The ancient Romans and the usage of water

vendredi 7 octobre 2011
par  Emilia MACCIONI
popularité : 5%

AQUEDUCTS

Among the most important works left us by the Romans, surely we must remember the aqueducts. They were designed in Rome in the fifth century. B.C. because the water supply of the city, which until then had relied on wells or the Tiber, was no longer sufficient. Rome was turning into the greatest metropolis of all antiquity and beyond, so the Romans decided to build a pipeline linking a source and bring fresh water into the city. The Aqua Appia was the first built in 312 BC at the behest of the homonymous Consul Appius Claudius, the same who gave his name to the famous street. Over the years they were built, others of greater magnitude. In total were twenty-four aqueducts that carried every day in Rome more than 1 million cubic meters of water covering a total of over 400 km of pipelines.

THE STRUCTURE

When we think about Roman aqueducts, we imagine tall, elegant structure with arches supported by pillars, but in fact most of the journey was made under the earth, into the appropriate channels, and only in few cases the aqueducts went out into the open : for example, to overcome a river, or to carry water over a plain. Behind the construction of an aqueduct are a whole series of problems that Roman engineers have been able to fully solve. For example, the force of the water. The water does not move by itself ! It ’requires a "motor", and the Romans found a truly "independent one" i.e. the force of gravity. The engineers had realized that would be enough to give a certain slope to the water and keep it all the way, and then gravity would have done everything else, so they knew that an inclination of 25%, on average, one meter of slope every mile, would run the water to the city without problems. It was also necessary to know how to choose the correct source, so do a fair amount of water flow throughout the year without dry periods and busy periods.

THE CONSTRUCTION

After choosing the appropriate source, they had to determine the course of the aqueduct to get into town. To do this they drew a profile of the geography of the land marking hills and valleys, plains and rivers. For this work the technicians used a wooden instrument similar to today’s levels, but much larger in size : the Corobate. This could be said to be in exact horizontal position when the plumb lines attached to its wooden shelf hung parallel to the legs and when the water that filled a small basin dug out on the counter does not overflow. Looking through the Corobate the topographers could draw an imaginary horizontal line followed throughout the course of the aqueduct and mark this line at intervals of 10 meters, the vertical distance between it and the ground. Combining all the signs taken with a line was obtained the true contours of the ground and support engineers will determine whether the conduct at ground level, if you pass under them, or raise them a few meters. At this point they proceeded to his edification. Often the need to maintain a constant slope of the pipes were very long paths with many turns, and never went in a straight line, so the water flowed smoothly until the "artificial mouth", which almost always consisted of a large water tank. The route of the aqueduct, as mentioned earlier, for the most part was buried or even sometimes carved in the hills and mountains, in this case the conduct was formed only by a structure of brick-shaped box with waterproofed and ventilated seats wells every 20-30 meters, also used for periodic maintenance. Only sometimes the pipeline had to pass through rivers or plains, and it was therefore necessary to build a support structure (pensiles aquae). One of the most famous examples is the bridge-aqueduct over the River Gard in France, that supplied the city of Nimes. The construction began with the construction of the foundations of the pillars, if passed on earth dug a hole several feet deep and built a solid foundation of a truncated pyramid with large stone blocks. But if it was necessary to prepare a river was sealed with a wooden fence all around the pitch area of the construction of each pillar : so you could remove the water first, then the mud and gravel to build a solid foundation of large stone blocks. Done this, they started the construction of the piers themselves. These could be either of brick stone, and were stacked alternately with each other and joined by mortar. Only then joined the pillars with arches which were built using the support structures of wood called ribs that allowed the placement of the stones until the close of the "keystone". Built the first arch, they proceeded with the building of the other arches that rested increasingly on the same pillars, stood on the top floor brick the actual conduct of the aqueduct.

LIME WATER The Romans invented among other things, the lime, and a variant of it that resisted water and since water was used in tanks or in the water supply just for waterproofing, it is still used.

THERMAE

Very few Roman houses were equipped with bathroom so one of the most popular places were the public baths, toilets. The entrance was very cheap and you could be accessed by people of all walks of life, including women and children. Sometimes politicians in search of favors offered free entry to all for a day. The baths included a room warm (tepidarium), a warm and full of steam (steam bath) and a room with cold water (frigidarium). There were spaces like porches and gardens where you can stroll and watch musical performances and poetry readings. There were outdoor pools for swimming. The bathrooms were open from mid morning to sunset. Men and women could only enter at different times. Under floors and behind walls where there were gaps passing heated air from a furnace fueled by some slaves. The floors were so hot that people had to wear special shoes with wooden soles for not burning their feet.

THE SEWERS

Water is one of the most necessary things, but also one that, once used, you must get rid of. The problem of water drainage was solved optimally since ancient times, and no wonder when you consider that hydraulic engineers were skilled locals. The oldest monument of civil engineering hydraulics is precisely that we have a sewer : The Cloaca Maxima. This was built since the time of the kings of Rome, not only still exists, but currently serves in part. The Cloaca Maxima is a great sewer or culvert that begins from the Great Court ; child receives through the sewers drains all the water putrid and takes them into the Tiber, between the Temple of Vesta and the Palatine Bridge (now ruined). The Cloaca Maxima was begun by Tarquinius Priscus, one of the Roman Kings, and, initially, it was done to remove the waters of the swampy land around the Forum Velabro. People called this work as the Moat Quiriti. The last Roman King, Tarquinius the Proud made it larger but it was Agrippa who renewed the Cloaca Maxima with a restoration from top to bottom. He repaired the damage that had caused water and brought into it the waste that was brought to Rome by his seven aqueducts. A large body of water has always flowed in this great sewer, and still leads drainage to the Tiber. The poet Cato called it cloacal River. And, in fact, a perpetual underground stream carries the filth of the city and it struggles with the Tiber when it is swollen with water.


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