Roman Structures > Aqueducts > Aqua Appia
The Aqua Appia was the first Roman aqueduct. It was constructed in 312 BC by Appius Claudius Caecus, the same Roman censor who also built the important Via Appia. Its source, which Frontinus identifies as being about 780 paces away from via Praenestina, was allegedly established by Caius Plautius Venox.The Aqua Appia flowed for 16.4 km, entered the city of Rome from the east, and emptied into the Forum Boarium, near the Porta Trigemina and the Tiber River. Nearly all of its length before entering the city was underground, which was necessary because of the relative heights of its source and destination, and also afforded it protection from attackers during the Samnite Wars that were underway during its construction.After entering the hilly area of Rome, the aqueduct alternated tunnels through the Caelian and Aventine hills with an elevated section in between. A detailed modern model of ancient Rome shows the aqueduct running along the top of the Servian Wall above the Porta Capena. It dropped only 10 m over its entire length, making it a remarkable engineering achievement for its day.OriginsRoman roads and aqueducts have had as much to do with their growth and success as any other aspect of their empire. The Aqua Appia was the first test of Roman engineering and as the first product of Roman aquatic engineering, and is quite primitive and unsophisticated in comparison to Rome's ten other aqueducts. The Appia was built in 312 B.C. by the co-censors Gaius Plautius and Appius Cladius Grassus. Despite its primitive construction, the Appia was kept in use into the era of Augustus Caesar through regular maintenance, renovations, and even an expansion. Not much of the original technical evidence exists today and there is little material evidence left to analyze. Much of the technical evidence of the Rome's first aqueduct comes from Sextus Julius Frontinus who was appointed as water commissioner and who recorded the technical, and some historical, details of the Appia about one hundred years after its completion.As Frontinus explains in his book The Aqueducts of Rome, "For four hundred and forty-one years from the foundation of the City, the Romans were satidfied with the use of such waters as the drew from the Tiber, from wells, or from springs...But there now run into the City: the Appian aqueduct, Old Anio, Marcia, Tepula, Julia, Virgo, Alsietina, which is also called Augusta, Claudia, New Anio" (Frontinus 4). Rome's first aqueduct was in response to the growing of the city and the population. A growing population has raised the possibilities that Rome went through a prolonged drought and that it was facing major sanitary issues thus affecting their existing water supplies. What ever inspired Plautius and Appius to put Roman engineering to the test, nevertheless, Rome was ready. For this reason, Raffaelo Fabretti, one of the first to excavate the Appia, characterizes it as "The first fruits of Rome's Foresight and greatness" (Deman 22)Contents [hide]1Before the Aqua Appia2The Beginning of The Aqua Appia3Technical Details of the Appia4Distribution5Renovations and Expansion6Notes7ReferencesBefore the Aqua AppiaAlthough there were no formal Roman predecessors for the Aqua Appia, there were plenty of examples that existed in the Greek and Etruscan world. Greek influence came from their use of terracota pipes that were laid along the bottom of a channel or a large tunnel. This technique relates to the Roman technique in that it uses a water channel within a larger tunnel. The difference between the two is the fact that the Romans began to favor masonry conduits rather than the terracotta pipes which were generally used by the Greeks throughout the history of their aqueducts. A. Trevor Hodge, in his book "Roman Aqueducts and Water Supply", mentions the possibility that the Roman's could have been indirectly influenced by the Iranian qanat which is a tunnel driven into a hillside to tap an aquiferous stratum deep inside it. It is believed that the Etruscan water channel system, the cuniculi is a form of the qanat and Hodge asserts that since the Romans had contact with the Etruscans and openly adopted other aspects of their culture they could have been implementing techniques and skills that were originally of Eastern descent. Etruscan water channels are also generally believed to have a great amount of influence on the Roman Aqua Appia. Their expertise in underground tunneling served the function of draining water rather than supplying water. Nevertheless, undoubtedly the Romans gained much practical knowledge in underground water channeling from the Etruscans. "After all, the earliest aqueduct at Rome, The Aqua Appia, was itself entirely underground and in engineering if not in purpose of function, can have differed little from an Etruscan cuniculis The Beginning of The Aqua AppiaAs mentioned already, the Appia was the work of Gaius Plautius and Appius Claudius Grassus. Plautius was the one who had found the source of the aqueduct thus giving him the nickname Venox"The Hunter". Though, Appius Claudius was the one to have the aqueduct named after himself. There are a couple of historical records that provide reasons for this. According to Frontinus, at the time that the aqueduct was being built the eighteen month terms of Plautius and Appius for censor was coming to an end. Under the assumption that Appius was going to resign in appropriate fashion, Plautius went ahead and resigned himself in a timely manner. This was not the case. Appius kept his position by "various subterfuges" in order to extend his term as censor to finish the Via Appia and the Aqua Appia. The water source that Plautius is at least credited for is "on the Lucullen estate, between the seventh and eight milestones, on the Praenestine Way, on a crossroad, 780 paces to the left." (Frontinus 5). Esther Boise Van Deman interpreted what Frontinus recorded about the source of the Appia and states "The source of the original aqueduct lay within the bounds of the vast estate of Lucullus between seven and eight miles from the city, 780 paces 1,153.62 m.) along a crossroad to the left of the Via Praenestina" (Deman 25). Although Deman does acknowledge Frontinus' records which indicate that the source is to the left of the Via Praenestina, he also brings up that rather than being left of the Via Praenestina, it is more probable that "it was left of the Via Collatina" (Deman 25). Nevertheless, the exact location of the source is unknown but the general location can be pinpointed. Its probable that the Appia had as a source one group of springs with a single collecting basin or reservoir. The source is thought to have come from the bottom of the Alban Hills in which a stretch of marshland held the springs that fed the Appia.Technical Details of the AppiaFrom the reservoir of the source of the Appia, the water was directed into an underground conduit. This conduit ran for 10 1/3 miles into the city. The nature of the conduit itself was coarse and unsophisticated as mentioned. The conduit was carved out of the bedrock and the walls of the channel were lined with carved tufa stone. Furthermore, the stones were poorly cut and poorly fitted which speaks to the structural integrity of the conduit. The roof of the Aqua Appia was a pointed roof line with broad shelves on either side. The earliest archaeological evidence was excavated by Raffaello Fabretti and Rodolfo Lanciani. What their records show with regards to the conduit according to Deman, "It consisted of a considerable stretch of channel cut into the tufa of the hill, and lined, possibly at a later time, with the walls of rough cut stone" (Deman 27). Furthermore, "the corridor that was cut into the rock was five and a half feet square with a vaulted roof with a rise of six inches. The walls with which the corridor was lined consisted of three courses of cappellaccio (tufa) blocks, fifty to fifty five centimeters high, laid without mortar" (Deman 27). Later, a second section was found at the corner of Via di Porta S. Paolo and Via di San Saba. The dimensions at this section of the aqueduct measured six feet in height and two feet in width. The characteristics are the same as those described by Fabretti in his excavations except for the roof. The roof was pointed by the joining of two slabs of cappellaccio to form a gable. This is a similar construction found in the Anio Vetus aqueduct which could be evidence of renovations which are to have been made in 144 B.C. As with most aqueducts, the conduit was big enough to allow maintenance crews to walk inside so that they could clean out any debris or make any repairs. Also, it is most likely that there were shafts with footholes within the countryside giving access to maintenance crews. Regular cleaning up of debris was necessary since, just as Frontinus' records indicate, there was no settling tank in the route of the Appia, "Neither Virgo, nor Appia, nor Alsietina has a receiving reservoir or catch-basin" (Frontinus 22). The conduit was entrenched underground for most of its course. The only above-ground section was within the city. For the most part, the channel was 50–55 cm underground throughout its course. This is relatively low in comparison to the other aqueducts. Some reasons for building the channel underground are, as mentioned, because the Romans were merley adapting what they knew about their practice in sewers, it was for protection against enemies, or as Frontinus suggests, because the "ancients" had not sufficiently developed their skills as levelers to build the impressive aqueducts with arcades.DistributionThe Appia led into the city through The Porta Trigemina and was finally situated at the Clivus Publicus at a place called Salinae. From the terminus below the Aventine the water from the Appia to twenty reservoirs through piping. The level of the channel was too low to be able to provide water to the people on the hill. All in all, the Appia fed the city an estimated 73,000 cubic meters of water per day.Renovations and ExpansionOver the years, more and more aqueducts were being built and with each aqueduct the sophistication was improving. With newer and better aqueducts being put to use, the Aqua Appia was neglected for some time. Nevertheless, the Appia was still kept in use granted that a few renovations were made throughout the years and it was even expanded by Augustus in order to allow it to supply more water to the city. In 144 B.C., the Senate had ordered Quintus Marcius Rex to make repairs of the leaks that were forming in the channel. Also, he was ordered to reclaim the water that was being illegally redirected by citizens who had tapped into the aqueduct. Agrippa made minor repair again in 33 B.C. This phase of renovation is thought to be part of the promise made by Augustus' promise to renovate all of the older aqueducts and add to the Appia by building a new branch called the ramus Augustae. The source of the ramus Augustae was situated near the source of the Appia. According to Frontinus, "This branch has its intake at the sixth milestone, on the Praenestine Way, on a crossroad, 980 paces to the left, near the Collatian Way" (Frontinus 5). The ramus Augustae ran an independent course of 6,380 paces until Spes Vetus where it joined the Appia. It is at this point that Frontinus refers to as Gemelli "The Twins".NotesJump up ^ Hodge, p.20Jump up ^ Hodge p. 47.ReferencesCoarelli, Filippo. Rome and environs: an archaeological guide. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.Deman, Esther Boise. The building of the Roman aqueducts. Washington: Carnegie institution of Washington, 1934.Frontinus, Sextus Julius. The Stratagems and The Aqueducts of Rome. 1925. Reprint. London: William Heinemann LTD, 1961.Hodge, A. Trevor. Roman aqueducts & water supply. London: Duckworth, 1992."Website on Roman aqueducts." Website on Roman aqueducts. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2014. .Kleijn, Gerda De. The aqueducts of Rome The Water Supply of Ancient Rome. Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben, 2001. .N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2014. .Website on Roman aqueducts." Website on Roman aqueducts. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2014. .Winslow, E. M.. A libation to the gods; the story of the Roman aqueducts. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1963.
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