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The Aqueducts of Rome

Roman Aqueduct

The city of Rome, with its large population, needed a supply of fresh water. This water was provided by a set of aqueducts bringing water from the surrounding highlands. The Romans were not the first to use the aqueduct system, but they developed a larger and more advanced system than any other culture of their time and for many years to follow. In fact, more water flowed into Ancient Rome per person than flows today in New York City (Snedden 1998, pg 28).

The Romans constructed reservoirs or redirected mountain streams into the aqueducts. The aqueducts were made up of combinations of pipes that either ran underground or through a cement lined trough, which would run on top of arch supports. A good example of their engineering abilities can be seen in the Aqua Claudia ". . . built in A.D. 47, supplied Rome from a source 43 miles (70 km) away. The source was just 820 ft. (250 m) higher than Rome itself. This meant that the aqueduct had to drop no more that 3 ft. (1m) in height for every 920 ft. (280 m) of it's length" (Snedden 1998, pg 26). The engineers had to have a gradual slope on the aqueducts to keep the water moving toward the city. The aqueducts would end on the top of one of the seven hills of Rome. At the ending point, the water would flow into a distribution basin, which would have a number of smaller pipes to feed public baths, fountains, or a few wealthy homes in that area of the city. The Romans also developed a sewer system, which would empty waste from the public bathrooms and laundries into the Tiber River.


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