The Aqueduct Builders – Rome, Italy

One of the praises bestowed by Cicero on the founder of the city is that “he selected a district very rich in springs.” A glance at the plan will at once prove the accuracy of the statement. Twenty-three springs have been described within the walls, several of which are still in existence; others have disappeared owing to the increase of modern soil. “For four hundred and forty-one years,” says Frontinus, “the Romans contented themselves with such water as they could get from the Tiber, from wells, and from springs. Some of these springs are still held in great veneration on account of their health-restoring qualities, like the spring of the Camoenae, that of Apollo, and that of Juturna.”

The first aqueduct, that of the “Aqua Appia,” is the joint work of Appius Claudius Cecus and C. Plautius Venox, censors in 312 B.C. The first built the channel, the second discovered the springs 1,153 meters northeast of the sixth and seventh milestones of the Via Collatina. They are still to be seen, much reduced in volume, at the bottom of some stone quarries near the farm-house of La Rustica.

The second aqueduct was begun in 272 B.C. by Manus Curius Dentatus, censor, and finished three years later by Fulvius Flaccus. The water was taken from the river Anio 850 meters above St. Cosimato, on the road from Tivoli to Arsoli (Valeria). The course of the channel can be traced as far as Gallicano; from Gallitano to Rome it is uncertain.

In 144 B.C. the Senate, considering that the in-crease of the population had diminished the rate of distribution of water (from 530 to 430 liters per head), determined that the old aqueducts of the Appia and the Anio should be repaired, and a new one built, the appropriation for both works being 8,000,000 sesterces, or 1,760,000 lire.

The execution of the scheme was entrusted to Q. Marcius Rex. He selected a group of springs at the foot of the Monte della Prugna, in the territory of Arsoli, 4,437 meters to the right of the thirty-sixth milestone of the Via Valeria; and after many years of untiring efforts he succeeded in making a display of the water on the highest plat-form of the Capitol. Agrippa restored the aqueduct in 33 B.C.; Augustus doubled the volume of the water in 5 B.C. by the addition of the Aqua Augusta. In 196 Septimius Severus brought in a new supply for the use of his Thermae Severianae; in 212-213 Caracalla built a branch aqueduct, four miles long, for the use of his baths; in 305-306 Diocletian did the same thing for his great thermae; and, finally, Arcadius and Honorius devoted to the restoration of the aqueduct the money seized from Count Gildo, the African rebel.

None of the Roman aqueducts are eulogized by Frontinus like the Claudian. He calls it “a work most magnificently done,” and after demonstrating in more than one way that the volume of the springs collected by Claudius amounted to 4,607 quinariae, he says that there was a reserve of 1,600 always ready.

The works, began by Caligula in A.D. 38, lasted fourteen years, the water having reached Rome only on August 1, 52 (the birthday of Claudius). The course of the aqueduct was first around the slopes of the Monte Ripoli, like that of the Marcia and of the Anio Vetus. Domitian shortened it by several miles by boring a tunnel 4,950 meters long through the Monte Affiano. Length of channel, 68,750 meters, of which 15,000 was on arches; volume per day, 209,252 cubic meters. The Claudia was used for the Imperial table; a branch aqueduct, 2,000 meters long, left the main channel ad Spem Veterem (Porta Maggiore), and following the line of the Via Caelimontana (Villa Wolkonsky), of the Campus Caelimontan (Lateran), and of the street now called di S. Stefano Rotondo, reached the temple of Claudius by the church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo, and the Imperial palace by the church of St. Bonaventura.

The Anio Nevus, like the Vetus, was at first derived from the river of the same name at the forty-second milestone of the road to Subiaco, great precautions being taken for purifying the water. The works were begun by Caligula in A.D. 38, and completed by Claudius on August 1, 52, on a most magnificent scale, some of the arches reaching the height of thirty-two meters above ground; and there were eight miles of them. Yet, in spite of the purifying reservoir, and of the clear springs of the Rivus Herculaneus (Fosso di Fioggio), which had been mixed with the water from the river, the Anio Novus was hardly ever drinkable. Whenever a shower fell on the Simbruine mountains, the water would get troubled and saturated with mud and carbonate of lime. Trajan improved its condition by carrying the head of the aqueduct higher up the valley, where Nero had created three artificial lakes for the adornment of his Villa Sublacensis. These lakes served more efficiently as “purgatories,” than the artifieial basin of Caligula, nine miles below. The Anio Novus reached Rome in its own channel after a course of 86,964 meters, but for the last seven miles it ran on the same arches with the Aqua Claudia. The Anio Novus was the largest of all Roman aqueducts, discharging nearly three hundred thousand cubic meters per day.

There are two places in the suburbs of Rome where these marvelous arches of the Claudia and Anio Nevus can be seen to advantage; one is the Torre Fiseale, three miles outside the Porta S. Giovanni on the Albano road (to be reached also from the Tavolato station, on the upper Albano railway) ; the other is the Vicolo del Mandrione, which leaves the Labicana one mile outside the Porta Maggiore and falls into the Tuseulana at the place called Porta Furba.