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Gardens and Neighbors

Private Water Rights in Roman Italy

Cynthia Jordan Bannon

Publication Year: 2009

Gardens and Neighbors will provide an important building block in the growing body of literature on the ways that Roman law, Roman society, and the economic concerns of the Romans jointly functioned in the real world. ---Michael Peachin, New York University As is increasingly true today, fresh water in ancient Italy was a limited resource, made all the more precious by the Roman world's reliance on agriculture as its primary source of wealth. From estate to estate, the availability of water varied, in many cases forcing farmers in need of access to resort to the law. In Gardens and Neighbors: Private Water Rights in Roman Italy, Cynthia Bannon explores the uses of the law in controlling local water supplies. She investigates numerous issues critical to rural communities and the Roman economy. Her examination of the relationship between farmers and the land helps draw out an understanding of Roman attitudes toward the exploitation and conservation of natural resources and builds an understanding of law in daily Roman life. An editor of the series Law and Society in the Ancient World, Cynthia Jordan Bannon is also Associate Professor of Classical Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. Her previous book was The Brothers of Romulus: Fraternal Pietas in Roman Law, Literature, and Society (1997). Visit the author's website: http://www.iub.edu/~classics/faculty/bannon.shtml. Jacket illustration: Barren Tuscan Fields in Winter © 2009 Scott Gilchrist. Image from stock.archivision.com.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Law and Society in the Ancient World


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p. ix


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p. x

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pp. 1-46

Private water rights were a valuable asset on Roman farms and villas. This study investigates the development and operation of private water rights during the late republican and early imperial eras. This is a book about law and how it worked for the Romans—in particular, how the law accommodated social, economic, and environmental constraints. Two questions drive the inquiry: how did rural landowners use legal institutions to secure an ...

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1. Rationality and Rationing a Common Resource

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pp. 47-100

What happens when one of the people using a scarce resource takes more than his share? This issue was controversial for jurists and landowners alike. A case preserved in the Digest of Justinian reflects the competition for water on rural property and is a signal for my approach to this competition, because it recalls the classic formulation of the tragedy of the commons, the herdsmen’s dilemma.

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2. Law and Neighborly Practice

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pp. 101-144

Aservitude depended on a fine balance in relations between neighbors. In a case preserved in the Digest of Justinian, the owner of a servient estate shared water from an open channel with the holder of a servitude on the same channel, and the owner of the servitude wanted to convert it to an underground passage. The case reports the opinions of two jurists who disagree about whether the holder of the servitude should be allowed to bury the channel.

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3. Utility, Productivity, and Planning

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pp. 145-193

Aservitude could be established only if it was useful to the dominant estate but there were questions about what was “useful.”The jurists developed the concept of utilitas or utility to define what useful meant in cases involving servitudes. In a short legal case reported in the Digest of Justinian, Paul lists negative examples that limit the scope of the so-called rustic servitudes, that is, servitudes attached to rural rather than urban property.

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4. Servitudes and the Sale of Land

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pp. 194-233

The case involves two subsequent purchases of the same property, and despite some disruption to the text in compilation, the situation can be reconstructed with some certainty. A servitude had been established to channel water to two properties owned by the same person. When one of these properties was sold, the servitude was transferred with the land even if it was not explicitly mentioned.

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pp. 234-244

In Roman Italy, private water rights were governed by servitudes, a legal institution that afforded flexible solutions to managing a local water supply. This study has investigated the legal rules of servitudes in order to evaluate how and how well the regime of private water rights served the needs of rural landowners. We have observed the development of legal concepts relating to servitudes, such as daily/summer water and the use-it-or-lose-it ...


Appendix A: Sources for Uses of Water and Hydraulic Facilities on the Farm

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pp. 247-261

Appendix B: Fishponds and Freshwater Supply

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pp. 262-267


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pp. 269-286

Index of Sources

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pp. 287-295

General Index

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pp. 297-310

E-ISBN-13: 9780472025640
E-ISBN-10: 0472025643
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472033539
Print-ISBN-10: 0472033530

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 1 map
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Law and Society in the Ancient World
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OCLC Number: 642475442
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Gardens and Neighbors