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Book V
Chapter 5

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Italy and Her Invaders

by
Thomas Hodgkin


2nd edition
Oxford University Press
London
1896

The text, and illustrations except as noted,
are in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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Book V
Note A

Book V (continued)

Vol. IV
p133
Chapter VI

The Cutting of the Aqueducts

Authorities

Sources: —

The chief authority for the history of the Roman Aqueducts is Sextus Julius Frontinus (cir. A.D. 97) in his two books De Aquaeductibus Urbis Romae. I have used chiefly Dederich's edition in the Bibliotheca Teubneriana.

Guides: —

The admirable monograph of the Commendatore R. Lanciani, 'Le Acque e gli Acquedotti di Roma Antica' (Rome, 1880), has superseded the treatise of Fabretti, valuable as that was in its day, and will probably now be always the standard work of reference on this subject. An English student may also express his gratitude for the assistance afforded by J. H. Parker's volume, 'The Aqueducts' (Oxford, 1876). The existing information on the subject is well summarised by H. Jordan, 'Topographie der Stadt Rom,' I.452‑480.

A traveller's view of the Aqueducts of Rome. The least observant visitor to Rome is awed and impressed by the ruins of the Aqueducts. As he stands on top of the Colosseum, or as he is carried swiftly past them on the railway to Naples, he sees their long arcades stretching away in endless perspective across the monotonous Campagna, and, ignorant perhaps of the valuable service which some of them yet render to the water-supply of Rome, he is only touched and saddened by the sight of so much wasted  p134 labour, by the ever-recurring thought of the nothingness of man. But when he comes to enquire a little more closely into the history of these wonderful structures, he finds, not only that the ignorance of scientific principles to which it was once the fashion to attribute their origin, did not exist; not only that the Popes of later days have succeeded in restoring a few of them so as to make them practically useful in quenching the thirst of the modern Roman: but also that the aqueducts have a curious and interesting history of their own which admirably illustrates the life and progress of the great Republic. As her fortunes mounted, so the arches rose, higher and higher. As her dominion extended, so those mighty filaments stretched further and further up into the hills. Like a hand upon the clock-face of Empire was the ever-rising level of the water-supply of Rome.

Water-supply of Rome before the aqueducts were built, B.C. 754 to 312. For four hundred and forty‑two years, that is during the whole period of the Kings and for the first two centuries of the Republic, the Romans were satisfied with such water as they could obtain from the tawny Tiber; from the wells, of which there was a considerable number; from the upspringing fountains, many of which were the objects of a simple religious worship; and from the cisterns in which they collected the not very abundant rain-fall.

Appia, B.C. 312. At length, in the year 312 B.C., when the Second Samnite War was verging towards its successful conclusion, the great Censor Appius Claudius bestowed upon Rome her first great road and her first aqueduct, both known through all after ages by his name.1 He  p135 went for his water-supply seven miles along the road to Palestrina, to a spot now called La Rustica, about half way between Rome and the hills, and hence, by a circuitous underground channel more than eleven miles long, he brought the water to the city. Not till it got to the Porta Capena, one of the old gates of the city on its southern side, did it emerge into the light of day, and then it was carried along arches only for the space of sixty paces. Thus, according to our modern use of the term, it might be considered as rather a conduit than an aqueduct. It has been remarked upon as an interesting fact that Appius Claudius, the first Roman author in verse and prose and the first considerable student of Greek literature, was also the first statesman to take thought for the water-supply of Rome. And further, that he whose censorship was marked by a singular coalition between the haughtiest of the aristocracy and the lowest of the commons, and who was suspected of aiming at the tyranny by the aid of the latter class, carried the water to that which was not only physically but socially one of the lowest quarters of Rome, the humble dwellings between the Aventine and the Caelian hills.2

 p136  Anio Vetus, B.C. 272. Forty years later, a much bolder enterprise in hydraulics was successfully attempted, when the stream afterwards known as the Anio Vetus was brought into the city by a course of 43 miles, at a level of 147 feet above the sea, or nearly 100 feet higher than the Aqua Appia.3 The last public act of the blind old Appius Claudius (the builder of the first aqueduct) had been to adjure the Roman Senate to listen to no proposals of peace from King Pyrrhus as long as a single Epirote soldier remained on the soil of Italy. Eight years later, when the war with Pyrrhus had been triumphantly concluded, Manius Curius, the hero of that war, signalised his censorship by beginning to build the second aqueduct, the spoils won in battle from the King of Epirus furnishing the pay of the workmen engaged in the operation. He died before the work was finished, and the glory of completing it belonged to Fulvius Flaccus, created with him 'duumvir for bringing the water to Rome.'4

This time the hydraulic engineers went further afield for the source of their supply. They looked across the Campagna to the dim hills of Tivoli —

'To the green steeps whence Anio leaps

In sheets of snow-white foam,' —

and daringly determined to bring the river Anio himself, or at least a considerable portion of his waters, to Rome. At a point about ten miles above Tivoli, near  p137 the mountain of S. Cosimato, the river was tapped. The water which was drawn from it was carried through tunnels in the rock, and by a generally subterranean course till, after a journey as before stated of forty-three miles, it entered Rome just at the level of the ground, but at a point (the Porta Maggiore) where that level was considerably higher than the place where the Appian water crept into the city.

Marcia, B.C. 144. Four generations passed before any further addition was made to the water-supply of Rome. Then, after the lapse of 128 years, the Marcian water, best of all the potable waters of Rome, was introduced into the city by the first aqueduct, in the common acceptation of the term, the first channel carried visibly above ground on arches over long reaches of country. Its source was at thirty-eight miles from Rome in the upper valley of the Anio, between Tivoli and Subiaco. Here lay a tranquil pool of water emerging from a natural grotto and of a deep green colour, whence came the liquid treasure of the Marcia. The changes in the conformation of the valley make it difficult to identify the spot with certainty, but it is thought that the furthest east of three springs known as the Acque Serene is probably the famous Marcia. From a spot close to this, the Marcia‑Pia aqueduct, constructed by a company in our own days, and named after Pope Pius the Ninth, now brings water to the city. The original Marcian aqueduct was built B.C. 144, two years after the close of the Third Punic War, and the work was entrusted by the Senate, not this time to a Censor but to the Praetor Urbanus, the highest judicial officer in Rome, who bore the name of  p138 Q. Marcius Rex. The aqueduct had a course of sixty‑one miles, for seven of which it was carried upon arches, and it entered the city at 176 feet above the sea‑level. The cost of its construction was 180 million sesterces,5 or nearly £1,600,000 sterling, and it carried water into the lofty Capitol itself, not without some opposition on the part of the Augurs, who, after an inspection of the Sibylline books, averred that only the water of the Anio, not that of any spring adjacent to it, might be brought into the temple of Jupiter.

Tepula, B.C. 125. Only nineteen years had elapsed, but years of continued conquest, especially in the Spanish peninsula, when in B.C. 125 another aqueduct, smaller, but at a slightly higher level, was added to the water-bringers of Rome. This was the Aqua Tepula, thirteen miles in length, of which only six were subterraneous, and entering Rome at a height of 184 feet above the sea‑level. Servilius Caepio and Longinus Ravilla were the Censors to whom the execution of this work was entrusted. They resorted to a new source of supply, not utilising this time either springs or streams in the Anio valley, but journeying to the foot of the conical Alban Mount (Monte Cavo), which rises to the south-east of Rome, and there wooing the waters of the tepid6 springs which bubbled up near the site of the modern village of Grotta Ferrata.

Another century passed, the century which saw the  p139 rise of Marius, Sulla, and the mighty Julius. Absorbed in foreign war and the factions of the Forum, Rome had no leisure for great works of industry, and did not even preserve in good condition those which she already possessed. At length in the year B.C. 33, three years before the battle of Actium, M. Vipsanius Agrippa, the ablest of the ministers of Augustus, bestirred himself on behalf of the water-supply of the vastly expanded city. He restored the Appia, the Anio Vetus, and the Marcia, which had fallen into ruins, but he was not satisfied with mere reconstruction. The same hand which gave the Pantheon and its adjoining baths to the citizens of Rome gave them also two more aqueducts, the Julia (B.C. 33) and the Aqua Virgo (B.C. 19).

Julia, B.C. 33. The Julia bore the name of its builder, who, himself of the plebeian Vipsanian gens, had been adopted, by reason of his marriage with the daughter of Augustus, into the high aristocratic family of the Caesars.7 Its source was near that of the Tepula, but a little further from Rome. Apparently, in order that it might impart some of its fresh coolness to that tepid stream, its waters were first blended with it and then again divided into another channel, which flowed into Rome at an elevation four feet above the Tepula (188 feet above the sea‑level). These two aqueducts, the Tepula and the Julia, are carried through the greater part of their course upon the same arcade with the Marcia.

'Like friends once parted,

Grown single-hearted,

They plied their watery tasks.'

 p140  And, as a rule, wherever in the neighbourhood of Rome the specus (so the mason-wrought channel is termed) of the Marcia is described, one sees also first the Tepula and then the Julia rising above it.

Aqua Virgo, B.C. 19. This work however, did not end Agrippa's labours for the sanitary well-being of Rome. The Julia, though twice as large as the Tepula, was still one of the smaller contributors of water to the city. Fourteen years after its introduction Agrippa brought the Aqua Virgo into Rome. This splendid stream, three times as large as the Julia, was exceeded in size only by the Anio Vetus and the Marcia, among the then existing aqueducts. To obtain it he went eight miles eastward of Rome, almost to the same spot where the great Censor had gathered the Aqua Appia. The Aqua Virgo derived its name from the story that when the soldiers of Agrippa were peering about to discover some new spring, a little maid pointed out to them a streamlet, which they followed up with the spade, thus soon finding themselves in presence of an immense volume of water. This story was commemorated by a picture in a little chapel built over the fountain.

The Virgo was not like all the more recent aqueducts, brought into Rome at a high level. In fact it was only fifteen feet higher than the Appia, as might have been expected from the nearness of origin of the two streams. Its course is perfectly well known, as it is still bringing water to Rome, and is in truth that one of all the aqueducts which shows the most continuous record of useful service from ancient to modern  p141 times. It comes by a pretty straight course, chiefly underground, till within about two miles of Rome; then it circles round the eastern wall of the city, winds through the Borghese gardens, creeps by a deep cutting through the Pincian hill, and enters Rome under what is now the Villa Medici. In old days it was carried on to the Campus Martius and filled the baths of its founder Agrippa. It still supplies many of the chief fountains of the city, especially the most famous of all, the Fountain of Trevi. When the stranger steps down in front of the blowing Tritons and takes his cup of water from the ample marble basin, drinking to his return to the Eternal City, he is in truth drinking to the memory of the wise Agrippa and of the little maid who pointed out the fountain to his legionaries.

Alsietina, A.D. 10 (?). The contribution made by Augustus himself to the water-supply of Rome was a less worthy one than those of his son-in‑law. 'What possible reason,' says Frontinus, 'could have induced Augustus, that most farsighted prince, to bring the water of the Alsietine Lake, which is also called Aqua Augusta, to Rome I cannot tell. It has nothing to recommend it. It is hardly even wholesome, and it does not supply any considerable part of the population [because of the low level at which it enters the city]. I can only suppose that when he was constructing his Naumachia8 he did not like to use the better class of water to fill his lake, and therefore brought this stream, granting all of it that he did not want himself to private persons  p142 for watering their gardens and similar purposes. However, as often as the bridges are under repair and there is a consequent interruption of the regular supply, this water is used for drinking purposes by the inhabitants of the Trans-Tiberine region.' So far Frontinus. The work was altogether of an inglorious kind. The quantity supplied was small, less even than that in the little Aqua Tepula. The quality, as has been stated, was poor, the source of supply being the turbid Lago di Martignano among the Etruscan hills on the north-west of Rome. And though it started at a pretty high level (680 feet above the sea), after a course of a little more than twenty‑two miles it entered Rome on a lower plane than all the other aqueducts, lower even than the modest Appia, only about twenty‑one feet above the level of the sea.

Caligula as an aqueduct builder. The frenzied great-grandson of Augustus, the terrible Caligula, side by side with all his mad prodigality did accomplish great works for the water-supply of Rome. Claudia and Anio Novus, A.D. 38 to 52. He began, and his uncle Claudius finished, the two great aqueducts which closed the ascending series of Rome's artificial rivers, the Claudia and the Anio Novus. Thus by a singular coincidence the work which had begun by a Claudius, the blind Censor of the fifth century of Rome, was increased by another Claudius, not indeed a direct descendant, but a far distant scion, of the same haughty family, when the city was just entering upon her ninth century.

The two works, the Claudia and the Anio Novus, seem to have been proceeded with contemporaneously, and they travelled across the Campagna on the same stately series of arches, highest of all the arcades with whose ruins the traveller is familiar. They were, however,  p143 works of very different merit. The Claudia drew its waters from two fountains, the Caerulus and the Curtius, among the hills overhanging the Upper Anio, not many hundred yards away from the source of the Marcia.9 And the water which it brought to the citizens of Rome was always considered second only in excellence to the Marcia itself.

The construction of the Anio Novus, on the other hand, was another of those unwise attempts of which one would have thought the hydraulic engineers of the city had had enough, to make the river Anio, that turbid and turbulent stream, minister meekly to the thirst of Rome. The water was taken out of the river itself from a higher point than the Anio Vetus, indeed four miles higher than the fountains of the Claudia, but that did not remedy the evil. The bad qualities of the Aqua Alsietina did little harm, beyond some occasional inconvenience to the inhabitants of the Trastevere, because it lay below all the other aqueducts. But of the thick and muddy Anio Novus, flowing above the other streams and mixing its contributions with theirs, like some tedious and loud-voiced talker, whenever they were least desired, of this provoking aqueduct a wearied Imperial water-director could only say, 'It ruins all the others.'10 The length of its journey to the city was more than fifty-eight miles, that of the Claudia more thanforty‑six, and the arcade upon which they together crossed the plain was six miles and four hundred and ninety‑one paces  p144 in length. The Anio Novus entered the city two hundred and fourteen feet above the level of the sea, the Claudia nine feet lower.

Thus were completed the nine great aqueducts of Rome; the aqueducts whose resources and machinery are copiously explained to us by the curator, Frontinus. Without troubling the reader with the names of some doubtful or obscure additions to the list, it must nevertheless be mentioned that the Emperor Trajan, in the year 109‑110, intercepted some of the streams which fed the Sabatine Lake (Lago di Bracciano) and brought their water to Rome. His object was to provide potable water for the inhabitants of the Trastevere, who would only drink that supplied to them from the Alsietine Lake in case of extreme necessity. Trajan, however, did not fritter away the advantage of his high fountain-head as Augustus had done, but brought his away right over the hill of the Janiculum. Here in the days of Procopius its stream might be seen (till Witigis intercepted it) turning the wheels of a hundred mills. Here now its restored waters may be seen gushing in magnificent abundance through the three arches of Fontana on the high hill of S. Pietro in Montorio.

Alexandrina, circa A.D. 226. In the following century the excellent young Emperor Alexander Severus obtained a fresh supply from the neighbourhood of the old city of Gabii,11 about four miles south-east of the source of the Aqua Virgo. Little is known of the size or the course of the Aqua Alexandrina, whose chief interest for us is derived from the fact that it is practically the same aqueduct which was restored by the imperious old Pope, Sixtus V,  p145   p146 and which is now called, after the name which he bore 'in religion,' Aqua Felice. A more complete contrast is hardly presented to us by history than between the first founder and the restorer of this aqueduct, between the young, fresh, warm-hearted Emperor, only too gentle a ruler and too dutiful a son for the fierce times in which he lived and the proud and lonely old Pope, who bent low as if in decrepitude till he had picked up the Papal Tiara, and then stood erect, just and inflexible, a terror to the world and to Rome.

With Alexander Severus the history of the aqueducts closes. In the terrible convulsions which marked the middle of the third century there was no time or money to spare for the embellishment of the city. When peace was restored Diocletian and his attendant group of Emperors were to be found at Milan, at Nicomedeia, anywhere rather than at Rome. Constantine was too much engrossed with his new capital and his new creed to have leisure for the improvement of the still Pagan city by the Tiber. And two generations after the death of Constantine the barbarians were on the sacred soil of Italy, and it was no longer a question of constructing great works, but of feebly and fearfully defending them.

Maintenance of the aqueducts. The amount of careful thought and contrivance which was involved in the construction and maintenance of these mighty works can be but imperfectly estimated by us. Ventilating-shafts, or 'respirators' as they are sometimes called, were introduced at proper intervals into the subterraneous aqueducts in order to let out the imprisoned air. At every half mile or so the channel formed an angle, to break the force of the water, and a reservoir was generally placed at every  p147 such corner.12 The land for fifteen feet on each side of the water-course was purchased from the neighbouring owners and devoted to the use of the aqueduct. Injury from other buildings and from the roots of trees was thus avoided, and the crops raised on these narrow strips of land contributed to the sustenance of the little army of slaves employed in the maintenance of the water‑way. Of these at the end of the first century there were 700, constituting two familiae. One familia, consisting of 240 men, had been formed by that indefatigable water-reformer, the Sir Hugh Myddelton of Rome, Vipsanius Agrippa, by him bequeathed to Augustus, and by Augustus to the State. The other and larger body (460 men) had been formed by Claudius when he was engaged in the construction of the two highest aqueducts, and by him were likewise presented to the State. The command of this little band of men was vested in the Curator Aquarum, a high officer,13 who in the imperial age was generally designated for the work of superintending the water-supply. In earlier times this work had not been assigned to any special officer, but had formed part of the functions of an Aedile or a Censor.

Reservoirs. Outside the walls there were a certain number of reservoirs (piscinae), in which some of the aqueducts had the opportunity of clearing their waters by depositing the mud or sand swept into them by a sudden storm.

Inside the city there were 247 'castles of water,'  p148 heads or reservoirs constructed of masonry, in which the water was stored, and out of which the supply-pipes for the various regions of Rome were taken. For, in theory at least, no pipe might tap the channels of communication, but all must draw from some castellum aquae. This provision, however, was often evaded by the dishonesty of the servile watermen, who made a profit out of selling the water of the state to private individuals. Pipes. A vast underground labyrinth of leaden pipes, in Old Rome as in a modern city, conveyed the water to the cisterns of the different houses. The lead for this purpose was probably brought to a large extent from our own island, since we find traces of the Romans at work in the lead-mines of the Mendip Hills within six years of their conquest of Britain.14 As Claudius was the then reigning Emperor, the cargoes of lead so shipped from Britain to Rome would be usefully employed in distributing the new water-supply brought to the higher levels by the Anio Novus and Aqua Claudia. One thousand kilogrammes of these leaden pipes were sent, unchronicled, to the melting‑pot five years ago by one proprietor alone.15 But by carefully watching his opportunities, the eminent archaeologist Lanciani has succeeded in rescuing six hundred inscribed pipes from the havoc necessarily caused by all building operations in the soil intersected by them; and these six hundred inscriptions, classed and analysed by him, throw a valuable light on the aquarian laws and customs of Imperial Rome.

It has been said that fraud was extensively practised  p149 by the slaves in the employment of the Curator Aquarum. It may have been some suspicion of these fraudulent practices which caused the Emperor Nerva to nominate to that high place Sextus Julius Frontinus. This man, energetic, fearless, thorough, and equally ready to grapple with the difficulties of peaceful and of warlike administration, reminds us of the best type of our own Anglo-Indian governors. For three years (A.D. 75‑78) he successfully administered the affairs of the province of Britain, as the worthy successor of Cerealis, as the not unworthy successor of Agricola. The chief exploit that marked his tenure of office was the subjugation of the Silures, the warlike and powerful tribe who held the hills of Brecknock and Glamorgan. Twenty years later, and when he was probably past middle life, Nerva, as has been said, delegated to him the difficult task of investigating and reforming the abuses connected with the water-supply of the capital. The treatise which he composed during his curatorship is our chief authority on the subject of the Roman aqueducts. Containing many careful scientific calculations and many useful hints as to the best means of upholding those mighty structures, it is an admirable specimen of the strong, clear common-sense and faithful attention to minute detail which were the characteristics of the best specimens of Roman officials.

Frontinus grapples with the abuses connected with the water-supply. The attention of Frontinus was at once arrested by the fact that in the commentarii or registers of the water-office there was actually a larger quantity of water accounted for than the whole amount which, according to the same books, appeared to be received from the various aqueducts. This slip on the part of the fraudulent aquarii caused the new Curator to take  p150 careful measurements of the water at the source of each aqueduct: and these measurements led him to the astounding result that the quantity of water entering the aqueducts was greater than the quantity alleged to be distributed16 through them by nearly one half.17 Some part of this difference might be due to unavoidable leakage along the line of the aqueducts: but far the larger part of it was due to the depredations of private persons, assisted by the corrupt connivance of the aquarii. When a private person had received a grant of water from the State, the proper course was for him to deposit a model of the pipe which had been conceded to him in the office of the Curator, whose servants were then directed to make an orifice of the same dimensions in the side of the reservoir, and permit the consumer to attach to it a pipe of the same size. Sometimes, however, for a bribe, the aquarius would make a hole of larger diameter than the concession. Sometimes, while keeping the hole of the right size, he would attach a larger pipe which would soon be filled by the pressure of the water oozing through the wall of the reservoir. Sometimes a pipe for which there was absolutely no authority at all would be introduced into the reservoir, or yet worse into the aqueduct before it reached the reservoir. Sometimes the grant of water, which was by its express terms limited to the individual for life, would by corrupt connivance, without any fresh grant, be  p151 continued to his heirs. At every point the precious liquid treasure of the State was being wasted, that the pockets of the familia who served the aqueduct might be filled. It was probably some rumour of this infidelity of the aquarii to their trust, as well as a knowledge of the lavish grants of some of the Emperors, which caused Pliny to say, a generation before the reforms of Frontinus, 'The Aqua Virgo excels all other waters to the touch, and the Aqua Marcia to the taste; but the pleasure of both has now for long been lost to the city, through the ambition and avarice of the men who pervert the fountains of the public health for the supply of their own villas and suburban estates.'18

These then were the abuses which the former governor of Britain and conqueror of the Silures was placed in office to reform; and there can be little doubt that, at any rate for a time, he did reform them and restore to the people of Rome the full water-supply to which they were entitled. What was that water-supply, stated in terms with which we are familiar? What was the equivalent of the 24,805 quinariae which Frontinus insisted on debiting to the account of the aquarii at Rome? In attempting to answer this question we are at once confronted by the difficulty, that though Frontinus has given us very exact particulars as to the dimensions of the pipes employed, he has not put beyond the possibility of a doubt the rate at which the water flowed through them, and which may have been very different for different aqueducts.

Estimates of the total water-supply of Rome. M. Rondelet, a French scholar and engineer of the  p152 early part of this century,19 after enquiring very carefully into the subject, came to the conclusion that the value of the quinaria was equivalent to a service of sixty cubic metres per day. Lanciani, going minutely over the same ground, slightly alters this figure, which he turns into 63.18 cubic metres, or 13,906 gallons a day. If we may rely on this computation, the whole amount of water poured into Rome at the end of the first century by the aqueducts, before Trajan and Alexander Severus had augmented the aquarian treasures of the city by the water-courses which bore their names, was not less than 344,938,330 gallons per day. Adopting the conjecture, in which there seems some probability,20 that the population of Rome in its most prosperous estate reached to about a million and a half, this gives a supply of 230 gallons daily for each inhabitant.

Comparison with modern cities. In our own country at the present day the consumption of water in our large towns varies between twenty and thirty gallons per head daily, and in one or two towns does not rise above ten gallons.21 What the supply may have been in the London of the Plantagenets and Tudors, before the great water-reform of Sir Hugh Myddelton, we have perhaps no  p153 means of estimating; but it is stated, apparently on good authority, that 'in 1550 the inhabitants of Paris received a supply of only one quart per day, and nine-tenths of the people were compelled to obtain their supply direct from the Seine.'22

Doubt as to the actual value of the unit of measure employed by the Roman water-surveyors. The estimate of the contents of the aqueducts given above is that which has hitherto obtained most acceptance. It is right, however, to mention that a recent enquirer23 throws some doubt on Rondelet's calculations. From some observations made by him on the diameter and the gradient of the channel of the Aqua Marcia he reduces the average velocity of the streams, and consequently the volume of water delivered by them, by more than one half. The value of the quinaria on this computation descends to about 6000 gallons a day, the total supply of the nine aqueducts in the time of Frontinus to 148,000,000 gallons, and the allowance per head per day to one hundred gallons. Even so, however, the Roman citizen had more than three times the amount provided for the inhabitants of our English cities by the most liberal of our own municipalities.

What share had private citizens in the water-supply? A reference to the tables at the end of this chapter may, however, seem to call for a yet further modification of our statement as to the aquarian privileges of the Roman. It will there be seen that of the 14,018 quinariae distributed, only 6182 went to private persons, while 4443 were bestowed on public works, and no fewer than 3393 were 'erogated' in the name of Caesar, the ubiquitous all‑grasping Emperor. The needful qualification is apparent rather than real.  p154 Doubtless there would be profuse expenditure, even lavish waste of water, in the vast halls of the Palatine, especially when a Vitellius or a Heliogabalus dwelt in them, squandering the wealth of the world upon his banquets. But it is pointed out by Lanciani24 that the splendid edifices raised by the Emperors for the delight of their subjects, the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Antonine Baths, the Forum of Trajan, and all that class of institutions with which the city was embellished at the expense of the Fiscus, would receive their constant supplies of water 'in the name of Caesar.' Perhaps therefore it might be asserted that there was no part of the distribution by which the poor citizen benefited more largely than these 3393 quinariae of which the Emperor was apparently the receiver.

How was this vast volume of water expended? This last consideration brings us to the question what could have been done with all this wealth of water so lavishly poured into the Eternal City. The sparkling fountains with which every open space was adorned and refreshed, the great artificial lakes, on which at the occasion of public festivals mimic navies fought and in which marine monsters sported, are in part an answer to our question. Chiefly on the baths. But the Thermae, those magnificent ranges of halls in which the poorest citizen of Rome could enjoy, free of expense, all and more than all the luxuries that we associate with our mis‑named Turkish Bath, the Thermae, those splendid temples of health, cleanliness, and civilisation, must undoubtedly take the responsibility of the largest share in the water-consumption of Rome. We glanced a little while ago25 at the mighty Baths of Caracalla,  p155 able to accommodate 1600 bathers at once. Twice that number, we are told,26 could enjoy the Baths of Diocletian, those vast baths in whose central hall a large church27 is now erected, large, but occupying a comparatively small part of the ancient building. It is true that this was the most extensive of all the Roman Thermae; but the Baths of Constantine on the Quirinal, of Agrippa by the Pantheon, of Titus and Trajan above the ruins of the Golden House of Nero, were also superb buildings, fit to be the chosen resort of the sovereign people of the world; and all (with the possible exception of the Baths of Titus) were still in use, still receiving the crystal treasures of the aqueducts, when Belisarius recovered Rome for the Roman Empire.

Gothic destruction of the aqueducts. Now, in these first weeks of March 537, all this splendid heritage of civilisation perished as in a moment. 'The Goths having thus arranged their army destroyed all the aqueducts, so that no water might enter from them into the city.'28 The historian's  p156 statement is very clear and positive: otherwise we might be disposed to doubt whether the barbarians burrowed beneath the ground to discover and destroy the Aqua Appia, which is subterraneous till after it has entered the circuit of the walls. One would like to be informed also how they succeeded in arresting these copious streams of water without turning the Campagna itself into a morass. The waters which came from the Anio valley may perhaps have been diverted back again into that stream, but some of the others which had no river‑bed near them must surely have been difficult to deal with. Possibly the sickness which at a later period assailed the Gothic host may have sprung in part from the unwholesome accumulation of these stagnant waters.

Change hereby wrought in the habits of the people of Rome. But our chief interest in the operation, an interest of regret, arises from the change which it must have wrought in the habits of the Roman people. Some faint and feeble attempts to restore the aqueducts were possibly made when the war was ended: in fact one such, accomplished by Belisarius for the Aqua Trajana, is recorded in an inscription.29 But as a whole, we may confidently state that the imperial system of aqueducts was never restored. Three in the course of ages were recovered for the City by the public spirit of her pontiffs,30 and one (the Marcia) has been added to her resources in our own days by the  p157 enterprise of a joint-stock company; but the Rome of the Middle Ages was practically, like the Rome of Kings, dependent for her water on a few wells and cisterns and on the mud‑burdened Tiber. The Bath with all its sinful luxuriousness, which brought it under the ban of philosophers and churchmen, but also with all its favouring influences on health, on refinement, even on clear and logical thought, the Bath which the eleven aqueducts of Rome had once replenished for a whole people, now became a forgotten dream of the past. As we look onward from the sixth century the Romans of the centuries before us will be in some respects a better people than their ancestors, more devout, less arrogant, perhaps less licentious, but they will not be so well-washed a people. And the sight of Rome, holy but dirty, will exert a very different and far less civilising influence on the nations beyond the Alps who come to worship at her shrines than would have been exerted by a Rome, Christian indeed, but also rejoicing in the undiminished treasures of her artificial streams. Should an author ever arise who shall condescend to take the History of Personal Cleanliness for his theme (and historians have sometimes chosen subjects of less interest for humanity than this), he will find that one of the darkest days in his story is the day when the Gothic warriors of Witigis ruined the aqueducts of Rome.


The Author's Notes:

1 Though Appius Claudius received the whole honour of the work, Frontinus hints that he was not solely entitled to it. His colleague in the island Censorship, C. Plautius, obtained the surname Venox by reason of his persistent search after veins of water. Finding that Appius was not taking his fair share of this work he resigned office, after he had held it eighteen months. Appius availed himself of the discoveries of Venox, and by fair means or foul clung to office till the aqueduct was finished.

2 'When we remember,' says Dr. Arnold (Hist. of Rome, II.289),º 'that this part of Rome was particularly inhabited by the poorest citizens, we may suspect that Appius wished to repay the support which he had already received from them, or to purchase its continuance for the time to come: but we shall feel unmixed pleasure in observing that the first Roman aqueduct was constructed for the benefit of the poor and of those who most needed it.'

3 Lanciani (p49) gives to the Anio Vetus at its entry into Rome 45.40 metres 'di altezza assoluta.' To the Appia (p40) 15 metres. It is true that this is at the mouth of the Appia.'

4 'Duumvir aquae perducendae.'

5 'Legimus apud Fenestellam, in haec opera Marcio decretum sestertium milies octingenties' (Frontinus de Aquaeductibus, 7).

6 This spring still shows a temperature of 61° (Fahrenheit) when the atmosphere is only 46°. The neighbouring Julia is only 50° at the same time. S. Lanciani appears to accept the suggestion that the name Tepula is derived from this circumstance.

7 By a somewhat singular fate, the name of Agrippa thus adopted into the Julian family is probably known most widely through his clients and complimentary namesakes, the two Agrippa-Herods of the Acts of the Apostles.

8 A lake in the Trans-Tiberine region for the exhibition of sea‑fights and other shows for which a large expanse of water was required.

9 Lanciani, who, as we have seen, identifies the source of the Marcia with the third of the Acque Serene, considers that the first and second 'Serene' were the sources of the Claudia.

10 'Alias omnes perdit' (Frontinus, xiii).

Thayer's Note: Those three words are usually now taken to be a gloss that crept into the text, between Anio Novus vocitari coepit and priori Anioni at the end of the paragraph; rejected by editors, they do not appear in modern texts of Frontinus, including the one linked to above.

11 'Under La Colonna, the ancient Labicum' (Parker).

12 Parker, Aqueducts, p71.

13 He had a right to the attendance of two lictors, besides an unnamed number of 'apparitors,' when he walked through the streets of Rome.

14 See Hübner's article 'Eine Römische Annexion' in the Deutsche Rundschau, May 8, 1878.

15 Prince Alessandro Torlonia (see Lanciani, p202).

16 Erogatio is the technical term for the distribution of the water.

17 Amount measured at the sources, 24,805 quinariae: amount in the commentarii, 12,755: amount of admitted 'erogation,' 14,343. See Table A at the end of this chapter.

18 Historia Naturalis, lib. XXXI.

19 His translation of Frontinus, with notes and plates, was published at Paris in the year 1820.

20 See vol. I p395.

Thayer's Note: Thru an oversight, Hodgkin has cited his first edition. In his second edition (the one to which this chapter belongs), the figures are in vol. I p815.

21 See Table in Humber's Water Supply of Cities and Towns (London, 1876, p86). The average for many European towns seems to be about the same as ours: for Berlin and Lyons 20 gallons daily, Paris 28 (London 29), Leghorn 30, Hamburg 33. Some of the American towns show much larger averages: Toronto 77 gallons, Buffalo 87, New York 100, Chicago 119, and Washington the extraordinarily high average of 155 gallons daily for each inhabitant.

22 Humber, p3.

23 Author of 'Brevi notizie sull' acqua pia,' quoted by Lanciani (who seems more than half convinced by him), p361.

24 P369.

25 P97.

26 Olympiodorus, p469 (ed. Bonn).

27 S. Maria degli Angeli.

Thayer's Note: An idea of the rimaneggiamenti can be got from Armellini's entry for the church, Le chiese di Roma, p821 f.

28 Procopius, De B. G. I.19. He goes on to state that the aqueducts were fourteen in number, built of baked bricks by 'the men of old,' and of such dimensions that a man on horseback could ride through them. This last statement is an exaggeration. The specus of the Anio Novus, the highest of all the aqueducts, is only 2.70 metres, or 8 feet 9 inches high, and most of them are about 4 or 5 feet high. The number of fourteen is made up, according to Lanciani (p186), by the nine of Frontinus, the Trajana, the Alexandrina, and three supplemental channels, the Augusta, the Specus Octavianus, and the Specus Antoninianus, which though not independent aqueducts might seem so to Procopius, as they touched the wall at different points from the main channels. Jordan (I.479) thinks that Procopius mentioned the number fourteen from some remembrance of the fourteen regions of the city.

Thayer's Note: Even if most of the aqueducts wouldn't allow a horse and rider to pass, any channel over 2 meters high is ample room; see my note to Procopius.

29 On an arch of the Trajana at Vicarello —

Belisarivs. acqvisivit

annor . . . . . . . . . .

'Malissimo copiato' says Lanciani (p166), to whom I owe this inscription.

30 The Aqua Virgo (perhaps only transiently lost), Acqua Paola (Trajana), and Acqua Felice (Alexandrina).


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