Ancient Rome and the Roman Empire (800 BCE - 300 CE) (1)
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The Roman Empire is in many ways the highest point of sewage management (and other public works) in the ancient world. Famous for public baths and latrines with quite complex engineering, Rome also excelled in the use of covered drains for storm water and sewage, with some houses connected directly to the drainage system. Water conveyance in large-scale aqueducts was another impressive accomplishment. With the spread of the Roman Empire into Europe and the Mideast, these technologies were introduced across large geographic areas, but the knowledge was largely lost in the Middle Ages.

See Tracking Down the Roots of Our Sanitary Sewers for more information.

   


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For
Reference

Water and Wastewater Systems in Imperial Rome by Roger D. Hansen, waterhistory.org

Wikipedia Articles: Sanitation in ancient Rome, Roman aqueduct, Cloaca Maxima, Roman technology

Aquae Urbis Romae - The Waters of the City of Rome, includes a series of maps showing development of the water system over time.

Creative Commons photos are generously licensed by their owners to be used by others as long as they are attributed. www.sewerhistory.org has gathered a number of photos with content about the Roman Empire. Descriptions are from the authors and have not been verified by sewerhistory.org.

Creative Commons Photos

Rome

Latrine in Ostia (port city at the mouth of the Tiber River), Rome.

Source: AlMere/Wikimedia Commons.

The Baths of Caracalla were Roman public baths, or thermae, built in Rome between 212 and 216 AD, during the reign of the Emperor Caracalla. The extensive ruins of the baths have become a popular tourist attraction.

The bath complex covered approximately 13 hectares (33 ac). The bath building was 228 meters (750 ft) long, 116 meters (380 ft) wide and 38.5 meters (125 ft) estimated height, and could hold an estimated 1,600 bathers.

The Caracalla bath complex of buildings was more a leisure centre than just a series of baths. The "baths" were the second to have a public library within the complex. Like other public libraries in Rome, there were two separate and equal sized rooms or buildings; one for Greek language texts and one for Latin language texts.Also at the and outside of them were shopping centers sort of like a mall in current times.

The baths consisted of a central 55.7 by 24 meter (183x79 ft) frigidarium (cold room) under three 32.9 meter (108 ft) high groin vaults, a double pool tepidarium (medium), and a 35 meter (115 ft) diameter caldarium (hot room), as well as two palaestras (gyms where wrestling and boxing was practiced). The north end of the bath building contained a natatio or swimming pool. The natatio was roofless with bronze mirrors mounted overhead to direct sunlight into the pool area. The entire bath building was on a 6 meter (20 ft) high raised platform to allow for storage and furnaces under the building.

The libraries were located in exedrae on the east and west sides of the bath complex. The entire north wall of the complex was devoted to shops. The reservoirs on the south wall of the complex were fed with water from the Marcian Aqueduct.

The building was heated by a hypocaust, a system of burning coal and wood underneath the ground to heat water provided by a dedicated aqueduct. It was in use up to the 19th century. (Wikipedia)

Source: (Top) Rekonstruierter Grundriss der Caracalla-Thermen. Quelle: Wilhelm Lübke, Max Semrau: Grundriß der Kunstgeschichte. Paul Neff Verlag, Esslingen, 14. Auflage 1908. Wikimedia Commons. (Bottom) David Edgars/Wikimedia Commons.

Artist's rendition of a public latrine that may have seated as many as 100 near the Theatre of Pompey in Rome. Water was often fed to latrines from adjacent public baths. The open water channel in front of the latrines was most likely used to wash hands or to dip sponges that were tied to the end of a stick and used for cleaning (see detail at right). The water basins in front of the latrines were probably used for washing faces and other general cleaning.

The latrines were most often unisex; the type of clothing worn served to maintain modesty while on the latrine seats.

Source: Illustration by Jan McDonald, Pima County Wastewater Management Dept., based on information in The Ancient City by Peter Connolly and Hazel Dodge (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998).

Cutaway view of a typical Roman street during the Roman Empire, showing lead water pipes and a central channel for sewage under the pavement. Perpendicular connections brought sewage from nearby homes and businesses.

Source: Illustration by Jan McDonald, Pima County Wastewater Management Dept., based on information in The Ancient City by Peter Connolly and Hazel Dodge (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998).

Cloaca Maxima, Rome

1850 Sketch of the Cloaca Maxima – Rome, Italy, Tiber River.

Source: Jon C. Schladweiler, Historian, Arizona Water Association (formerly AWPCA).

View of the Cloaca Maxima, Italy. The 11' x 12' Cloaca Maxima ("Main Drain" -- finished in 510 BCE, and made of hewn stone, no cement) drained to the Tiber River. Its original purpose was to drain a marsh, upon which a large portion of Rome was eventually built. The sewer has remained in service for over 2400 years.

Source: Unknown.

Outlet of the Cloaca Maxima on the Tiber River, Rome. See excerpt re construction of the Cloaca Maxima.

Source: Marion Elizabeth Blake, Ancient Roman Construction in Italy from the Prehistoric Period to Augustus (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1947), plate 15, figure 3.

Sketch of the Cloaca Maxima, Italy.

Source: Unknown.

Sketch of the Cloaca Maxima, Rome.

Source: Thomas H. Dyer, Ancient Rome (London: Walton and Maberly, Upper Gower Street; John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1864), p. 97.

Cloaca Maxima sign, Roman Forum, Rome, Italy. Photo date October 2007.

Source: Rick Arbour, P.E., Saint Paul, Minnesota.

 

Cloaca Maxima entrance, Roman Forum, Rome, Italy. Photo date October 2007.

Source: Rick Arbour, P.E., Saint Paul, Minnesota.

 

Italian Region
Row of toilets in Sicily, circa 100 CE.

Source: Joy Mehulka, Pima County Department of Transportation, Tucson, Arizona.

A huge collection of Roman-era clay water supply pipes, in a museum in Pafos, Cyprus.

Source: Source: "A historical perspective on the development of urban water systems," by William James, Professor of Water Resources Engineering, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

Latrine in the the ancient city of Minturno, Italy, showing both the channel that ran under the seats and the channel for washing in front of the seats.

Source: AlMere/Wikimedia Commons.

Herculaneum, Italy

Women's caldarium (room with a bath) in the Terme Urbane in Herculaneum in Italy.

Source: AlMere/Wikimedia Commons.

Water pipe made of lead in the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum, Italy.

Source: AlMere/Wikimedia Commons.

Pompeii, Italy

Apodyterion (changing room) in the Stabian Baths at Pompeii in Italy.

Source: AlMere/Wikimedia Commons.

Italy

Pipe, Pompeii, Italy. Photo date October 2007.

Source: Rick Arbour, P.E., Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Italy

Italy

Clay pipe embedded in stone wall, Pompeii, Italy. Photo date October 2007.

Source: Rick Arbour, P.E., Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Todi, Italy

Italy

Underground cistern, Todi, Italy. Photo date October 2007. Todi has a complex underground net of tunnels, wells and cisterns that were used to drain and canalize underground water and to supply water. This water network operated until the building of the modern waterworks in 1925. (Information from http://www.umbriangarden.com/pointstodi.html)

Source: Rick Arbour, P.E., Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Roman Aqueducts

For
Reference

Roman Water Systems at Nesausus and Arelate by Roger Hansen, WaterHistory.org.

Roman aqueducts Claudia and Anio Novus, 38-52 CE. (Anio Novus is built on top of Claudia.)

Source: F. E. Turneaure and H. L. Russell, Public Water-Supplies, Requirements, Resources, and the Construction of Works (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1916), p. 3.

Aqueduct of Segovia in Spain. Build about 109 CE and still in use.

Source: F. E. Turneaure and H. L. Russell, Public Water-Supplies, Requirements, Resources, and the Construction of Works (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1916), p. 5.

Pont du Gard aqueduct. An old Roman aqueduct near Nimes, France, ascribed to Agrippa, son-in-law of Augustus (19 BCE). The structure is 883 feet long and 160 feet high.

Source: Cast Iron Pipe, Standard Specifications Dimensions and Weights, 1914 (Burlington, New Jersey: United States Cast Iron Pipe & Foundry Co.,1915), frontispiece.

Pont du Gard aqueduct (Roman era) near Nimes in Southern France.

Source: Unknown.

   


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