An aqueduct in its simplest definition is a passageway for liquids or fluids. In this context an aqueducts is a passageway or a channel built specifically for conveying water from one area to another. It usually provides a way for water to move from a place of high concentration to other areas. It is highly dependent on gravity to do so. It is usually in the form of a canal or a bridge like model that passes over a river. It could also pass over low ground, (Van, 2004).
The earliest origin of aqueducts can be traced in Rome. They were not the first to build aqueducts but they developed aqueducts of high complexity than those that were inexistence before then. The need to build aqueducts in Rome was brought about by a need of mass supply of water to a population of about one million people. The romans were well known for their mass consumption of water. They used water for public baths, fountains among other uses. The roman engineers first constructed an aqueduct in 312 BC. Before this the people of Rome relied on water from springs and the river Tiber. However the supply of water was not clean and was therefore not safe for drinking due to pollution, (Van, 2004).
There were supposedly eleven aqueducts in total. They supplied water in large quantities of gallons. The gallons were estimated to be in hundreds of millions. The aqueducts were up to sixty miles long. The first of the eleven aqueducts was built underground. This is attributed mainly to security reasons, it was feared that the enemies would poison the eater if they knew where the aqueduct run. It was called the aqua Apia. This aqueduct got its source of water mainly from springs. It was used for about 150 years before it was rendered not useful, (Ashby, 1973).
The second aqueduct, the Anio Vetus, constructed 272-269 BC sourced its water from a river that was above Tivoli. It too was an underground construction. The finances to build this second aqueduct came from the spoils of a won war. The third aqueduct was called aqua Marcia and like aqua vetus it was financed by the spoils of the roman victory over Corinth. By this time the romans were not too concerned about their enemies poisoning the water supply. However a portion of aqua Marcia still ran underground. It is considered to be the longest aqueduct to be built. It was constructed in the years 144-140 BC, (Aicher, 1995).
Another one of the aqueducts was aqua Tepula. It was constructed in 126 BC. It is one of the smaller aqueducts to be built. Its waters as the name suggests were lukewarm and tepid. It was for this reason that it was unfit for human consumption. The waters still remain lukewarm to date. Aqua Julia was the fifth of the aqueducts to be built. Its waters were mixed with those of aqua tepula. It was built on top of aqua Marcia. Aqua Julia was built during a time when the other four aqueducts needed renovation and reconstruction because they were becoming expensive to maintain due to their deteriorated condition, (Aicher, 1995). Aqua Julia was built around 33 BC. The next aqueduct to be built was aqua Virgo. It was constructed in 19 BC. It is one of the aqueducts that are still in use today although its waters are unsafe for consumption. It was built mainly to supply water for use in public baths. Its waters were described as cold and pure. It is said to have been once used as a route for the Goths during their plan to attack Rome. Aqua Alstietina was built in 2 BC. The reasons for its construction were questionable because it did not have water fit for consumption. It is however suggested that the water from Alstietina were used for irrigation of gardens among other private uses. It was also useful when other aqueducts built earlier on were closed for maintenance. The course of Alstietina is widely unknown because only five hundred meters of its three hundred kilometers were above the earth’s surface, (Aicher, 1995).
Aqua Claudia was built over a period of time. Its initial construction is believed to have been between the years AD 38 and AD 52. It took a hiatus for about nine years. The maintenance of aqua Claudia was perhaps one of the most difficult. This is attributed to its initial low cost of construction. The repair of aqua Claudia also took quite a long time. Some reasons have been put forward to explain the delayed repairs. One was that there was an earthquake that affected Rome during the time; another reason was political unrest at around AD 69. Another possible cause was the fire in AD 69 that lasted for a whole week. Despite all the challenges experienced, aqua Claudia at its time served the largest population. It served fourteen of Rome’s districts and was famed for its pure waters. It was also credited for being one of the most beautiful aqueducts, (Hodge, 2002).
Aqua Anio Novus was the next aqueduct to be built and was the highest aqueduct ever built. Its beauty paralled that of aqua Claudia and even surpassed it. Its waters mixed with those of aqua Claudia and apart from being used for the baths and consumption, it was also used for luxurious uses such as decoration, (Hodge, 2002).Aqua Traiana was the built in 109 AD. Limited information is available concerning this aqueduct because it was built after Frontinus passed away. It provided clean spring water to the inhabitants of fourteen of Rome’s district. Its waters were also used in the new baths. Numerous repairs were however done on this aqueduct and the construction of aqua Paola with its remains. The last of the eleven large aqueducts of ancient Rome was aqua Alexandrina. It was constructed in AD 226 and like the aqua Traiana little is known about it as it was also constructed after the death of Frontinus. It was mainly constructed to supply water to the baths that were constructed by Alexander Severus, (Ashby, 1973).
By 410 AD the eleven aqueducts supplied water to one thousand and twelve fountains and nine hundred and twenty six births. They also fed water to eleven imperial thermae. Most of the physical evidence of this was however destroyed during the numerous invasions. For example the water supply was cut by vitages. Constatine also took away the engineers, artisans, patricians among other professionals to possibly prevent further work being done on the aqueducts. Belisarius repaired the aqueducts after Rome gained imperial victory, (Van, 2004). Many of the aqueducts continued supplying water until the 10th century after which only aqua Virgo supplied water well into mid ages. By the 8th century, there were attempts by the pope to restore some of the aqueducts such as the aqua Traiana which supplied water to Basilicas more so St. Peters and to janiculum hill. Claudia as well was repaired. A section of Claudia was next to the Roman church and therefore supplied water there, (Ashby, 1973).
Some of the other smaller aqueducts include Aquas Annia, Atica and Attica, Antoniniani, Agusta, Aurelia, Cauerulea, Cernens, Ciminia, Conclusa, Damnata, Dorashiana, Drusia, Hetculea, Mercurii, Pinciana, and Severiana. These were built in between construction of the major aqueducts and some after. Some of the people responsible for the successful construction of the aqueducts in Rome include Appius Claudius, Manius Curius, Lucius papirius, Agrippa, Augustus, trajn, Alexander Severus, Caligula, cassius Longinus, and Servilius Caepio, (Van, 2004).
The aqueducts of Rome had many implications on the social and political climate in Rome. First off the aqueducts provided clean water for consumption, generation of hydro power and for other purposes some of which were luxurious in nature. It enabled the people in Rome to live lives that were considered too luxurious for that point in time. The Romans had fresh supply of water at all times, in fact it is argued that the water supplied by the aqueducts was much more than is supplied by any system in this current time. Consistent water supply enabled the romans to advance in areas such as construction which required water and the romans were able to do virtually all they needed to do with disregard to the problem of insufficient water supply. This made them a strong monarch, one which had many enemies.
Experts have submitted that the building of many cities was highly influenced by the existing aqueducts. In fact it is argued that they wouldn’t be in existence if the aqueducts did not exist. Statistics estimate that almost two hundred of the cities were served by water from the aqueducts. This capacity is much more than most countries can manage to date, (Aicher, 1995). The aqueducts were also built in a manner that they were concealed from the enemies and the water supply was therefore protected from their enemies, the aqueducts also protected the land from soil erosion and the pollution that came with it. The aqueducts were also a brilliant design because they were not disruptive to people above the ground which is attributed to their construction underground.
This study will concentrate mainly on the basic uses of water in ancient Rome and the effects it had on the social welfare of the people of Rome. The most common use of water from the aqueducts was for the baths most of which were public baths, (Bird, 2007). Baths have been a huge part of Roman culture and are said to be in existence from the second century before Christ. The baths were intended to be for men only at first so in ancient Rome it was only the men who had the privilege of using baths, (Toner, 1995). Balneum was considered to be among the very first baths in Rome and was owned privately. Due to its ownership only the rich folk of that time were able to access it. The women therefore together with those who were not wealthy enough were not able to use the Balneum. With time the towns in Rome got bigger and the demand for baths also increased with people seeing it as an opportunity to generate income. In addition to that very few people had baths in their homes and it was therefore almost a necessity to build additional baths. The construction was a much welcomed project more so because they would provide water for the much needed baths. The roman aqueducts provided water for about nine hundred and twenty six private baths and eleven public ones.
Over time with aqueducts providing enough water for all the baths that had been constructed the baths were open to the women as well because they too had gained financial advancement and stature too. The poor were sometimes allowed to use the baths freely when a rich person was soliciting votes and would therefore pay for the entire bath for perhaps a whole afternoon keeping the bath open to even the poor. Slaves also went to the baths but only to aid their masters in the bathing process because it was not a simple procedure.
The baths apart from being a place where people went to clean themselves up also presented themselves as a great place to socialize, more like a social setting. People would meet there and interact; businessmen would discuss business there as they relaxed. However the entrances to the baths were different for men, women and slaves. Children were not allowed in the baths. The area allocated for women to bath was however smaller because the number of women who went to baths was less than the number of men. They also went to the baths at different time with women being allocated less time than the men probably due to the assumption that women had less to talk about in the baths and were also generally cleaner. The much larger baths could however accommodate men and women at the same time. The baths were kept open until around dusk, the women attended the baths at earlier times from around dawn to one p.m.
Most of the men and women in Rome tried to visit the baths at least once a day as it was considered a sort of social event for one to attend. The baths were of different sizes. The smaller ones could accommodate at least three hundred people while the larger ones could accommodate fifteen hundred people. In some instances hospitals in Rome even had their own baths. Going to the baths was a very crucial and important part of the history of Rome in ancient times. The roman baths and by extension the aqueducts contributed to the economy in that people were charged to use the baths. The least expensive bath cost one quadran per hour of soaking, interacting, catch up with friends and business partners. This provided perhaps one of the steadiest sources of income for ancient Rome. The aqueducts supplied water to the baths through pipes made of lead. A tax was imposed on the pipes depending on their size with the larger pipes being taxed more. It was also for this reason that most people were not able to afford baths in their homes. Six hundred and forty kilometers of aqueducts was used to supply water to baths all over Rome.
As mentioned earlier on going to the baths Roman Aqueducts was not any ordinary process. First of all a person went through many baths, although there was no specific order in which one took the births. The waters in the different baths were heated to different temperatures. The hottest of the baths were called the caldarium, the coldest of them were called frigidarium or natatorium. They are said to have been very large swimming pools probably the size of the YMCA swimming pools today. The warm baths were called tepidariums. These were also big but not large enough to swim in, (De, 1997). most of the time the bathing process started in the tepidarium which was more of an area for soaking, the soaking opened up peoples pores after which one would go for a massage where oils were poured onto a person mostly olive and then scrapped off. The scrapped oil was believed to remove dead skin. The caldarium which was a much warmer room was the next of the baths; they were like the modern day hot tubs. Finally one would visit the frigidarium to cool off and have a good swim. It is important to note that the people of Rome did not use soap; instead they used the olive oil in place of soap. It was believe to have a better cleaning effect than soap because it removed the dead skin, (Toner, 1995).
The slaves stayed mostly in the basement area. Their work there was to put charcoal in the huge ovens for heating up the water that was used in the caldarium and saunas. There were also other activities in the baths. There were libraries, saunas, exercise rooms, gyms, cutting saloons, stores, game rooms, gardens, galleries and libraries among other facilities, (Bird, 2007).
Perhaps one of the most significant and famous baths were the Caracalla baths. It was built in 217 AD during Emperor Caracalla’s reign. Its waters were supplied by the aqueduct aqua Marcia. This bath was well functioning until water supply was cut off from the aqua Marcia during the Goth invasion, (De, 1997). Baths were such an important part of ancient Rome that they built baths in some of their colonies. In France they built baths in Aix and Vichy, in Germany they built them in Wiesbaden and Aachen, they built some in France and Hungary among other locations, (Hodge, 2002).
It is evident that the roman aqueducts contributed a great deal to their social climate in ancient times through supplying water for places like the baths which were places of socializing in various ways. The aqueducts also affected the political scene as many of the enemies of Rome were more interested in capturing and destroying it after the building of the aqueducts.