Greek Cisterns : Water and risk in ancient Greece, 600–50 BC

Abstract: This study explores cisterns in the Greek world 600–50 BC based on a representative body of archaeological material of 410 cisterns from 49 sites presented in a catalogue, and the literary and epigraphic evidence. The aim is to investigate when and how cisterns were constructed, how they were used and functioned in ancient Greek society and why they were used only at certain times.The first part of the study creates a framework for the investigation of cisterns, examining the installations, the chronology and ancient terminology. The variation in shape and construction and various features used to improve functionality are treated. Chronologically, the study discusses methodological questions related to the dating of cisterns as well as when cisterns were constructed. It is shown that cisterns existed in the Archaic period but were rare, while during the 4th c. BC they become more popular, and remained so until the last century BC.Based on the framework established in the first part, the study investigates how cisterns were used, from construction to abandonment, and how the use was both formed by, and formed, interaction between cisterns and humans. Cisterns are then studied on a micro-, meso- and macro-level, as these three perspectives reveal different aspects of how cisterns were used and functioned in the Greek world. Finally, the study explores the way in which cisterns were viewed in comparison to other water sources and how this affected their relation to the humans using them. It is argued that cisterns were connected to passivity and control, and that this enabled them to be used as a risk-management strategy.

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