Most readers will very likely be familiar with the Roman aqueduct, the highly sophisticated water transport method. This short article would like to show you just how sophisticated they were. Here are some figures. We start with the wonderful Marcus Agrippa, Augustus’ clever right-hand man, general, and great contributor to improvement of the city’s infrastructure. Apart from the baths and the exquisitely beautiful Pantheon, he built the Aqua Iulia. It is believed he increased Rome’s water supply by 75%. Why do I start with Agrippa? Well, you’re going to learn that I am a big fan of Agrippa, unsung hero, but where Augustus would have been without him, I don’t know. He also built the state granaries, which helped keep the people on side. Cool chap!
Frontinus, a fantastic and highly learned writer, who, tasked with being the curator of the water supply, made it his aim to learn the business and learn from his predecessors and recorded his investigations. At the start of his work De Aquis, he lists the main aqueducts to Rome:
“But there now run into the City: the Appian aqueduct, Old Anio, Marcia, Tepula, Julia,
Virgo, Alsietina, which is also called Augusta, Claudia, New Anio.”
Very impressive for not only for the time, but for supplying successfully Italy’s most populous city and the heart of the empire. The relative simplicity of the design’s logic should be apparent from the following diagram:
Compare modern and ancient logic and efficiency if you will!
What I also like about aqueducts is that they are just beautiful constructions.
This is an aqueduct from Spain. The Roman arch of course was itself an advance in engineering, strengthening the arch by putting the burden on the sides. The Romans were brilliant engineers.
So, “All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”
(John Cleese, aka Reg, Monty Python, Life of Brian).