Marble slab inscribed with 1,900-year-old Water Law unearthed in Turkey
An ancient Roman water law inscribed in Greek on a large marble slab has been unearthed in Laodicea, Turkey, which appointed curators to oversee the city’s water supply and set fines for people who polluted or diverted the water.
An article in the Hurriyet Daily News says the city’s water supply is still controlled 1,900 years later. The law was passed by the Laodicea Assembly and approved by a Roman governor in Ephesus on behalf of the Roman Empire.
The marble block dates to 114 AD and detailed control of the water from the Karci Mountains, which arrived in the city through channels. It also delineated controls of a fountain that was dedicated to the Roman emperor Traianus. Anatolian State Governor Aulus Vicirius Matrialis wrote the rules, Hurriyet says. The marble slab upon which the laws are carved measures 90 by 116 cm (35 by 45 inches).
The fines were stiff, but the heaviest penalties were reserved for city personnel who failed to enforce the water laws.
Laodicea excavations chief Celal Şimşek of Pamukkale University, said: “Water was vital for the city. This is why there were heavy penalties against those who polluted the water, damaged the water channels or reopened the sealed water pipes. Breaking the law was subject to a penalty of about 12,500 denarius - 125,000 Turkish Liras.” As of August 2015, 125,000 Turkish Liras equal about $42,000.
Among the ruins excavated in Laodicea are these columns of an ancient temple. (Photo by Rjdeadly/Wikimedia Commons)
“The fine for damaging the water channel or polluting the water is 5,000 denarius, nearly 50,000 Turkish Liras,” he said. “The fine is the same for those who break the seal and attempt illegal use. Also, there are penalties for senior staff that overlook the illegal use of water. They pay 12,500 denarius. Those who denounce the polluters are given one-eighth of the penalty as a reward, according to the rules.”
The inscription reads in part:
Those who divide the water for his personal use, should pay 5,000 denarius to the empire treasury; it is forbidden to use the city water for free or grant it to private individuals; those who buy the water cannot violate the Vespasian Edict; those who damage water pipes should pay 5,000 denarius; protective roofs should be established for the water depots and water pipes in the city; the governor’s office [will] appoint two citizens as curators every year to ensure the safety of the water resource; nobody who has farms close to the water channels can use this water for agriculture.
The excavations on Stadium Street in Laodicea are being carried out by Pamukkale University with support from Denizli Municipality.
An ancient church at Laodicea; John the Revelator, author of the last book of the Christian Bible, wrote a letter to the church in Laodicea that is part of the book of Revelation. (Photo by Rjdeadly/Wikimedia Commons)
Excavations in the city of Laodicea have been underway for many years, during which time archaeologists have unearthed thousands of artifacts, pagan temples, an old church, the foundations of an ancient house and columns of the North Sacred Agora and Central Agora.
Archaeologists have also been excavating Stadium Street and other avenues. It is the largest systematic excavation under way in Turkey. Thousands of tourists have visited the sites.
“The past nine years of the excavation have revealed 3,050 ancient artifacts in the city. Among the most important finds are the heads of sculptures of Augustus, Dionysus, and Aphrodite and a sculpture of Zeus. The ancient city also has a sculpture of Hera and emperors,” Hurriyet Daily News wrote in 2011.
Featured image: The code of laws controlling and protecting the ancient Turkish city of Laodicea’s water supply were carved into this marble block. (Credit: AA photo)
By Mark Miller