le notariat et le régime de la preuve par écrit dans la pratique du droit musulman, 2nd edn (Harissa, 1959), 1–99; al-Ṭaḥāwī (d. 933), Kitāb al-shurūṭ al-saghīr, ed. ʿA. M. al-Jubūrī (Baghdad, 1974); Kitāb al-buyūʿ min al-shurūṭ al-kabīr, ed. with introduction and notes by Wakin, Jeanette A., The Functions of Documents in Islamic Law (New York, 1972), 1203 .

33 Al-Sarakhsī, Kitāb al-Mabsūṭ fī l-Furūʿ(30 vols., Cairo, 1906–13), xxx, 178, lines 2–4: al-ḥadd al-awwal min qibal al-qibla dār fulān wa-’l-ḥadd al-thānī fī sharq al-dār dār fulān wa-’l-ḥadd al-thālith dabr al-qibla dār fulān wa-’l-ḥadd al-rābiʿ al-gharbī dār fulān li-anna jihat al-qibla ashraf al-jihāt fa-’l-bidāya awwal min-hā. The second boundary to be defined could vary between the north and the east, but since jurists were defining property for alienation and to correspond to an Islamic ‘ideal’ (and not to calculate surface area), there was less practical need to describe opposite sides consecutively in order to assist in working out their average lengths.

34 al-qiblī . . . al-baḥrī . . . al-gharbī . . . al-sharqī. See Torrey, Charles C., ‘An Arabic Papyrus Dated 205 ah ’, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 56 (1936), 288–92.

35 For examples see Grohmann, Adolf, Arabic Papyri in the Egyptian Library (6 vols., Cairo, 1934), i, 141ff. For illustrated examples, see Geoffrey Khan, Bills, Letters and Deeds: Arabic Papyri of the 7th to 11th Centuries (1993).

36 al-ḥadd al-awwal min al-qibla al-qarya [MS text missing] wa-’l-ḥadd al-thālith min qibal ẓahr al-qibla al-qarya Burayj, wa-’l-ḥadd al-rābiʿ min qibal al-maghrib. i.e. S–[E]–N–W. See Nabia Abbott, ‘Arabic Papyri of the Reign of Ǧaʿfar al-Mutawwakil ʿalā-llāh (ah 232–47/ad 847–61)’, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 92 (1938), 88–135 (110–13). As in al-Azdī's boundary definition, measures were given for lengths (reckoned in jall), but no calculations of area were included.

37 Sourdel, Dominique and Sourdel-Thomine, Janine, ‘Trois actes de vente Damascains du début du IVe/Xe siècle’, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 8 (1965), 164–84 (167 and 178).

38 Richards, D. S., ‘Documents from Sinai concerning Mainly Cairene Property’, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 28 (1985), 225–93.

39 On the development of shurūṭ works under the Ḥanafī madhhab, see Wakin, Documents in Islamic Law, 10–29. For the situation in Ifrīqiya and Sicily, see William Granara, ‘Islamic Education and the Transmission of Knowledge in Muslim Sicily’, in Law and Education in Medieval Islam, ed. J. E. Lowry, D. J. Stewart and S. M. Toorawa (Gibb Memorial Trust, 2004), 150–73.

40 For an archetypal, Andalusi, Arab–Muslim boundary definition running S–N–E–W (al-qibla . . . al-jawf . . . al-sharq . . . al-gharb), see al-Ṭūlayṭulī (d. 1067), Al-Muqniʿ fī ʿilm al-shurūṭ, ed. F. J. Aguirre Sábada (Madrid, 2004), 129.

41 Dolores, M. Gómez, Rodríguez and Salud, M. Rojas, Domínguez, ‘La compraventa de fincas urbanas en la Granada del siglo XV a través de dos documentos notariales árabes’, Anaquel de Estudios Árabes, 19 (2008), 175–99 (195, doc #2, lines 4–5).

42 For example: ‘et afrontat ipsa vinea de parte orientis in strata qui pergit ubique, et de meridie in torrente, et de occiduo in vinea de nos donatores, et de circii similiter in vinea de nos donatores’, in Catalunya Carolíngia IV: els comtats d'Osona i de Manresa, Memòries de la Secció histò rico-arqueolò gica LIII, ed. Ramon Ordeig i Mata et al. (Barcelona, 1999), doc. no. 367. I am grateful to Jon Jarrett for alerting me to land-definition practices (and customary variations) in tenth-century Christian Catalonia, and also to Amalia Zomeño for her informal communication to me about boundary orientations in the corpus of 160 documents from Granada, Nasrid, of which ninety-five were published with Spanish translations in Documentos arábigos-granadinos, ed. de Lucena, L. Seco (Madrid, 1961). For a complete inventory, see Zomeño, A., ‘Repertorio documental arábigo-granadino: LOS documentos árabes de la Biblioteca Universitaria de Granada’, Qurtuba. Estudios Andalusíes, 6 (2001), 275–96.

43 Los Mozárabes de Toledo en los siglos XII y XIII, ed. Angel González Palencia (3 vols., Madrid, 1926), i, 1 and 2–3. document no. 1 (475/1083): (fī-’l-qibla . . . fī-’l-jawf . . . fī-’l-sharq . . . fī-’l-gharb). For a brief commentary, see Boigues, Francisco Pons, Apuntes sobre las escrituras mozárabes Toledanas que se conservan en el archivo histórico nacional (Madrid, 1897), 1921 .

44 Of many similar examples, see documents no. 2 (Nov. 1092) and no. 3 (Apr. 1093), which open with the eastern boundary. Los Mozárabes de Toledo, 2–3.

45 On Arabic deeds of sale and purchase in Sicily, see D'Emilia, Antonio, ‘Diplomi arabi siciliani di compravendita del secolo VI Egira e loro raffronto con documenti egiziani dei secoli III–V Egira’, Annali (Istituto Universitario Orientale di Napoli), 14 (1964), 83109 ; Constable, Olivia Remie, ‘Cross-Cultural Contacts: Sales of Land between Christians and Muslims in 12th-Century Palermo’, Studia Islamica, 85/1 (1997), 6784 ; Bresc, Henri, ‘La propriété foncière des musulmans dans la Sicile du XIIe siècle: trois documents inédits’, in Giornata di studio: del nuovo sulla Sicilia musulmana (Roma, 3 maggio 1993), ed. Amoretti, Biancamaria Scarcia (Rome, 1995), 6997 . Reprinted in Una stagione in Sicilia (2 vols., Palermo, 2010), i, no. 3.

46 For an assessment of the problems of document counts, survival rates and forgeries, see Loud, Graham A., ‘The chancery and charters of the kings of Sicily (1130–1212)’, English Historical Review, 124 (2009), 779810 .

47 For detailed analysis, see Johns, Jeremy, Arabic Administration in Norman Sicily: The Royal Dīwān (Cambridge, 2002), 3962, 91–169, for the jarāʾid al-rijāl. For the ḥudūd, see 170–92.

48 Johns, Arabic Administration, 78–80.

49 For this argument, see ibid., 42–62.

50 For an unreliable edition of the petition (ἐπιστολή) of Carpetazza fol. 20 from the Archivio Capitolare at Patti, see I diplomi greci ed arabi di Sicilia, ed. Salvatore Cusa (Palermo, 1868–82; repr. Cologne and Vienna, 1982), 532–5 (henceforth Cusa, I diplomi).

51 ‘Those who defined the land of Focerò are: Giorgios, uncle of lord Eugenios the amīr; lord Melis the Frank of Troina; and the headman (ʿarīf) with those from Marsatina at Troina; Petros Philonitis from Catouna at Maniace; the notary Leon of Adrano; Basilis Tricharis of San Marco; Menglavitis of San Marco; Moules of Mavrachóma; the abbot of Galati; the archistrategos Michael; the notary, Leon Sakkas, and the notary, Philippos Kolokinthos.’ Cusa, I diplomi, 533.

52 See Fasolo, Michele, Alla ricerca di Focerò (Rome, 2008), for the careful identification of Focerò with the mountain peak and plateau of Fossa della Neve, and 66–7 for a reconstruction of the kastron's limits circumscribing approximately 120km2.

53 See Cusa, I diplomi, 367–8 (from the year 1095: E–W), 509–10 (date 1097: E–), 549–50 (date 1102: E–S), 405–7 (date 1110: S–), 407–8 (date 1112: W–), 599–601 (date 1112: E–W–N–S), 413–14 (date 1122: E–); see also Le pergamene greche esistenti nel grande archivio di Palermo, ed. G. Spata (Palermo, 1862), 163–5 (date 1091), 173–5 (date 1092), 257–9 (date 1122); Les actes grecs de Messina, ed. André Guillou (Palermo, 1963), 60–1 (date 1123; E–W–).

54 Cusa, I diplomi, 515–17. For an important discussion, see Albrecht Noth, ‘I documenti arabi di Ruggero II’, in Carlrichard Brühl, Diplomi e cancelleria di Ruggero II (Palermo, 1983), 190–1, and Johns, Arabic Administration, 94–9.

55 Archivo Ducal de Medinacali, Toledo, 1104 (S796) recto. For further context of the Medinaceli documents in Sicily, see Johns, Arabic Administration, 58, 102–6 and 304–5.

56 Cusa, I diplomi, 179–244. A new critical edition of the Arabic–Latin boundaries by Jeremy Johns and Alex Metcalfe is forthcoming.

57 The provincial boundaries (Arabic: iqlīm, plural aqālīm; in Latin, magnae divisae) of Jāṭū (modern S. Giuseppe Iato), Qurullūn (Corleone), Baṭṭallārū (Battallaro) and Qalʿat al-Ṭrazī (Calatrasi) covered over 1,200 km2. They were conceived as amorphous or polygonal, not quadrilateral, and were not defined in terms of side or cardinal points. For attempts to trace the limits of Battallaro, see Maria Adelaide Vaggioli, ‘Note di topografia nella Sicilia medievale: una rilettura della jarīda di Monreale (divise Battallarii, divisa Fantasine)’, in Quarte giornate internazionali di studi sull'area Elima, Erice, 1–4 dicembre 2000 (Pisa, 2003), 1247–324.

58 Several appear to have Arab-Muslim vendors and (mainly Arab-)Christian purchasers. The exceptions to this are nos. 2, 9(?), 10, 11 and 12. See Table 1 (below).

59 Johns, Arabic Administration, 80–114.

60 For contemporary references to the Norman period in Arabic boundary clauses, see Cusa, I diplomi, 515–16, for George of Antioch as the strategot or ʿāmil (district official) of Iato in 1114, 212 and 215 for lands and men of the Dīwān, 242 for lands of the Norman knight, Gorgis, Paganus de. On loan words in chancery contexts, see Alex Metcalfe, Muslims and Christians in Norman Sicily: Arabic Speakers and the End of Islam (London and New York, 2003), 127–40. Of particular importance is the frequent use of noun reduplication in boundary clauses e.g. τὴν ὁδὸν ὁδὸν; per viam viam; al-ṭarīq al-ṭarīq (‘right along the road’), which was a distinctive trait of medieval Greek that was transmitted into Latin and Arabic as a loan term.

61 Falkenhausen, Vera von, ‘The Greek Presence in Norman Sicily’, in The Society of Norman Italy, ed. Loud, G. A. and Metcalfe, Alex (Leiden, 2002), 253–87; Takayama, Hiroshi, The Administration of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily (Leiden, 1993), 25–56, and Johns, Arabic Administration, 63–90.

* I would like to thank the Arts and Humanities Research Council for their funding of ‘The Norman Edge: Identity and State Formation on the Frontiers of Europe’ project of which the author was a co-investigator (2008–11); the British Academy for their award of a Mid-Career Fellowship (2011–12); Wolfson College, the Oriental Institute and the Khalili Research Centre at the University of Oxford for hosting me as a Visiting Scholar and Research Associate (2010–12). I am also grateful to Chris Wickham and Jon Jarrett for their comments on a draft version of this paper. This is an adapted version of a paper read to the Society.


  • Alex Metcalfe


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