Forum Antike


Marguerite Ronin (University of Oxford)
The Perception of the Natural Risks in Antiquity. The Evidence of the Roman Law
The starting point of this investigation is the observation that the texts of the Roman law show a considerable number of rules and dispositions concerning floods, whereas other types of natural risks, like earthquakes, don’t appear in the legal documentation but tend to receive other types of responses. Different disciplinary perspectives must be crossed to understand why it is so. I will firstly argue that the modern geographical concept of “risk” helps us to understand the ancient perception of natural disaster: it draws us to investigate to what extent ancient societies were aware, not only of the direct causes (i.e. the natural phenomenon), but also of indirect causes (i.e. the human activities that can increase the effects of the phenomenon). I will secondly try to show that the legal texts help us to estimate this ancient awareness of the different causes that lead to a natural disaster, and argue that the reason why floods received so much attention from the jurists is because the Romans had well identified what the modern geographers call the “vulnerability” linked to the human settlements, in the case of the flood risks. That was not the case of seismic risks.
Place/Ort: Übungsraum, Institut für Alte Geschichte und Altertumskunde, Papyrologie und Epigraphik, Universitätsring 1, 1010 Wien (Erdgeschoß, Stirnseite des Audi-Max-Gangs)
Time/Zeit: 12. Dezember 2018, 17:15
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