URBEM FECISTI - ENGINEERING 2 | Bed and Rome and Breakfast - 3 B&B in Rome

domenica 30 aprile 2017


The articles of the series Urbem Fecisti are dedicated to the way Rome has shaped the modern world, to its modernity. It's a fact that Roman Empire is still living inside each of us in the western world and not only.

Water Management

Even if my job involved oil refining and petrochemical processes, the main business of the company where I worked for 30 years is water management. Because of that I know that the problems related to water supply and discharge are always challenging, even with today's technologies.
The rise of ancient Rome over the other cities, becoming a super-power and the founder of a new concept of state, a concept that is the one still used, cannot be separated, in my opinion, by the engineering capabilities and by the water managent technologies that Romans developped.

Nile river
Nile river
The fact that water is important was for sure discovered many centuries or millennia before the foundation of Rome. The role of the Nile in the prosperity of Egyptian civilization is, for example, very well known. But, while others focused on the usage of water for agricultural purposes, the Romans extended the focus to civil utilization.

Rome has been the first city to develop a systematic approach to water management. That allowed the city to reach up to 1.5 million inhabitants without suffering the heavy hygienic problems that plagued other important cities of the ancient world. It's enough to mention that the history of ancient Greece changed when Athens was hit by an epidemic (Plague of Athens), mostly due to poor hygienic conditions, during the Peloponnesian War.

Cloaca Maxima
Cloaca Maxima
The first water management work that was made in Rome was the sewer system, with the construction of the Cloaca Maxima (big sewer). Its construction began between the VII and VI century BC with the purpose to deliver to Tiber river the dirty water that stagnated in the valleys among the hills of Rome. It was initially an open channel that was progressively covered.

Several other smaller sewers were connected to the Cloaca Maxima so that all the city was served. We have to consider that the sewer system had to be extremely efficient. Apart from the rain, it had to drain the enormous amout of water that was delivered daily to Rome by its eleven aqueducts. We will discuss about that in a future post..

The greatness of that work is testified by the fact that, still today, it is the main sewer of the center of Rome.
Over the centuries and the millennia it has delivered to the Tiber not only dirty water but also objects that were accidentally lost. In the middle of the twentieth century, the municipality of Rome commissioned the drainage of the Tiber bank to an American company. The company was paid with the finds that were recovered from the bottom of the river.


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