Water Management and its Judicial Contexts in Ancient Greece: A Review from the Earliest Times to the Roman Period

Published: 31. March 2019
Category: Technical and Environmental Sciences
Author: Andreas N. Angelakis, Jens Krasilnikoff


Ancient Greek civilizations developed technological solutions to problems of access to and disposal of water but this prompted the need to take judicial action. This paper offers an overview of the judicial implications of Ancient civilizations developments or adaptations of technological applications aimed at exploiting natural resources. Thus, from the earliest times, Greek societies prepared legislation to solve disputes, define access to the water resources, and regulate waste- and storm-water disposal. On the one hand, evidence suggests that from the Archaic through the Hellenistic periods (ca. 750-30 BC), scientific progress was an important agent in the development of water management in some ancient Greek cities including institutional and regulations issues. In most cities, it seems not to have been a prerequisite in relation to basic agricultural or household requirements. Previous studies suggest that judicial insight rather than practical knowledge of basic water management became a vital part of how socio-political and religious organizations dealing with water management functioned. The evidence indicate an interest in institutional matters, but in some instances also in the day-to-day handling of water issues. Thus, the aim of this review is to follow the development of water law and institutions and their technical solutions in the Greek states during the Archaic through the Roman periods. In addition, it demonstrates that the need for water management regulations is not a modern creation, but there is a long tradition for solving complex issues of water supply and use with rather sophisticated legal measures.

Keywords: Irrigation; water codes; Laodicea; The Law Code of Gortyn; the Laws of Solon; Magistrates and superintendents of water

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Water Management and its Judicial Contexts in Ancient Greece


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