Engineering Rome

Water and the Development of Ancient Rome


Water is a basic necessity for life and civilization. Humans can survive a month without eating, but only a week without drinking water (Spector, 2014). In ancient times, before the practice of purifying and cleaning water was put into place, it was always a gamble to drink water. Instead, people opted for beer or cider to keep themselves hydrated. Often times, water was tainted and full of bacteria that were able to cause illness and death. It was usually infected with fecal matter, or other microbes that caused suffering if consumed. ‍‍‍‍‍‍‍In fact, “up to half of all Roman kids died before the age of ten.” (Sura)‍‍‍‍‍‍‍. One can assume that this high mortality rate was caused by unsanitary water, and poor hygiene practices.

Water is one of the prime reasons Ancient Rome was a civilization ahead of its time: They were able to transport clean water from a far away source into their city for the purpose of consumption, and removal of waste. What differentiates Rome from other civilizations that utilized aqueducts around this time is its unique use of its water supply to thrive. The abundant supply of water present allowed Rome to grow population wise, improve the quality of life for its citizens, and gave way to advances in technology in the form of new machines and tools‍‍‍‍‍‍‍. The Romans completed such a feat by creating an expansive system of aqueducts that spanned hundreds of kilometers. This presence of water would then harbor and nurture an engineering culture in the form of devices that utilized water such as of aqueducts, latrines, fountains, watermills, baths and a sewer ‍‍‍‍‍‍‍system‍‍‍‍‍‍‍.

This article will serve as a guide to the methods of construction of Roman aqueducts, the upkeep, and their beneficial effects on Ancient Rome.

‍Water in the Rome before Aqueducts

Before the construction of the aqueducts, Rome had been able to find itself water. The answer lies in a part of Rome’s history that is overshadowed by the aqueducts, the cisterns and wells. Unlike, the aqueducts and baths, wells were not a subsidy by the Roman government, but instead a privately owned thing and were usually constructed in people’s houses, (Hodge, 2002). The water and aspects to life that wells brought to Rome dim quickly when compared to the luxurious and modern amenities that the aqueducts brought.

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Figure 1: A well-head, possibly a well or a cistern in Venice. (Couldn’t find any in Rome).

Like many things in the past, the functionality and composition of the well is taken for granted. The source of water for the well was found using the same methods as the aqueducts (see below). The construction of the wells was completed by digging down into the floor vertically until the source of the water could be found. Then the materials for the wells would be lined with masonry. (Hodge, 2002). It consisted of dry-stone, and sometimes rings of terracotta. The wells had a well head in order to stop people from falling in, and they also had a cover. In comparison to more modern times, their well is similar, meaning they were advanced even before the aqueducts.

Another pre-aqueduct device that was utilized by the Ancient Romans was the cistern. Instead of searching for water in the ground like wells do, cisterns are a collecting basin dug into the ground to collect and store rain water. It collected the rainwater that ran off the roof, or on the ground. This allowed for families to have immediate access to water, but the supply of water was dependent on the weather.



Although famous for aqueducts, Romans are not the first civilization to channel water long distances. The predecessors were Assyrian tunnels used for mining called qanats. Qanats were used for the purpose of clearing water out of mining locations, and the practice of using qanats spread from Armenia/Iran to North Africa, up to the Mediterranean, and then finally to Europe.

Figure 2: Map of Rome's 11 Aqueducts
Figure 2: Map of Rome’s 11 Aqueducts

They are instead, famous for the size and expansiveness of their aqueduct system. Over the course of 5 centuries, the Romans were able to construct a system spanning 500km long. (Aicher, 1995). In total, there were 11 aqueducts (see Figure 2). Although, not all of them were functioning at the same time. Stated concisely, Rome’s success as a civilization was based on its aqueducts. Without its aqueducts it would not have had access to a superfluous amount of water, and would not have been able to sustain its rapid growth in population. Therefore, it is important to note the methods of construction and engineering genius embodied by the Roman aqueducts to understand the degree of effect they had on Rome.

1) Sources of Water for the Aqueduct

The aqueducts of ancient Rome were long channels in which water freely flowed into the city. The term can be derived from Latin with aque meaning, “water” and duct meaning “leading.” The first step in the construction process is finding the source. Aside from the obvious sources of water such as open springs, streams and lakes, the Romans were able to locate water underground based on the characteristics in the local environment. If there was plants in the area, they would examine the environment for the type of plants; specifically plants that need lots of water to grow such as willows, alders and rushes. Another thing they did was look at soil and rock types in an area.

In their records, they identified that clay soil (Figure 4) indicates a poor source of water and that tufa (Figure 3) tends to be around an abundance of pure water (Aicher, 1995). Clay soil is soil that has a large amount of clay particles in it, which is determined by its qualities of being dense, slow to drain and quick to harden. (WISEGEEK). Water under clay soil would be adulterated with clay particles, and at that time was not possible to filter
out. Tufa is a porous type of rock made of volcanic ash from a volcanic eruption, and the nearby water would have been already filtered through the rock.

Figure 3: Volcanic Ash Rocks

Figure 4: Dried clay soil
Figure 4: Dried clay soil

Even though they were skilled at finding water, it was not always pure, and because of that the quality of the water among Roman aqueducts varied as well. Some waters were better than others for drinking. If the source of water was near limestone/tufa, then it was considered hard because of the calcium that it had acquired while flowing through the porous rocks. Hard water was clear of any physical impurities, but it was chemically altered and did not taste good.

2) The Different Forms of Aqueducts

The Conventional Conduits
For much of the aqueducts, open masonry channels were used. The measurements for the conduits varied, but the Marcia was 90cm by 2.40m high, and the Brevenne in Lyon was 79cm by 1.69cm. These measurements can be used to generalize the width and height for aqueduct channels. The conduits were typically laid 50cm to 1m underground (Hodge) and were built on a cut-and-cover basis. Meaning, a portion of land would have been dug up, the channel constructed, and then the channel would be covered again. The channels were open in the sense that the conduits were covered by perhaps a flat stone slab laid flat across the top of the channel, or two stone slabs tilted in to form a pointed roof. The conduits also took their form as pipes laid down at ground level, or conduits underground that were vaulted. (See Figure 5)

Figure 5: Profiles of the forms conduits took

The inside of these conduit channels were polished with concrete, like layers of paint in order to inhibit sinter growth. It does this by reducing the amount of friction and contact between the inside of the conduit and the water molecules that carry the minerals. By polishing the insides it is more difficult for the sinter to accumulate as there is less surface area for the minerals to settle on, and lesser chance to settle due to reduced contact between water molecules and the channel. The cement lining of the masonry channel prevented seepage and leaks within the aqueduct channel, as well as linked the aqueduct parts together to form one uniform channel with no joints in the aqueduct.

When it comes to the majority of the construction of aqueducts, much of it was done underground. Only about ‍‍‍‍‍20% of aqueducts were constructed above ground. Tunnels were constructed in cases of “watersheds, saddles between two mountains, and projecting spurs where it would be uneconomical to contour around.” Doing so gave Rome many benefits. Firstly, it was an economic way to create an aqueduct. Having slaves digging into straight into the ground, and then horizontally as groups was much cheaper than constructing a viaduct (see Figure 7). In the cases of constructing a viaduct, you must hire stone cutters, pay for the transportation of materials and equipment, and then you must actually build it. Secondly, it was a preventative measure for the city. Having the city’s source of water hidden would help Rome when it came to attacks. If someone wanted to invade Rome, they might concentrate on its means of getting water, and cut it off in order to starve the city. This can be observed in history, when Rome fell by the hands of Germanic tribes. ‍‍‍‍‍By hiding the aqueduct underground, Rome safeguarded itself.‍‍‍‍‍ Another benefit that Rome gained from using tunnels was its ease of access for maintenance. The manholes dug during construction served as manholes for maintenance, as well as ventilation of the tunnel for workers. When construction was finished, manholes were covered up by a stone slab, or either wall built around them to impersonate a well (see Figure 6).

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Figure 6: A wall made to look like a well, to cover manholes
Figure 7: Depiction of construction processes
Figure 8: Photo of inside a tunnel, PC: Aaron Couch

Siphons/Inverted Siphons
Aqueducts took the form of siphons in the cases of valleys, where it was neither economical nor feasible to construct a viaduct. The siphon begins with the water from the aqueduct channel flowing into a header tank that lies cross-ways to the channel. The water then flows from the header tank into a series of pipes laid side-by-side that would descend downwards into the valley, typically one meter into the ground and was supported by ramps underneath. The pipes would typically be made of lead, and on average were 29cm in diameter. Having the siphons buried into the ground addressed the issue of heat expansion in the water, as well as protected the system of piping from outside forces. Once the descent was complete, the water would flow into either a venter bridge, or continue as a series of pipes. The water would flow through the venter bridge, or pipes, until able to ascend up the valley through more pipes, and into a receiving tank.

The receiving tank is lower than the feeding tank, and the straight line that is drawn between them is called the hydraulic gradient. The receiving tank is lower than the feeding tank because it was not necessary to have the two tanks leveled. This is because water rises to its own level. If the feeder tank and the receiving tank were leveled, then the siphon would still carry water through it, but the water would just face unnecessary friction and therefore the output of water delivered was lessened.

Although siphons were beneficial when viaducts were not feasible, they had many disadvantages when compared to other forms that aqueducts took. Firstly, siphons were expensive as the materials to construct the pipes were expensive. Lead was expensive in that it was more costly to manufacture, and transport. (Hodge, 2002) For this reason, siphons were only used when a distance between mountains was too great and therefore it was too expensive to construct a viaduct. Another disadvantage to the siphons would be their maintenance, but that is discussed below. Although the usage of siphons carried all these disadvantages, the economic savings drove its implementation.

The actual construction method for these above-ground parts were similar to construction methods of buildings during that time. To build upwards, creating pillars of the aqueducts workers used bricks on the perimeter of a structure and cemented the bricks together, leaving the inside hollow. The inside of the structure would then be filled with a cement/stone/terracotta mixture and tamped down. The materials used were whatever was in the area, or whatever materials they could find under them. Then, the process would be repeated, and repeated until the structure was erected tall enough for an arch to connect the structures.

Viaducts were constructed where there was a valley to be crossed (see Figure below). The design of the viaduct was dictated by the valley in which it crossed. Some viaducts can be the smallest culverts and others reaching 50m high (Hodge, 2002). When constructing viaducts, the engineer had to make the decision of more work versus stability. Viaducts can be tall single piers, but they lack stability in that the piers can buckle or tilt, in either the line of the aqueduct, or outwards. Therefore, in the cases where viaducts are require to be tall, they would consist of a series of arches, stacked upon each other (see Figure below). This ensured that the individual piers need not be tall, and they could gain longitudinal and lateral stability (Hodge, 2002).

Figure 9: Aqueduct Brevenne in Lyon
Figure 9: Aqueduct Brevenne in Lyon
Figure 10: Forms that the aqueducts took depending on the environment

Aqueducts also took their form as arcades which are a series of arches carried by columns. The lateral thrusts of each arch exerts against the next to hold themselves up as well as to carry the high capacity of water. These structures were constructed on the plains that surrounded the city and whenever the landscape began to dip as it often did in the plains, arcades would be used to keep the slope of the aqueduct steady, and therefore control the flow of the water through the plains. This was for the purpose of when the water reached the city, it would have a fast enough velocity to be distributed and be of use to for the city’s machinery. (Hodge, 2002).

Figure 11: UW Engineering Rome and an Arcade

The aqueduct arcades started as the elevation in the land began to dip and would therefore continue as an arcade until the elevation leveled out. The use of arcades came with both advantages and disadvantages. The advantages were that when the city required more water than what was already supplied, engineers could build another aqueduct onto the arcade therefore stacking them. Another advantage of arcades was its cheap labor costs. They required only semi-skilled labor primarily for the manufacturing of bricks and concrete, which the arches consisted of. The disadvantages include that it was difficult to install tanks or regulatory devices because the arcades were tall.

Figure 12: Cross section to display stacking of aqueducts
Figure 13: Anio Novus and Aqua Claudia


As time passed and water ran through the aqueduct, minerals dissolved into the water would attach to the lining of the aqueduct channel, and the substance growing would be called sinter. The mineral was calcium carbonate, and it would accumulate to a point where the flow of the aqueduct was obstructed. The Romans designed the aqueducts with sinter in mind, and they kept the flow of water in the aqueducts low, height-wise. This was so that they could perform maintenance with ease. Also, the Romans built channels that were divert-able, and when one channel needed maintenance they would close off that specific channel and work on it while the water flowed stronger in the other connected channel(s). The maintenance of the channels was performed by workers‍‍‍‍. It began with first diverting the flow of water, and then getting to the conduit which might have been removing a stone slab, or using manholes. The workers would then chip at the minerals until the conduit had been cleared enough. The flow of water would then be let into the newly cleared conduit and the sediment that was chipped off would continue to flow along the aqueduct. Eventually the water would flow into a settling tank, where the velocity of the flow is near zero which allows for sediment to fall out of suspension and to the bottom of the settling tank which would then undergo maintenance periodically as well.

The approach of maintenance of pipes was different, as these pipes could not fit a man into them. The accumulation of sinter in the pipes was addressed by sticking a chord with balled up rags through them and removing the sinter out like a pipe cleaner, or just by replacing the pipes completely.Also, when beginning maintenance on the pipes that maintenance workers had to be careful when opening or closing the water flow into the siphon. When performing maintenance, the water supply had to be opened and closed gradually. Sudden closing of the flow of water would result in the water slamming into the system and thus harming it, called a water hammer. In cases of siphons, sudden opening of the water flow would cause water to flow down through the pipes too fast and bashing the elbow between the pipes and the vendor bridge. In all, the maintenance of pipes and siphons was either costly or more difficult than arcades or tunnels.

Without the maintenance, the carrying capacity of the aqueduct would be lessened as the channel would shrink in size. Any part of the aqueduct that was in contact with the water would grow ‍‍‍‍sinter‍‍‍‍, meaning the bottom and the lower portion of the sides. As the ‍‍‍‍sinter would grow‍, the water would come into more contact with the higher sides of the walls, making the channel grow from a U shape to a V shape. The flow of the water would also be obstructed because there is more material for the water to run against, thus creating more friction and lowering the average velocity of the running water. This is problematic for the aqueducts because the accumulation of sinter reduces the carrying capacity of the aqueduct, and the speed of the water, which would then reduce the volume of water delivered to the city.

Figure 14: Profile of a conduit underground, 13 being sinter buildup
Figure 14: Profile of a conduit underground, 13 being sinter buildup

For the most part, Rome’s aqueducts worked based solely on the principle of gravity. When constructing the above ground parts, the Romans had to maintain a steady slope for the aqueduct so that the water would flow into the city ‍‍‍‍‍successfully‍‍‍‍‍. There were different opinions on the slope that should be used. Vitruvius thought of a slope of 0.5% (meter drop for the span of 1 kilometer long.) and Pliny thinks of 0.02%. Based on the various remaining aqueducts, it was assumed a slope between the ranges of 0.15%-0.30% was used. The minimum gradient needed was somewhere between 0.02 and 0.18. The slope of the aqueduct was important because if it was too steep, water would flow too fast and degrade the materials. ‍‍‍‍‍If it was too low, water would not be able to flow strong and fast enough to push water upwards in the common cases of siphons, and the volume of water delivered would be lessened.

This was the case for tunnels and viaducts, but not for siphons. In tunnels and viaducts, or open channel, the way in which water runs can be seen in figure 15. This is caused by the friction created by the contact between the aqueduct and the water molecules. The water farther away from the aqueduct floor moves faster and further ahead than the water that is in contact with the floor. This is called a velocity gradient, as the velocity becomes greater the farther away from the floor it is. The slope of the aqueduct would affect the gradient which would then affect how the water would flow, and how the aqueduct would be built. A steep slope would cause water to run too fast, and then wear down the aqueduct. A slope not steep enough would cause the water to run slow, which would give the minerals time to settle and deposit themselves into the channel.

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Figure 15: Abstract of how water flows down an aqueduct


When the aqueduct reached the city, it would be distributed in a manner to reach most of the city. But before the water reached the city, some of it would be diverted for purposes of irrigation or for a private villas. Many times, people would bribe the constructors of the aqueducts to divert some of the water to them so that they could have private access to public water. The system of distribution in the city is analogous to a tree branching out (see Figure 16). The water from the aqueduct flow into a castellum (water tower), where it then branches out into a second castellum. After the second castellum, the water would become under pressure by using air-tight lead pipes to bring water underground, like the siphons, and then up for use by the people of Rome.

The abundance of water allowed for Rome to manipulate it, and used it to feed its people. The water would then be used for things such latrines, fountains, water mills, and also entertainment.The aqueducts powered these devices, and without the aqueducts these devices would have never been used in Rome, meaning they Rome would not have had the opportunity to grow as it did.

Figure 16: Distribution of Water when it reached the city


Latrines are places where people conducted their bodily business. and like baths, this was a social thing in ancient Rome. People would talk and socialize in latrines, often times, latrines could seat up to twenty people, and less often up to forty.‍‍ Aside from the social function latrines served Rome, it also brought about better sanitation for Rome. Back then, people would throw their human waste out of their window and into the streets. This method of getting rid of waste was not only unpleasant, but also unsanitary. Living in such close proximity to human waste causes higher risk to disease as the likelihood of consuming food or drinking water infected with fecal matter is higher. Illnesses related to human waste that wreaked havoc on Rome included cholera, dysentery, and typhoid. Following the construction of latrines was better sanitation and cleaner streets.

The water that supplied latrines was of lower quality. It was most likely water that has already been used in baths, and on its way out it would flush the latrines. Without the abundance of water, and the aqueducts, Rome would not have fostered such a brilliant engineering culture like it had because firstly it would not be a desirable place to live, because of the stenches on the street and the illness in the community.

Figure 17: Toilets at Ostia Antica
Figure 17: Toilets at Ostia Antica


Much like modern day Rome, ancient Rome had a public fountains that carried potable water. But unlike modern day Rome, these fountains served as the only source of potable water ancient Romans had. Only the wealthy had private access to water in their homes. Potable water for the Romans was a public thing, where a fountain would be located outside somewhere near the area. ‍‍In the height of Ancient Rome, water fountains were available and could be found within a 50m radius of anything (Hodge, 2002). Pressurized pipes would serve the water fountains. The water for drinking was the highest quality, and was available for everyone to drink. Water fountains gave people convenience, and safety. Safety as in a source of water to drink, as well as security in the case of fires. Romans were advised to keep buckets of waters in their rooms in case of ‍‍fires‍‍.

Figure 18: Fountain della Barcaccia in modern day Rome.
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Figure 19: Drinking fountain at Villa D’este (2015)

The fountains in Ancient Rome served its purpose as both a spectacle of Rome’s wealth, and as for drinking and cooking. Having water easily accessible to people makes Ancient Rome a superb civilization as back then, drinking water was risky because it could very well have been infected, or the quality of the water was poor, such as in cases of sandy water. The Ancient Romans supplied their entire city with constantly running, potable water was an amazing feat which must have invited people to move into the city. Having fountains for public use meant that Rome was able to hold ‍‍people, more densely because people did not have to look for clean water, but instead clean water was transported to them.

Water Mills

Another water powered device that the Romans utilized would be the water mill. It was used for grinding grains. There were two types of mills, overshot and undershot.

Figure 20: Over Shot Water Wheel
Figure 20: Over Shot Water Wheel

Figure 21: Undershot Water Wheel
Figure 21: Undershot Water Wheel

‍‍Overshot watermills revolved by having a steady stream of water led to it, and then the water “would cascade down the wheel” by gravity therefore moving it. (Hodge, 2002) This type of watermill was something that the Romans could have easily utilized because the Roman engineering could supply and meet that need of water.

Undershot watermills worked by having part of the mill submerged in the water, and the current in the water would push the wheel, thus turning the wheel. But this type of watermill was most likely uncommon because there was very few bodies of water that could satisfy the undershot wheels requirements for revolving in the Mediterranean. (Hodge, 2002).‍‍

Although there is not much evidence in ruins that there were many water mills present in Ancient Rome, the combination of how overshot watermills works and aqueducts makes it easy to hypothesize that there was most likely a lot of watermills present in Ancient Rome. This would be a big factor and testament to how and why Rome was able to grow rapidly.



Baths were an integral part of a Roman’s day. Unlike today, baths were not something done in the privacy of your own home. Instead, bathing was a communal act. The ancient Romans constructed many public baths, with the ‍‍most preserved being the Baths of Caracalla.

The Baths of Caracalla can be used as an example to analyze the prosperity and advanced engineering within Ancient Rome. These baths required lots of water, and the running of these baths was made possible only by the aqueducts. In fact, the aqueduct ‍‍Aqua Marcia‍‍ was constructed for the sole purpose of supplying the baths. The Marcia is the second highest in terms of volume discharged, and it was able to discharge 187,600 meters-cubed of water every 24 hours. Converted, that is 187,600,000 liters of water everyday. The baths were complex and advanced for its time. It had a heating system that heated different rooms to various degrees and had latrines incorporated into the baths that had used dirty bathwater. The heated baths were made by having a pool of water sit above a hypocaust, or basically a furnace room. The fuel would be burned and the hot gases released would heat up the floor and radiate upwards to heat the water. ‍‍Even though the baths and their construction were an engineering masterpiece, the hypocaust system was inefficient. It required a burning fuel all day to keep the baths hot, and it could have burned ten tons of wood per day. (Gribble, 2014.).

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Figure 22: Baths of Caracalla, PC: Mia Elizaga

Aside from their advanced engineering, they also embodied the grandeur and affluence of Ancient Rome. Surrounded by a landscape of gardens, the inside contained high vaulted ceilings, ornate mosaics, and tall statues. The daily baths were part of every Roman’s life as the admission into the baths were cheap. It was a way for the city to create a source of income for itself. This helped Rome grow economically, even if by just a little bit. The baths promoted cleanliness, physical and mental health, and a higher quality of life. (Gribble, 2014). One can infer that this would have made Rome a desirable city to live in, therefore inviting visitors and retaining citizens.

Drains and Sewers

Cloaca History

The Cloaca Maxima began as a canal, built by the Etruscans. Over time, as Rome aged and built itself on top of itself, the canal got covered and conduits were constructed to reach the canal. The canal was transformed into a giant sewer system that happened to flow into the Tiber. This would bode well for the city as the city now had a sewer system that was expansive and constantly running.

To clarify, there is a difference between a sewer system and a drainage system. A sewer system is used for human waste exclusively, and a drainage system is for excess rain water. The Cloaca Maxima was just a large canal, a large drain for when the Tiber flooded, but as the city grew, it became a sewer main with the presence of aqueducts.

All water used for the sewage system was either poor quality, or water that has been run through the fountains, baths and mills. The Ancient Romans had running water all day and night. No matter what, the water and sewage system was used for something to benefit the city. If it were not drunk, it would be put to baths, and if not even that then the water would be used to flush waste away into the Tiber. Even now, the Tiber still acts as a garbage can for the city of Rome.

Figure 23: The Tiber river still collecting waste in 2015.

Figure 24: Entrance to the Sewer System: You could hear a large body of-flowing water. Plastic bags stuck on the sewer gate.

Cloaca Function

Along with the sewer system, came a boost in higher sanitation and health in the city. Aside from removing human waste from the city with the use of latrines, the sewer system helped fight diseases. With the Cloaca Maxima and aqueducts, the Romans began flooding streets constantly to clean them out. But before the times of aqueducts, when the Tiber river would flood Rome, it would leave Rome as damp marshy lands. These damp marshlands would be the breeding grounds for mosquito. This was problematic for the Roman empire as these mosquitoes carried malaria, and other diseases that constantly killed people.

The Romans did not necessarily connect malaria to mosquitoes, but instead they connected it to bad air, literally mal aria. They noticed that low, marshy lands would cause bad health, and elevated lands would provide good health. This is logical because mosquitoes ‍prefer stagnant water to breed, which is more prevalent in areas of low elevation and temperature (low-marshy lands). Before the Cloaca Maxima, aqueducts, and the practice of flooding the city regularly with water, one could imagine that the air smelled bad because of the waste on the streets.

When the Romans flooded the streets regularly, they flooded human waste along with the breeding grounds for the mosquitoes. Therefore the chances of contracting malaria were lessened since the population of the vector of infection was lessened. In conclusion, the aqueducts and the cloaca maxima let Rome flush the breeding grounds of mosquitoes away which reduced mosquito-transmitted diseases, and brought about higher sanitation and better living conditions.

How do we know that the Cloaca Maxima was important to Rome, and is the reason it has survived through time? One should look at a nearby city that did not have as good as ‍sewer system, and did not survive as Rome did – Ostia Antica. The port town was Roman in it of itself. It served as Rome’s major port before its fall. It thrived as a city, but all of a sudden it collapsed. The cause? Malaria.

Ostia Antica resides by the sea, therefore the salinity in the air and stagnant water must have curbed mosquito populations. (Sura). As the city thrived and grew, it expanded inwards and moved away from the sea, leaving the salinity along with it. This, as well as the fact that Ostia Antica ‍lacked a good draining system‍ led to the fostering of a mosquito population in stagnant water. (Sura). The presence of mosquitoes must have led to a mass malaria endemic, and then the eventual abandonment of the thriving port town, in order to stay safe.

Even so, Rome continued to have a problem with malaria up until the era of Mussolinni (History). The Cloaca Maxima, although it did not eradicate the malaria endemic, it limited its growth and acted as a disease-control thus allowing for the continual growth of Rome until it fell in the dark ages.

Modern Day Rome and Water Now

Not much has changed in the way water is used in Rome. Still, there are many fountains around that serve for aesthetics purposes, and there are way more fountains around that serve as a source of drinking water, nasoni. More than 2,500 nasoni lie in the entirety of Rome, and the citizens of Rome as well as visitors continue to use the public water supply. These fountains got their name from their shape. In Italian, nasoni means big nose, and the fountains look just like a big nose.

Figure 25: A young woman demonstrates how to drink from a nasoni.

Concluding Statements

In all, not much has changed when comparing the use of water of ancient Roman to modern day Romans because they were a civilization ahead of their time, and large amounts of potable water, luxurious baths, lots of grain from watermills, and a sewer system would not have been possible without the combination of the abundant supply of water located around Rome, and the implementation of aqueducts.

Engineering Rome

‍Engineering Rome is a University of Washington exploration seminar. My goal in this seminar was to learn about Roman culture, and Roman engineering. This was made possible only by being completely submerged in the culture, and environment. I only spent 3 weeks in Rome, but everyday I learned something new, and everyday was packed with on-site learning, whether I knew it or not. On this trip, nasoni(s?) and aqueducts really piqued my interest in water thus leading me to choose this final project.‍


Aicher, Peter. Guide to the Aqueducts of Ancient Rome. Wauconda, Illinois: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc. 1995. Print.

Evans, Harry. Water Distribution in Ancient Rome. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The Unviersity of Michigan Press. 1994. Print.

Gribble, Arcadia. “Clean Politics: The Statesmanship Behind the Baths of Caracalla.” Academia. 17 Apr 2014. Web. < /Clean_Politics_The_Statesmanship_Behind_the_Baths_of_Caracalla>. Accessed 30 Sept 2015.

“History of Malaria.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia. n.d. Web. <>. Accessed 04 Sept 2015.

Hodge, Trevor. Roman Aqueducts & Water Supply. London: Bristol Classical Press; 2nd edition, 2002. Print.

Ruggeri, Amanda. “Correct Your Tour Guide: Two Major Misconceptions About Ancient Romans.” Revealed Rome. 21 June 2012. Web. <>. Accessed 30 Sept 2015.

Spector, Dina. “Here’s How Many Days A Person Can Survive Without Water.” Business Insider. 09 May 2014. Web. <>. Accessed 30 Sept 2015.

Sura, Amol. “The Cloaca Maxima: Draining Disease from Rome.” Classical Studies of Duke University. n.d. Web. <>. Accessed 30 Sept 2015.

Photo Citations

Kelley, John. 2013. Photograph. <,_silt,_clay.jpg>. Accessed 30 Sept 2015.

No author, no date. Photograph. <>. Accessed 30 Sept 2015.Arca

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