Ph./Editing by Martina Morreale
“The flowing and running of water, its journey can be a metaphor for life in its dramatic precariousness” (Giuseppe Frega)
The ancient value of water and its landscape
In a deep and distant past, in every culture and religion the value of water was sacred and a founding element of the garden and landscape.
The analyzes and reflections in the “Histories” of Herodotus, Greek historian and traveller, are a precious source for the observation of this element, the lack of which was an important topic of study for the Greeks.
Influencing man’s activity, watercourses had a fundamental importance and often represented the result of important hydraulic works, provided they were always in favour of the landscape and did not violate the natural balance, with the aim of stopping, limiting and preventing the abusive exploitation of public waters.
In fact, houses, like sacred areas, had to be protected from private interests.
At the same time as the protection of common water resources, effective legislation regulated the protection of the environment, even outside the purely cultural spheres.
This journey through time together with Herodotus helps to understand the ancient water management with which, as a fundamental starting point, the action of the landscape was contemplated, which according to a thought also shared by Aristotle, influenced man’s character.
We are therefore immersed in the dimension of the ancient control and use of water, always considering the identity value of the territory that did not represent a simple container of man’s desires and needs.
Between ancient droughts and floods
Among the countless studies undertaken, the historian observed and compared two opposing models, the Egyptian and the Greek: in the latter the agricultural production, a source of survival, did not depend on the exploitation of river waters, but exclusively on rain, only water resource, which was obviously irregular and threatened by opposite events such as drought and floods. Do not these “opposite events” remind you of something very current?
The Egyptian model, on the other hand, with the absence of rains, ensured their agriculture with the flooding of the Nile: a minimum expenditure of energy, together with hydraulic works aimed at making the most of the advantages of the abundance of water, such as artificial canals, dams, tunnels.
The sacredness of water over time
Returning for a moment to that distant past, during which in Greece, Magna Graecia and Rome sources and waterways with their landscape were the home of the divinities venerated by shepherds, woodcutters and travellers, helps to better arrive at the current and complex context in which we find ourselves.
Between climate change, extreme events, melting glaciers, desertification, the preciousness of water is in continuous and exponential growth, to the point that its ‘sacredness’ has now become economic, the fulcrum of enormous interests and reason for new conflicts.
Its value is “determined on the basis of the fair market price and therefore subject to the processes of appropriation and private use” (Giuseppe Frega)
Incredible but true: it is clear that an involution of thought and management of resources in the present is promoted and supported, which in truth is “in the future” with respect to the choices described so far.
And in the garden?
“Water scarcity has become a pretext for the diffusion of practices (from synthetic lawns to waterproof floors) that go in the opposite direction to conscious management. Instead, it is essential to promote ‘vegetated’ surfaces that absorb heat and contribute to reducing water management problems even during extreme climatic events. Every plot of land, from the roadside to the small garden, can accommodate biodiversity, absorb carbon dioxide and fix particulates”.
(Matteo Boccardo, Sostenibilità e Biodiversità di “La Compagnia dei Pensatori”)
Through reflections, not necessarily in line with widespread commonplaces, prepare to immerse yourself more and more in the profound truth.
“Sul controllo e l’uso delle acque in Erodoto. Spunti di riflessione” Giovanna Bruno Sunseri (ὅρμος – Ricerche di Storia Antica n.s. 10, 2018)