Environmental protection in antiquity I

Resource consumption in antiquity

"Here, namely, one digs through the earth in the hunt for wealth, because the world demands gold, silver, amber and copper; there, for the sake of ostentation, one digs for precious stones and dyes for walls and wood; elsewhere, for the sake of daring drift, one digs for iron, which is valued even more than gold in war and murder." These critical words about the disrespectful, uninhibited and merciless treatment in antiquity of the "earth" and people in the search for and extraction of gold, silver and iron, driven by delusions of prestige, come from the Naturalis Historia (XXXIII, I, 1-3) by Pliny the Elder, who lived in the 1st century AD.

Something like environmental awareness existed in Roman antiquity, if at all, only to a very small extent. The traces of this can still be seen to some extent today. For example, in North Africa, on the Iberian Peninsula, in the Balkans and in what is now Greece (here, in part, even before the Roman occupation), entire stretches of land were deforested, which led to karstification of the soil. These landscapes, some of which are characteristic today (think of Croatia, Greece, Spain, ...) are actually due to the Roman Empire's hunger for wood.


As beautiful as the Roman baths were, they also had to be heated.

The price of the standard of living

The raw material wood was used in many areas to keep the "Roman Way of Life" running. Wood was used to build ships, which were essential for trade, the military and the transport of people. Wood, of course, was used in construction to build the Roman cities. It was used for metal extraction, mining and for heating the large thermal baths. Due to the high consumption of wood for heating and cooking, it would actually be logical to assume that reforestation had already taken place in ancient times.

Therefore, it is always astonishing that deforestation took place, but not reforestation. This phenomenon can also be noticed in the Danube floodplains, although here the Romans did not "succeed" in bringing about a karstification of the region, which is why their landscape influence was not as great as in the areas already mentioned. The closest occurrence of this phenomenon to Carnuntum is in Slovenia.

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