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Engaging study of key issues in Roman water regulation from legal and environmental history, both ancient and modern.


The Romans are famous for constructing aqueducts, canals, and dams. But their law is also a lasting, if less visible, monument to their attempts to control water. A Casebook on Roman Water Law presents an analytical collection of Roman sources for water rights. The Romans recognized water as a natural resource, a public good, and an economic commodity, and they grappled with these issues as they developed law to regulate water. Early in their history the Romans crafted laws and institutions to regulate water in both public and private contexts. In later eras they revised and adapted their law to fit changing economic, cultural, and physical environments of an empire that spanned the Mediterranean. Each case documents the role of law in this history, and the study questions engage with key issues in legal and environmental history, ancient and modern.

This casebook aims to cross historical and disciplinary boundaries by making the primary evidence for Roman water rights accessible to students and researchers. Cases are presented in both original Latin and English translation. To prepare for study of the cases, each chapter opens with an overview of its topic while the introduction presents the evidence for water rights and contextualizes them within historical and conceptual frameworks.

Cynthia Jordan Bannon is Professor of Classical Studies at Indiana University Bloomington.

“Because a supply of good drinking water is a precious natural resource and an essential human need, its protection and administration have always been critical in every culture. Assessing how the Romans tackled legal problems about water supply and usage is therefore directly relevant to us. Bannon’s Casebook on Roman Water Law assembles a comprehensive collection of ancient sources over the wide range of Roman water law, with English translations of the original documents in Latin, thus providing readers with direct access to the source materials. The book is a major contribution to any understanding of a problem which is directly relevant to modern environmental issues.”
—Harry B. Evans, Fordham University

"[A Casebook on Roman Law] makes a challenging topic accessible, not only to ancient historians but also beyond, providing translations to sources which are not explored within the typical ancient corpus… This book not only serves as a valuable resource as a guide for a module or as a prompt for further reading, it also does justice to its stated aim, to demonstrate that Romans used legal means to govern access to natural resources such as water.”

- Andrew Fox