According to the legend of the founding of Rome, Romulus killed Remus because he crossed the boundary marked by the plough at the Palatine fields, after being recognised as king by a flight of vultures. Limes means limit, frontier, path or wall in Latin. A limit is something which marks a line which should not be crossed, the profoundest change in a territory and dominion. Eliade teaches us that a myth tells us a sacred story - a primordial event which occurred at the beginning of Time -, and reveals deeper meanings, as telling it is the same as revealing a mystery. Bakhtin reminds us that every ideological sign is not only a reflection, a shadow of reality, but also a concrete fragment of this reality. Saussure announced that we might conceive of a science which studies the life of signs within social life, and called it semiology, from the Greek term semeîon, or sign [signal].
In etymology it is stated that the word “territory” comes from terrere which means to frighten, to repel, and is therefore an area that should be defended. The main function associated to the verb is the vigorous, aggressive defence of something - an individual, a couple, a nest and descendants -, as well as other aspects such as the relation with neighbours or outsiders.
In Ecology - considered since 1866 as the science which studies the relationship between organisms and their environment -, the concept of territory exists with reference to an animal or group of animals belonging to the same species, in other words: a population. It becomes a habitat when it describes an area where such an organism lives, feeds and reproduces, particularly in the case of a sedentary nature. It is the spatial and biophysical support of the ecosystem within which the ecological niches become established and the biotic community coexists.
Territoriality thus guarantees a kind of balance to animal societies. From a Darwinist point of view, the struggle for existence is the motor of natural selection and necessarily follows the high rate of geometric progression concerning demographic growth common to all organic beings. Darwin applied Malthus’ doctrine to Nature, based on the effects that scarcity of resources has on a population. Malthus claimed that a population, when unchecked, increases in a geometric progression and that the number of plants and animals is only limited because of this restrictive law.
In its broadest sense, “territory” defines an area of competence or control, determined by a surface: a shape and boundaries.
The limitations of the Mediterranean climate and the geographical relief created the conditions for the transhumant oscillations, which so impressed ancient authors by their regularity. The migration between grazing areas in the mountains and, in winter, the valleys, has been compared to the alternating movement of a pair of scales. In the Coa valley, the site at Salto do Boi has archaeological remains from the Palaeolithic period, for example: stone-age artefacts resulting from the human occupation of the area, confirmed too by the analysis done on the style of engravings found at Canada do Inferno mor Penascosa.
The Greeks inhabited a khoros, a territory, within a khóra, (region), and conceived of the landscape as a unit delimited with love, which was expressed in the beauty of its disposition and proportions. Olympus, the sacred forest on the mountain tops, was the example everyone should emulate. There is a general relationship between the polis and the physis of the Greeks: that of the proportional and reciprocal harmonisation of the parts. Chorology comes from this legacy.
The concept of “territory” is substituted to a certain extent by the perception of space, where shapes occur on a background and have a particular arrangement and therefore a syntax which reveals semantic meanings. From the Neolithic on, if not before, man inhabits a place in which he managed to survive and experimented the meaning of an environment, including its sustenance. Occupying a territory is the equivalent of consecrating it, making it the centre of the world, the fixed point, linking it to transcendence by symbolic rituals.
From Antiquity on, the genius loci, the spirit of a place or places, was considered a concrete reality that man must face in his daily life . It was not the law that initially guaranteed the right of ownership, it was religion: each dominion was watched over by local deities. For example, under Roman law, there had to be a strip of uncultivated land, the pomeorium, which had to remain untouched by a plough, separating the cities from surrounding fields. This space was sacred and Roman law declared it not subject to prescription. In the East, mountains were considered as dragons . Lévi-Strauss refers to totemism as a form of social organisation and magical/religious practice which associated clans or lineages with certain classes of animate or inanimate things, where the term totem refers to the animal used by the clan and which was considered the ancestor of the race.
The term landscape is inherited from Roman territorial administration, a set of pagus, a rural demarcation such as a village and surrounding lands. As an integrated concept, landscape only appears with the advent of Renaissance painting and may be understood as a set of values ordered in a particular vision or scene. The classical landscape may be defined as a meaningful ordering of singular and distinct places  - in just one word: landscape is a substance , remembering that for Aristotle, substance is whatever exists by itself, the first of the ten categories of Being. It is within the context of landscape that we understand territories and their boundaries as well as how they fit together.
A landscape that has been touched by the hand of man expresses a system of beliefs and values - in its crops and the layout of its mosaic - the vegetational cover, in the same way that Deleuze stated that the deepest part of the depths is the surface, the skin. The logic of ecology and the logic of meaning may be found in a landscape, a semiotic domain . After all, the scope of semiotics is to state the multiple, articulate the differences and understand the processes of signification - attributing meaning to signs; semiotise is not seeing, but interpreting .
The covering of vegetation at Vale do Coa is dominated by various members of the oak family and other Mediterranean plant life. In classical culture, the tree, dendron or drus in Greek, was mainly represented by a sturdy oak, symbol of the vitality of nature, justice and the gifts, a world axis. In ancient Greece, the oak, drus, was consecrated to Zeus whose mouthpiece was the oracle of Dodona, interpreted by the Pleiades. For the Jews, the oak was elah and is referred to as the oak of lamentations. For the Celts it was the origin of the word “Druid”.
A territory is limited by a competence, in the sense that it does not continue indefinitely and, when represented by a flat area, the ideal limit is a line, limes, a place where two distinct dominions meet and separate. Often, this line is imaginary, understood as a control boundary or it may be an accident of nature: a stream or mountain ridge; or vegetal: a line of trees, a hedge; or even of human origin: a wall, a ditch, a path or road. It may also be understood as an uneven structure such as a broken line, delimiting dispersed islands, for example the Koch islands, within the concept of Nature’s fractal geometry.
A line creates a limit to an area, a frontier. In topology, a frontier separates two dominions, the original and the complementary. In ecology, a line in the landscape is designated an ecotone , a place of greater biological diversity: an interface between two neighbouring biotopes and therefore simultaneously divides and also unites.
If a territory is a place to defend, it is also a place consecrated to the gods, where man attempts to propagate their work. With the arrival of the Paleolithic period, about 40,000 years ago, groups of Homo sapiens entered Europe, conquered it, and expelled or dominated and absorbed the indigenous peoples also inter-breeding. Historians try to make these events intelligible by showing that they generally took place along a fracture, a line separating two conflicting forces. The emphasis of the preservation, not just of the Paleolithic engravings but the whole landscape of Côa, may be seen as a strategy to control the territory, the valley where they exist .
Well, what other object apart from a landscape may be considered as a super-icon? That is, an iconic multiplicity of attributes - where its aesthetic value represents not only an aesthetic function but also a function of the super-iconicity of the aesthetic object. From the geomorphology to ecological succession, passing through archaeology, legends, stories and myths and contemporary economic values, the beauty of the landscape is beyond all of this, although everything also flows through this, just like the oxygen that we breathe but do not see.
José A. Mourão e Maria A. Babo. Semiótica: Genealogias e Cartografias. MinervaCoimbra, 2007, pag. 224