71 Romans

Brief description of the Water Supply to Rome  between 313 BC and 240 AD and the water distribution system around Naples constructed between 30 and 20 BC

Drinking water supplied to the major cities of Italy comes from a variety of sources for example

Rome                97% Springs and 3% Wells                                                                                   Milan               433 wells                                                                                                                       Florence         River Arno                                                                                                                     Naples            River Gari via the Campania Aqueduct

 The Romans were adept at constructing gravitational distribution systems including stone aqueducts, and reservoirs, and lead pipes into houses. The lead pipes ended in “quinariae” a short pipe of known diameter to control the flow,  and for which householders paid for a licence. Diameters increased with the size of houses and uses. The supply was normally flowing constantly, being discharged through toilets and drains into the nearest river. Hence as Roman towns grew in size, the rivers became ever more polluted, as did the River Thames in London.

Rome Tiber ford
River Tiber 2015  DNW Photo

As  the city of Rome grew in population, from its earliest formation in 754 BC, the initial spring and well supplies became inadequate and the River Tiber increasingly polluted by sewage. As a consequence, between around 313 BC  until 1000 AD water was supplied to the city of Rome though aqueducts from sources in the seven  hills above Rome. By 226 AD a total of 11 aqueducts were constructed, initially of cut stone, some over 50 miles long. By AD 97 a total of 9 aqueducts were in use, totalling 262 miles, from which  it was estimated from 14,018 connected supplies, 1 million people were supplied with approx 70 million gallons a day. Eventually supplying over two million inhabitants of Rome. By the year 1000 AD Rome had diminished greatly in population and no aqueducts remained, the people resorting to the earlier water supplies from local springs, wells and the River Tiber. The aqueducts were either destroyed by invaders cutting off the water supply, and lack of funds to maintain them, allowing them to become relics of the past. It was not until the sixteenth century  that a new aqueduct was built on the ruins of a previous one using old aqueduct springs to the east of the city, and named Acqua Felice in honour of the Pope. This is still in use. Other new Aqueducts followed but it was not until 1870 that an entirely new aqueduct was built called the Acqua Marcia-Pia. Early aqueducts were constructed entirely of cut stone before the use of cement. Early aqueducts were constructed underground for protection but later ones above ground and it was the latter that were destroyed by the invaders. A sophisticated underground drainage system was also constructed to take the sewage


The River Tiber lit up  DNW Photo

In England from 43 AD to 410 AD the Romans built aqueducts to supply several towns such as Colchester,  Cheltenham, and York from springs, but of which there are no remains in existence today.


The Pont Du Gard is part of the Nimes Aqueduct some 50 kilometres m long, over the Gard river built prior to Christian times. Built by the Romans in the 1st Century AD, it is 50m high and 360 m long, of soft yellow sandstone from a local quarry.

Roman City distribution 001

                                        A Typical Roman Distribution System

Water supplied to private houses in Roman towns normally flowed continuously, supplying taps, baths, before flushing toilets then being discharged.

Stone Water Pipes in Palmyra,  Syria  200 AD     DNW Photo

Roman Water Pipes in Ephesus Turkey 001

Roman Water Pipes in Ephesus Turkey DNW Photo

                                                                                               Cyprus  Drinking Fountain (2)

                                               Public Street Drinking bowl DNW Photo

                                                                                       Flushed Communal Toilets in Ephesus 001

The Author DNW, following many Romans “Relieving his Feet” at the Flushed communal toilets in Ephesus, Turkey DNW Photo

Trevi Fountain 2
The Trevi Fountain, one of many in Rome  DNW Photo
Rome Boat
Boat shaped fountain DNW Photo









Fountains served a dual purpose in providing drinking water and flushing the sewers

Rome fountain
Street Fountain  DNW Photo












In July 2017, due to three years low rainfall, many public fountains were switched off to conserve water,

Not content with supplying houses, fountains, baths and sewers, additionally a lake, named Naumachia, 1800ft by 1200ft , was also constructed in eastern Rome. This was primarily  to stage nautical battles,involving up to thirty ships containing rowers and 3000 men. An aqueduct and lake, Alsietina were constructed in approx AD 10, especially  to supply Naumachia, pictured below.

Roman lake 001




Inside the Coliseum Rome DNW Photo

Allegedly the Coliseum in Rome was capable of holding water to enable Gladiators and Slaves to fight Hippos and Crocodiles


BEN  , My tame Roman

Rome Water Shortage

Published in The Times on 24th July 2017

Rome Water 001


The Aqua Augusta or Serina, “Acquedotto Romano del Serina” in Italian

The Aqua Augusta was one of the longest and costliest of aqueduct systems built by the Romans between 30 and 20 BC. based around the Bay of Naples. It was 140 km long and had 10 branches . It  supplied 8 cities including Pompeii and Herculaneum as well as some exclusive private Villas, including the Villa Pollii at Posillipo. The Source was at Aquara Pelosi sonme  376 metres above sea level in the mountains near the modern town of Serino. At the other extremity was the Piscina Mirabilis, A large freshwater cistern, or Reservoir, at the western end of the Bay of Naples. It measured 236 ft long, 49 ft high, and 82 ft wide and was designed to bring water to the Roman Western fleet at Porto Julius, near Misenum. The aqueduct comprised of 2 km long tunnels through the mountains, and a sea crossing at Nisida


The Aqua August Aqueduct System


Piscina Mirabilis

The Piscina Mirabilis cistern or reservoir held 12,600 m3 . It had 48 pillars and vaulted ceiling as depicted

The whole system was disrupted by a major eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 472 AD when 3.5 kms of the Aqueduct collapsed leaving supplies to only two cities Nola and Acerra. Due to the prohibitive costs the system has not been  reinstated to this day, and in World War 2 parts of the aqueduct were used as air raid shelters, and still contain artefacts from that time. 


Pozzuoli twin  Aqueduct