Artificial Fishponds in Roman Italy

By James Higginbotham


312 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 108 illus., 1 map

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-3604-0
    Published: September 2012

Studies in the History of Greece and Rome

Buy this Book

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit Bookshop.org
Pisciculture--the process of raising fish--held a lasting fascination for the people of ancient Rome. Whether bred for household consumption, cultivated for sale at market, or simply kept in confinement for reasons of aesthetic appreciation, fish remained an important commodity and prominent cultural symbol throughout the periods of the Roman Republic and early Empire. Roman pisciculture reached its greatest level of sophistication, though, between the first century b.c. and the first century a.d. with the development of a highly specialized architectural element: the piscina, or artificial fishpond. Based on a thorough examination of the archaeological record and complemented by site plans, maps, and photographs, James Higginbotham's work represents the most comprehensive study of the fishponds of Roman Italy. Higginbotham covers the technical aspects of Roman fishponds--their design, construction, and operation--and places the piscinae within their social, political, and economic context. He argues that in a society fascinated by pisciculture, ownership of a fishpond was a powerful display of wealth and social status and, ultimately, a manifestation of the intense competition between aristocratic Roman families that would eventually lead to civil war.

Originally published in 1997.

A UNC Press Enduring Edition -- UNC Press Enduring Editions use the latest in digital technology to make available again books from our distinguished backlist that were previously out of print. These editions are published unaltered from the original, and are presented in affordable paperback formats, bringing readers both historical and cultural value.

About the Author

James Higginbotham is assistant professor of classical archaeology at Bowdoin College.
For more information about James Higginbotham, visit the Author Page.


"By combining a thorough catalogue of all known remains of Roman Italian fishponds with analysis of ancient texts and consideration of the fishpond's importance in aristocratic social display, Higginbotham records vanishing archaeological evidence and makes a significant contribution to Roman archaeology and social history."--Gail L. Hoffman, Yale University

“Brings together an impressive array of literary and archaeological material and constitutes the definitive study of this unique architectural form in Roman Italy. The University of North Carolina Press has produced a handsome and copiously illustrated volume.”--American Journal of Archaeology