16 September 2021 Start
17 September 2021 End
Germany Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1, Munich / online conference

e-mail.: [email protected]

Interdisciplinary Workshop Roman Waters

September 16-17, 2021

The Romans famously claimed to be masters of the seas. They also used extraordinary feats of engineering to channel rivers and streams and built aqueducts to bring water from distant places. The many peoples under the Roman Empire interacted with seas, lakes, rivers, springs, and ponds in a variety of ways.

Modern researchers apply a number of different approaches to the study of ancient waters. Archaeologists and geologists use scientific methods to analyse the physical aspects of ancient remains, monuments, and landscapes, while literary scholars tend to approach landscapes using a more conceptual approach. The increased use of digital media to study, analyse, display, and share texts has opened up new ways of understanding ancient literature: the development of various cartography projects online indicates a growing interest in the description and analysis of the configuration and transformation of the ancient world. Drawing on the presence of various bodies of water in historical and geographical texts written in Latin, the metaphorical use of water in poetry, and the many references to springs, rivers, and seas in ancient itineraria we can see how new technologies (e.g. databases, Linked Open Data or even the TEI guidelines) may help connect both literary images and the reality of geographical features, and reflect upon ancient authors’ relationship with their surroundings. The recent paradigm of ecocriticism has begun to open new avenues for understanding human to non-human relationships in ancient texts. Environmental historians use a variety of scientific methods to reconstruct the properties of water and the ancient climate.

This workshop aims to explore the interaction between diverse areas of research on Roman waters by engaging these various disciplines in dialogue in posing the questions: How can we integrate the approaches of literary studies, environmental humanities, geoarchaeology, and new technologies as applied to the study of ancient waters? In what way can each of the fields contribute to an interdisciplinary dialogue and understanding of ancient aquatic environments?

The workshop is generously sponsored by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

Workshop Programme

Thursday, 16 September 




Session 1:  Interdisciplinary ecohistory

Sabine Huebner (University of Basel).: The Nile river in Roman times: A multidisciplinary approach to studying climate, environment and society (9h20-9h55)

Jean-Philippe Goiran (Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée): Coastal geoarchaeology along the circum Mediterraneum: methodology, terminology and case studies (9h55-10h30)

10h30-10h50 BREAK


Session 2: Technologies and new discoveries

Gül Sürmelihindi & Cees Passchier (Universität Mainz): Geoarchaeology of Roman aqueducts: What a multi-proxy approach reveals on environmental history (10h50-11h25)

Hella Eckardt (University of Reading) and Philippa Walton (Cotswold Archaeology): Ritual or rubbish: a holistic approach to Roman river finds (11h25-12h00)


12h20-13h45 LUNCH


Session 3: Water and senses

Giacomo Savani (University College Dublin): A Colonisation of the Senses? Baths and Bathing in the Countryside of Roman Britain (13h45-14h20)

Dylan Rogers (University of Virginia): Water, Architecture, and the Senses: Exploring the Materiality of Aquatic Landscapes in the Roman World (14h20-14h55)

14h55-15h15 COFFEE BREAK


Session 4: Technologies and new solutions

Marguerite Ronin (CNRS): Hydraulic technologies and private law. Solutions for the intensification of agriculture around late-republican Rome (15h15-15h50)

Ryan Horne (UCLA): Mare Nostrum: Using Linked Open Data, Network Analysis and Historical GIS to Model Ancient Waters (15h50-16h25)



Friday, 17 September  


Session 5: Waters & landscapes

Krešimir Vuković (LMU München): River and Gender: An Ecocritical Reading of the Myths of the Tiber (9h15-9h50)

Simon Malmberg (University of Bergen): River Neighbourhood: Edge City and Serial Vision in Rome’s Tiberscape (9h50-10h25)

Kristina Sessa (Ohio State University): Aqueous disasters in Late Antiquity (10h25-11h00)

11h00-11h20 BREAK


Maria Mariola Glavan (University of Zadar): Heavenly Waters and Holy Women of Rome (11h20-11h55)

Janyce Desiderio (LMU München): Bede’s virtual description of the Holy Land, from the unnamed spring to the Great Sea (11h55-12h30)



The workshop will take place in a hybrid format with some speakers presenting in situ at the LMU and others online. Those wishing to attend online are asked to email the organizers, Krešimir Vuković and Jancye Desiderio, on [email protected] by 1 September. Due to the circumstances we do not envisage a live audience attending the event at this stage.