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Bill Thayer

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Roman Waterworks

[image ALT: A high three-tiered Roman aqueduct crossing a forested valley. It is the Pont du Gard in southern France.]

In the minds of many, the beautiful Pont du Gard near Nîmes in southern France, is synonymous with "aqueduct" and even with Roman engineering.

This site will gain in cohesion as we go: I've got a bunch of stuff in preparation.

[image ALT: A diagram of a basin receiving water from an ascending pipe.]

Frontinus on the Water Supply of Rome: Sextus Julius Frontinus was called on to administer the city's water, and methodically set out to discover and put an end to endemic theft of the resource, and prevent it in the future. Having done so, he wrote a very accurate and engagingly sober book about it, which is a mine of information for modern archaeologists and historians. Of everything Roman I've ever read, this is my favorite work, and I'm pleased to be able to share it with you.


Book VIII of Vitruvius: Of the ten books of the de Architectura, one deals with water supply. It is rather summary in addressing the actual engineering of the hydraulic structures, but Vitruvius is an interesting source on springs, the quality and uses of water, and some of the techniques involved. Onsite, the Latin text and an English translation.

Link to the homepage of the Smith's Dictionary subsite

Aquaeductus: A major article on the Roman aqueduct from William Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. This classical and archaeological encyclopaedia was published in 1875, but I've updated it a bit: here for example, its woodcuts are joined by some of my own photos.

[image ALT: Arches of a ruined Roman aqueduct on a lawn. They are the Arcus Neroniani, or Arches of Nero, in Rome.]

All the aqueduct articles in Platner & Ashby's Topography of Ancient Rome: the 10 major ones and over a dozen others, some of them appearing nearly mythical.

Anio Novus • Anio Vetus • Aqua Alsietina • Aqua Appia • Aqua Claudia • Aqua Iulia • Aqua Marcia • Aqua Tepula • Aqua Traiana • Aqua Virgo • Arcus Stillans • Arcus Neroniani (the Neronian Arches) • Cloaca Maxima

[image ALT: An ancient ruined brick structure somewhat larger than a football field, under some pine trees. It is the Baths of Caracalla in Rome.]

Roman Baths:

A 10,000‑word article that explains all the essentials, with 12 images, including good plans of the Baths of Caracalla in Rome and the Forum Baths in Pompeii, each keyed to sections of the text;

Articles from Platner's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome: the Baths of Caracalla and Diocletian of course, but 21 others as well.

The text of Vitruvius (Latin and English) on bath construction.

The Meta Sudans: a vanished fountain in the heart of Rome.
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Some well preserved and nicely restored public latrines in Ostia the port of ancient Rome.
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A Roman cistern in the cathedral of Assisi: it's really odd what you can find in churches!
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A fountain dedication in Città di Castello: the inscription is attractive and of interest, while clear enough for any budding epigraphers out there to cut your teeth on.
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Page updated: 27 Aug 14