This post is by Nancy Jardine.
What Did The Ancient Romans Ever Do For Us? That phrase might bring to mind many different scenarios. For me growing up watching UK television in the 1960s and 1970s, the first image would be of an irreverently funny show called Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The weekly show had many spin offs, one of which was a definitely flippant feature film. In the film a character derisively asks “What have the Romans ever done for us?” The answers from those assembled reply: err…sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system via aqueducts, public health…and our peace.” The list seemed endless.
In fact, Ancient Rome was an amazing place. It’s a city that I’m learning more about every day during my FutureLearn Course – Rome: A virtual Tour of the Ancient City which I mentioned in my blog post of a couple of weeks ago. I wrote some posts on this blog in 2016 about making my first ever visit to Rome. I’d been to other Italian cities, but not Rome, and since I write about Roman Scotland it was well past time for me to learn more about the city that sent the Roman Legions to my part of Scotland back in AD 84.
It’s only Week 2 of my course and I’ve already learned about some of the list above. It’s incredible to think of how inventive the original engineers of Rome were back in 312 B.C. when the first short aqueduct of 16 km (c. 10 miles), the Aqua Appia, brought a constantly running supply of fresh water into the city of Rome. The Aqua Appia was an underground channel but by 140 B.C. the Aqua Marcia (55 miles) had a about 6 miles of its total running over arches. By the first century A.D. there were around 11 aqueducts feeding the city’s 1 million inhabitants with fresh water, many of those aqueducts with parts running above ground and over arches.
The Aqua Claudia is the longest stretch of an above-ground aqueduct near Rome that remains unbroken, still at a length of 1375 m. It was completed by the Emperor Claudius in 52 A.D, though had been started by the Emperor Caligula.
This site has information on another ancient Roman aqueduct (in Catalonia, Spain) built in the first century A.D. which is in such good condition that tourists can still walk along it. https://www.tarragonaturisme.cat/en/monument/les-ferreres-aqueductpont-del-diable-bridge-mht
The Ancient Romans didn’t only appreciate the fresh water coming into their city for drinking purposes. They also used it for
- continuous flushing out of their communal lavatories
- supplying water to their communal bathhouses
- for other domestic, trade and industry reasons
- for sluicing down their streets and sewers
and for feeding the many fountains around the city.
The famous Trevi Fountain in Rome is still partly fed from the Aqua Virgo which was initially constructed in 19 B.C. during the time of the Emperor Augustus. The Aqua Virgo brought in the fresh water from hills and streams some 18 km (11 miles) away from the city and was used as a source for 400 years till it fell into disuse around the time of the Fall of Rome in approx 397 A.D.
Attempts were made at times to restore the aqueduct during the next 1000 years but it wasn’t till 1453 that it was restored to feed a fountain on the site of the present Trevi Fountain. By 1762 a fabulous new baroque fountain was created, the one we can view today in Rome known as the Trevi Fountain.
The Trevi is famous for various reasons, one of which is the 1954 film “Three coins in the Fountain” that title song sung by Frank Sinatra, though he got no credit for it.
BTW – I’ve also learned about the sewers of Rome but we can leave that topic for another day!
The architecture of the buildings of the Roman Forum are now holding my attention much more, although I confess to being fascinated that had the Ancient Romans settled in my part of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, my surroundings might have been very different from how they are now. Today, there are people who complain about the building of windfarms, designed to supply parts of Scotland with cheaply produced wind-generated electricity. They claim the wind mills spoil the beauty of the landscape. Whether or not they are correct, I wonder what the inhabitants of the countryside around Rome felt when they first saw the Aqua Appia arches!
Do you think any Ancient Romans complained about the arches spoiling the view, or do you think they were delighted with sparkling fresh water gushing out of a tap near their house?
Nancy Jardine writes: Historical Fiction; Time Travel Historical and Contemporary Mysteries.
Amazon Author page http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere