The legal protection of environment in ancient Rome

  • Pál Sáry Department of Roman Law, Faculty of Law, University of Miskolc
Keywords: environment protection, Roman law, agriculture, silviculture, air pollution, water pollution, waste, road repairs, maintenance, demolition, protection of monuments


The paper wants to give an overview of the moral and legal rules which protected the natural and built environment in ancient Rome. These rules prove that environment protection is not a modern invention. A bonus et diligens pater familias was morally obliged to cultivate his own agricultural land carefully. Both air and water pollution was legally sanctioned. A house-owner had to keep his own building in good condition. Each person was to keep the street outside his own house in repair and clean. Demolition of both private and public buildings was strictly restricted. It is true that in ancient Rome environment protection was not full scope (e.g., animal protection was absent from Roman law), but many elements of environment were legally protected.


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