Make Roma Great Again
ru | en

Roman water supply system

Грачева А.Д.

Attention! The text below was auto-translated from Russian. You can switch the site language to Russian to see the text in its original language or wait until it is fully translated.

Due to the large use of water in cities, water supply systems began to appear in the IV century BC.The water supply system passed under the streets of Roman cities and found its logical conclusion in the form of covered springs and beautifully decorated fountains located on the streets. When intersecting with streets, water pipes cross them by means of special architecturally designed gates, the remains of which can be seen not only in Rome (Porta Maggiore), but also in the former Roman provinces, such as the Porta Nigra gate in modern Germany (Hartmann K. O. History of Architecture.T1. P. 92-93).

Porta Maggiore or Prenestina Gate (Latin: Porta Prenestina) I century AD, Rome (Italy), modern view
Porta Nigra or" black gate " (Latin: Porta Nigra) II century AD, Trier (Germany), modern view

The Romans attached great importance to the good water supply of their cities, in which they achieved unprecedented success. The Greeks used continuous sloping gutters to build water pipes, but they did not manage to create a system that would allow moving masses of water over a changing mountain landscape, but this is not surprising, since the Greek builders were not familiar with the vaulted system that allows you to properly distribute the weight of such a structure. The Romans were familiar with such a system, which allowed them to create a type of structure such as an aqueduct, which just allowed water to move from one side of the valley to the other. Simply put, aqueducts were built where it was impossible to run water through underground channels due to the natural features of the area (Emili Cole. A Concise history of architectural styles.P.127).

Pont du Gard Aqueduct 1st century BC, French department of Gare (near Remoulane), modern view
Aqueduct in Segovia (Spain) I century AD, modern view
Aqueduct in Tarragona (Spain) I century BC, modern view

The water ran along them at the top. In order to force the water to rise from one slope to another, the builders had to use lead pipes, although according to Vitruvius: lead has the disadvantage that it forms lead whitewash, which is considered harmful to the human body. And if, says Vitruvius, what is formed from lead is harmful, then he himself is not healthy.( Vitruv.,VIII.6). Modern scientists fully confirm this statement about the harmfulness of lead for the human body. But ancient builders, not having accurate evidence of this, widely used this heavy metal for the construction of water supply systems. Lead has another drawback - it can not withstand strong water pressure, but the Romans, knowing about the existence of hydraulic shocks, solved this problem by creating water columns. The water in them rises, reaching its natural level for a moment, and then falls again. Such divided water pipes allowed for easier correction of accidents and made it possible to partially withdraw water from reservoirs located at the top of the water column (Choisy O. History of Architecture.P. 485).

The remains of Roman aqueducts can now be found all over the territory that once belonged to the Roman empire, and some aqueducts are still functioning. The most correct thing to do now is probably to turn to the water supply of the main city of the state - Rome. The first water supply system in Rome appeared in 312 BC. e. It was built on the initiative of the censor Appius Claudius, already mentioned earlier. Over time, due to the appearance of a large number of thermal baths and countless fountains, which were built at almost every intersection, this explains the fact that water pipelines of an unheard-of length were carried out. The city of Rome already at the beginning of the imperial period had nine water pipes, the total length of which was 436 km. with 2.4 km of tunnels and 64 km. aqueducts. Later, their number will increase by another 5. The oldest of this type of structures in the city should be considered the Albanian Aqueduct, which has survived to this day. For 1,800 meters, mountain water ran through it; it still serves as proof that the Romans coped with very difficult technical tasks. (Gnedich P. P. Istoriya iskusstva [Art History]. Moscow, 2002, pp. 170-171).

Along with a well-thought-out system of water delivery to the city, a system for wastewater disposal was also created. For this purpose, many underground channels were created. The most famous of these structures is the Cloaca Maxima, the construction of which dates back to the tsarist period, later the canal was blocked with stone arches. The canal measures 3 m wide and 4 m high. This sewer network has been preserved to this day in the state in which it was last reconstructed in the early imperial period. Now the Maxima sewer is still functioning, only now it serves to divert precipitation from the city, that is, in other words, rainwater flows into it from the streets of Rome. In summing up the conversation about the Roman water supply system, it should be said that the ancient water supply networks have not only been preserved or laid the foundations for modern similar structures, but also function to this day.

Aqua Appia (Latin: Aqua Appia) IV century BC, Rome (Italy), modern view
Aqueduct of Marcia (Latin: Aqua Marcia) II century BC, Rome (Italy), modern view
Cloaca Maxima (Latin Cloaca Maxima) VII-VI centuries BC, Rome (Italy), modern view


1. Vitruvius. Ten books about architecture / translated from Latin by F. A. Petrovsky, Moscow: Librocom, 2012-320 p.

2. Hartman K. O. Istoriya Arkhitektury [History Of Architecture].T1. Moscow: Izogiz Publ., 1936-267 p.

3. Gnedich P. P. Istoriya iskusstv [Art history].Moscow: Eksmo Publ., 2002-848 p.

4. Choisy.A. History Of Architecture.Moscow: V. Shevchuk Publishing House, 2005-708 p.

5. Emili Cole. A Concise history of architectural styles. L.: Gardners Books, 2003-352 p.