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1999 J. S. Afr. L. 495 (1999)
Roman Origins of Environmental Law

handle is hein.journals/jsouafl1999 and id is 511 raw text is: Roman origins of environmental law?
RENA VAN DEN BERGH*
1 Introduction
1.1 General
Environmental law is a subject of the twentieth century. It is partly a result of
modern technology, but it is also as old as civilised human societies: how to
rectify damage already done to the environment and how to prevent, or, at the
very least, to limit future damage to the environment. Various questions will be
addressed in this article. Did the Romans realise that certain actions were
harmful to the environment? If so, for which reasons? Which measures were
taken to prevent or limit such damage? What were the reasons these measures
were introduced? Were these measures taken on an ad hoe basis, or was there
some kind of realisation of the value of the environment and were they con-
sequently undertaken on a scientific and developing basis? Or did the measures
which aimed to rectify, limit and/or prevent damage to the environment only
do so accidentally and not at all for reasons specifically related to environ-
mental law? These questions will be discussed with reference to water, roads
and burials.
1.2 Roman planning
Planning in the modern world is principally the science --- or art --- of looking into the future
and seeing what needs must be met during the coming year, the coming five years, the coming
twenty years. Using its estimate of these needs, an authority --- a city or a region or a country ---
plans its future development, its distribution of resources, its use of land or buildings, in a word,
its priorities. Subsidiary to this are the planning controls which the authority imposes on the
individual. These are governed by the authority's view of its own development, but they are
more concerned with matters that arise from the initiative of the private person than with public
works. The Romans recognised both these aspects of planning. Nevertheless, the structure of
their society and, for their own city, their awareness that they were restricted by the past, their
site being determined by necessity rather than by free choice, meant that planning was a less
important sphere of governmental activity for the Romans than for us.1
The Romans were undoubtedly aware of the concept of a planned city. Plan-
ning in the strict sense of the word can be inferred from certain areas, for
example the pomerium and the city walls. Robinson asks the question whether
the fact that Rome was surrounded by parks was due to chance or planning.2
Since there were no suburbs, there was no real need for a green belt. But the
city nevertheless needed lungs. These parks were probably created for pur-
poses of public health. Although it is also possible that they were created by the
emperors solely for their own enjoyment, Vitruvius' remarks indicate that there
was a need for a salubrious site and that the government would have taken
* Associate Professor, Department of Jurisprudence, University of South Africa.
Robinson Ancient Rome: City Planning and Administration (1994) 14.
2 Robinson (n 1) 25.
495

TSAR 1999.3

[fSSN 0257- 77471

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