The research project continued the work of the former research group (B-I-1) Surveying and Limitation that examined ways in which spaces are defined and constituted through acquisition and demarcation. Five research fields of this former group were investigated.


Legal systems of land use in Roman colonies

The project has analyzed legal forms of private land use in the colonies and in the province of the Roman Empire, pointing out their underlying relationship with fundamental legal and governmental decisions.

The Roman land law is a setting that allows particularly well to investigate the tension between legal constructions that are based on a seemingly simple system and the demands of practice. It provides the basis for understanding how Roman jurists took on factual developments and integrated them in different ways into the grown legal structures. In addition, the project clarifies the governmental process of conceptualization and the controlling of land.

The examination of Roman land law and its conceptual background is based on a comparison between private ownership on the ager privatus and legal forms of private land use on public land, the ager vectigalis. The latter allowed the individual land users to exercise extensive permissions that could be seen as similar to legal ownership, the so-called “dominium ex iure Quiritium”. The ager compascuus is generally seen as a form of common land use that includes aspects of both private and public land use. The Roman jurists had different approaches to the integration of these legal forms in the dogmatic structure of Roman law. The examination of their judgments reveals that their decisions can be attributed to major conceptual frameworks, the pre-classical and the classical jurisprudence.

Special importance is attached to the analysis of the writings of the Roman land surveyors. They not only shed light on the practical aspects of the surveying techniques, the founding of colonies and land use but reveal the interdependence of ritual foundations, practical and legal aspects. The writings of the Roman land surveyors show a different sort of approach to legal controversies that is more concentrated on concrete consequences of legal decisions. In that way it is possible to understand on what basis authorities decided legal controversies. In connection with the findings related to the aforementioned dualism between the pre-classical and the classical jurisprudence, the political and philosophical reasons for these decisions become more transparent.

The examination of the interdependence between the perspectives of Roman jurists and land surveyors was taken forward by the participation in monthly workshops of the Key Topic Transformation. The work of scientists from different disciplines focused on transformation processes in the field of knowledge.

Important impacts also resulted from a research stay at the Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II in Naples (Italy). The main goal of literature research was supplemented by a participation in the 68. Session of the Société Internationale Fernand de Visscher pour l’Histoire des Droits de l’Antiquité (SIHDA) in Naples and a speech held at the Centro Interdipartimentale “Vincenzo Arangio-Ruiz” di Studi Storici e Giuridici sul Mondo Antico.

Water in the light of Roman law – Use of resources and handling of risks

Roman jurists were very well aware of the ambiguous nature of water: in the same time an invaluable resource and a potentially harmful element. These characteristics have been studied from the juridical point of view and with regard to regional characteristics by Cosima Möller and has been presented within the two-part conference “Wasser – Wege – Wissen auf der iberischen Halbinsel” and the related publication:

Ignacio Czeguhn, Yolanda Quesada, José A. Pérez Juan and Cosima Möller (Eds.), Wasser – Wege – Wissen auf der iberischen Halbinsel vom Römischen Imperium bis zur muselmanischen Herrschaft I. Tagungsband zur gleichnamigen Tagung in Elche 2014, Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlag, 2016

In addition, an investigation has been led about the historical and environmental context of elaboration of some water servitudes, between the 3rd and the 2nd century BCE. It has highlighted a close link between the development of new rights destined to share water, the increase of the urban market and the dedication of the periphery of Rome to business orientated gardening activities. Investment in water infrastructure has also been explored, exploiting the juridical documentation in combination with historical and archaeological sources. It has pointed out that, whereas water was a common good, collaboration is seldom attested between users in the case of small infrastructures. Cooperation seems indeed to have happened rather when large facilities were involved, as in the irrigation communities. These results have been presented, in particular at the Februar 2016 Topoi workshop “Water management in ancient civilizations”, and will be published in forthcoming articles. From the 2nd century BCE onwards, hydraulic technologies were involved in the growing agricultural production of the Roman Empire. Fragments of juridical works collected in the Digest help us understand to what extent.

Formation and maintenance of infrastructures


Conference organized by research project B-1-4

The development of urban and rural space at the outset of the Roman republic is investigated from the perspective of road and hydraulic systems. The research focuses on the use, conversion and maintenance of infrastructure from a legal, historical and archaeological point of view. A first workshop held in June 2016, “Nutzung und Umnutzung von Grundbesitz, Gebäuden und Infrastrukturen im römischen Imperium und danach”, has emphasized the continuity of use and re-allocation of equipment such as roads, milestones, aqueducts, waterways and manuscripts in new institutional contexts in the Late antiquity – speeches by Jens-Olaf Lindermann, Marguerite Ronin and Lennart Griese. Also interdisciplinary, the second workshop “Maintenance and restoration of road and hydraulic infrastructures in the Roman world and the Late Antiquity” in June 2017 will focus on their maintenance. It will examine in what capacity and for which reasons (practical, but also maybe political or ideological) infrastructures have been preserved in the Late Antiquity and early Middle Ages. Conceived as a partnership between Topoi and the University of Paris 10-Nanterre, it will be held in French and German. A publication of the papers is also planned.

corpus agrimensorum Romanorum

A German-Latin edition of the liber gromaticus, a treatise of the Roman land surveyor Hyginus (ca. 2th century CE) is in preparation and will be published at the conclusion of the project. This publication will make the text available in German translation for the first time. The text of this edition differs from other editions now in print in that it takes into full account important manuscripts for the first time and tries to eliminate the interpolations of the initial compilation. The liber gromaticus not only discusses legal questions but also methods of land survey, such as sun dial measurement and the construction of a parallel to lines not accessible. Questions concerning the text are treated comprehensively in mathematical, juridical and philological commentaries in order to shed light on questions of the Roman empire’s infrastructure, e.g. the question of how land surveying worked and how land was brought under control of human ratio and used efficiently, which is also relevant for researching of military roads and trade routes.