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p28 Aqua Virgo

Article on pp28‑29 of

Samuel Ball Platner (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby):
A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome,
London: Oxford University Press, 1929.


Aqua Virgo:* an aqueduct completed by Agrippa on 9th June 19 B.C. (Ovid, Fast. I.464; ex Pont. I.8.38; Frontinus, de aquis I.4, 10, 18, 22; II.70, 84; Seneca, Ep. 83.5; Mart. V.20.9; VI.42.18; VII.32.11; XI.47.6; Plin. NH XXXI.42; XXXVI.121, who is in error in attributing it to 33 B.C., and in associating the rivus Herculaneus with it; see Aqua Marcia; Stat. Silv. I.5.26; Cass. Dio LIV.11; Not. app.; Pol. Silv. 545, 546; Cassiodor. Var. VII.6; CIL VI.1252‑1254, 31564, 31565; NS 1910, 547).

The springs were situated at the eighth mile of the via Collatina, i.e. two miles to the left of the eighth mile of the via Praenestina, in agro Lucullano (PBS I.139, 143), and produced 2504 quinariae or 103,916 cubic metres in 24 hours. The subterranean course was 12,865 paces long, and 540 paces were carried on substructions. A girl is said to have shown the springs to some soldiers, hence the name; the incident was recorded by a painting in a chapel near the springs (Frontinus I.10). It was the lowest of all the aqueducts except the Appia and the Alsietina.

It ran almost entirely underground, by a conduit which is still in use, p29until it reached the Horti Lucullani (q.v.) on the Pincian, below which it had a settling tank, added after the time of Frontinus (I.22). See LF 1, 2, 9, 15, 16.

The cippi, erected by Tiberius (36‑37 A.D.) and Claudius (44‑45 A.D.) only ran as far as this point, two bearing the number I having been found in the Villa Medici. From this point it ran southward along the side of the hill, and near the Via Capo le Case turned south-west and began to run on arches for 700 paces. The arch in the modern Via del Nazzareno, by which the aqueduct was carried over a branch street from the via Lata (from which the church of S. Maria in Via takes its name, see HCh 375), records its restoration by Claudius in 46 after the damage caused by the Amphitheatrum Caligulae (q.v.). See Arcus Claudii (1), and cf. Mart. IV.18, qua vicina pluit Vipsanis porta columnis (see Porticus Vipsania). It passed east of the Campus Agrippae (q.v.) and then turned westward (see Vicus Capralicus).

It crossed the via Lata by the Arcus Claudii (2) (q.v.) and its arches ended, after passing along the north façade of the Saepta (arcus . . . finiuntur in campo Martio secundum frontem Saeptorum, Frontinus I.22), near the north-west angle of the church of S. Ignazio, under the façade of which it arches were found;1 and here was its terminal castellum (LA 444). Like the Marcia, its supply was largely diverted to private uses in the time of Nero (Plin. NH XXXI.41). A restoration by Constantine is recorded in an inscription found in the Via Nazionale, obviously nowhere near its original position (CIL VI.31564). An attempt by the Goths in the siege of 537 to use its subterranean channel as a passage to the city, after they had cut off the water from it as from the other aqueducts, is described by Procopius (BG II.8.1‑11).

The forma Virginis is frequently mentioned in documents of the eighth to tenth centuries (cf. Eins. 2.5; 4.4; Mon. L. I.455‑456, 467). It was repaired by Hadrian I (LPD I.505); cf. also a bull of 955, which speaks of the arcus Claudii (1) as arcora (Kehr I.63, 6; ASRSP 1889, 268). In 1453 Nicholas V restored it, and brought the water as far as the Trevi fountain, where its present termination is in the fine fountain of Niccolò Salvi (1744). It was repaired by Sixtus IV, but in 1570 it was thoroughly rebuilt by Pius V. His successors, and especially Gregory XIII, built many fountains which were supplied by it. Its low level rendered it impossible for it to supply any part of the higher quarters of Rome. See LA 332‑342; NS 1885, 70, 250; 1887, 447; BC 1878, 17‑21; 1883, 6, 51; 1888, 61‑67; Mitt. 1889, 269; PBS I.143; HCh 398, 399.º


Author's Note:

1 Drawing by Orazio Grassi at Windsor (Inv. 10397, formerly A.12 f.44; see Cassiano dal Pozzo, Mem. 47), and Parker, Historical Photographs, 2326.


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