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Institute of Advanced Study

Professor Christer Bruun

IAS Fellow at Collingwood College, Durham University (October - December 2009)

Christer Bruun is an historian of the ancient Roman world at the University of Toronto. He has published widely on questions relating to the social, cultural and administrative history of both the Roman Republic and the Roman imperial period. He was a Visiting Student at Oxford (Brasenose College) for two terms in 1988-89 and a Visiting Scholar at Wolfson College, Oxford, during 1992. In the academic year 1993-94 he was an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at the Universität zu Köln (hosted by W. Eck), and in 1994 he took up his position in the Classics Department at the University of Toronto, where he was promoted to Full Professor in 2005, and is currently Graduate Coordinator and Associate Chair. In the first part of 1997 he was Visiting Professor at the University of Odense (now U. of Southern Denmark). Most of his time outside Finland and Canada has been spent in Rome, where he has lived some seven years in total, the most recent continuous stretch being the academic years 1997-2000, during which time he was Director of the Finnish Institute for Classical Studies, the Institutum Romanum Finlandiae.

He has published or edited five books and some seventy articles in English, German or Italian, besides a dozen articles in Swedish or Finnish, and some sixty book reviews, and he has been a columnist in Hufvudstadsbladet, the largest Swedish daily in Finland, since 1998. He worked part or full time as a journalist for the Swedish section of the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation (Yleisradio) from 1980 to 1987. Among his works are The Water Supply of Ancient Rome (1991), The Roman Middle Republic (ed., 2000), Ostia e Portus nelle loro relazioni con Roma (ed. with A. Gallina Zevi, 2002), and I bolli laterizi di Roma e della Valle del Tevere: produzione, storia economica e topografia (ed., 2005).

His fields of expertise include Ancient water supply, Roman government, Roman epigraphy (he is currently co-editing, with J.C. Edmondson, the Oxford Handbook of Roman Epigraphy), the topography of Rome, and generally questions of Roman culture and society. He has also published on questions in medieval history (naming practices, water supply), in Renaissance history (the reception of Frontinus and water administration in Rome of the XV-XVII centuries), and in more recent history (the diaries of J.W. von Goethe, Classical studies in Odessa), or even relating to his own times (the rise of the Finnish radical youth movement in the 1970s, (in Swedish)). One of his current major projects is a study of Roman Ostia. While at the Institute of Advanced Study, he intends to work on aspects of Roman water legislation.

Fellow's Home Page

Professor Christer Bruun Publications

Bruun, C (2010) 'Water, Oxygen Isotopes and Immigration to Ostia-Portus', Journal of Roman Archaeology, 23, pp. 109-32

Bruun, C (2010) “Cognomina plumbariorum’, Epigraphica, 72, pp. 297-331.

IAS Insights Paper


The intellectual rigour of the legal system created by the Romans had no parallel in the ancient Mediterranean world nor in the Near East. A large body of legal texts and interpretations by jurists covered practically every aspect of human life. In this contribution the focus is on legislation on water use.  The article begins by giving a general overview of the various ways in which legislation was created. I am concerned in particular with the role of the Roman emperor. He was powerful, but there was scope also for local decision making. As the imperial period progressed (from 31 BCE), the emperor took over more and more of the legislative functions, although he had trained lawyers or jurists to assist him. Eventually, the mass of Roman legislation (going back to the beginning of the current era or beyond) became too difficult to master, and in Late Antiquity compilations of relevant legislation were made on imperial order. It is almost exclusively thanks to these collections that Roman law survived. The Codex Theodosianus came into force in 438 CE, and the Codex Justinianus and the Digest in 534 CE. Roman private law had always been concerned with the use of water in agriculture (especially for irrigation), but the Codex Theodosianus contains nothing in this regard; the few clauses on water management it contains show concern only for the aqueducts supplying major cities. There is more on agricultural water use in the code of the emperor Justinian, and especially so in the Digest. This article asks whether these differences derive from certain technical factors that regulated how in particular the Theodosian code was compiled, or if we are dealing with real differences in imperial policy.

Insights Paper