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How the use of the Roman Aqueducts impacted the Empire and the World

(FALL 2014-1) WOH1012: HIST OF WORLD CIVIL TO 1500 172 (14028)
October 13, 2014

The Roman Empire was one of the most influential empires in history. The Roman's laid the foundation for various aspects of the society. Current ideas about philosophy, government, and science and architecture can be attributed to the Roman Empire. The various improvements the Romans made to the aqueduct technology of the time made the Roman Aqueduct system superior to its predecessors. The Roman aqueducts provided a source of fresh water for drinking, bathing, and sewers. The aqueducts were a way of life in the Roman Empire; they even constructed them in some of the conquered lands. The Roman Empire would not have been able to sustain a large population and amenities necessary to becoming one of the most influential Empires without the aqueducts.

The Romans, like most ancient people of their time, would have relied on local water sources until the aqueducts were constructed. Local sources such as springs, streams, rainwater, and groundwater from wells were easily contaminated with mud after the rain, the inhabitants of the city, or by enemies. The aqueducts provided a constant source of fresh water for the Roman population. The Romans understood the need for a constant fresh water supply. In book eight(8) of his De Architectura, Vitruvius described, in detail, the desirable water source, and the methods that should be used to build the aqueduct, down to size and material of the pipes. The Romans were aware of lead contamination and suggested the use of clay whenever possible. The Romans were precise in the creation of the aqueducts, and they were regularly maintained to ensure they were working properly. Most of the aqueduct systems are below ground, and only a few miles are above ground. The aqueducts that are above ground are built in functional but beautifully constructed arches, showing that the Romans had a real concern for the country side. Keeping the water flow covered as much as possible helped protected it from intentional and unintentional contamination. Water became an important cultural symbol, and they even had a water commissioner.1

The first aqueduct, Aqua Appia was constructed in 312 BC2. The Romans built a total of fourteen aqueducts stretching 265 miles, capable of supplying 50 gallons of water a day for each inhabitant.3 Some of the water sources were 40 miles always, and the Roman would build the aqueduct based on gravity. Rome's population at the time is estimated to be about a million people. Without the use of the aqueducts, Rome would not have been able to meet the water demands of daily life necessary to support the city. Accompanying the Aqueducts was an elaborate sewer system. The Romans introduced flushing toilets and indoor plumbing to the world.4 Waste control was especially important to the Romans and greatly improved the standards of living. The Romans were able to create more sanitary living conditions and aid in disease prevention by utilizing a sewer system and running water.

The aqueducts were regarded as a necessary expense and were funded as public interest projects. The Roman citizens who wanted to use the baths would pay a fee or have running water in their house paid for the luxury. If the citizens did not have running water, they could take their buckets or jars to collect the water from the fountain and take it home. The wealthy would have sent a slave to collect their water from the fountain. Vitruvius explained this in book eight(8) of his De Architectura, when he said, " From this central tank, pipes will be laid to all the basins and fountains; from the second tank, to baths, so that they may yield an annual income to the state; and from the third, to private houses, so that water for public use will not run short; for people will be unable to divert it if they have only their own supplies from