History : Nov-Dec 2016
excavating the two sides of the tunnel did not meet where they were supposed to. On another occasion, bandits attacked the site and Datus escaped by the skin of his teeth, naked, battered, and bruised. The Roman administration expended huge efforts not just in conveying water, but in main- taining its purity. A large group of specialized workers known as aquarii, ensured the aque- ducts’ proper operation and cleanliness. These technicians carried out repairs and systematically cleaned the channels to prevent blockages and maintain a decent water quality. The channel along which the water flowed was al- ways kept covered and tanks called piscinae limariae were placed along the route into which impurities were regularly decanted. Siphoning Off Even for Romans, private access to water came at a price. Homeowners who could afford running water paid for the service based on the diameter of their access pipe, a not entirely foolproof bill- ing system. There are records of homeowners slyly installing wider pipes than those for which they paid. This scam led to the invention of the calix, a sleeved pipe fitted into the wall, which was decorated to prevent forgeries or alterations. They were also used in the castella aquarum, the tanks from which water was distributed to dif- ferent parts of the city. Despite regulation, some Romans tried to steal water from the source and would drain off water from the aqueduct or bribe the aquarii to do so. In the first century a.d. the senator Sextus Julius Frontinus mentioned this practice in his treatise De aquaeductu as “fraus aquariorum”: plumbing fraud. To such a practical people as the Romans, aq- ueducts were a source of great pride and even part of their identity. Frontinus made that clear in his treatise on these great public works.“With such an array of indispensable structures carry- ing so much water, compare, if you will, the idle Pyramids or the useless, though famous, works of the Greeks!” Bridging Past and Present ONE OF ROMAN SPAIN’S most iconic monu- ments, the Segovia aqueduct is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of the best preserved Roman aqueducts in the world. Built to carry water from the Frío River 10 miles away, the structure was tradition- ally attributed to the emperor Augustus. Recent studies have shown it dates from the period of the emperor Trajan in the first part of the second century a.d. KNOWN BY SEGOVIANS as El Puente (“the bridge”), the aqueduct features 168 arches. In recent years basins have been found alongside the channel, originally built to filter out the sand carried along from its source. Unlike other aqueduct bridges, plundered for their stone, the Segovia structure has been in almost constant use since its construction, ensuring it has sur- vived intact for nearly 2,000 years. HOW DID THEIR GARDENS GROW? Well-to-do Romans had ornamental fountains in their gardens, as shown by this fresco from the first century a.d., found in the House of the Golden Bracelet in Pompeii. JUAN CARLOS MUÑOZ/FOTOTECA 9X12 SCALA,FLORENCE ISABEL RODÀ IS PROFESSOR OF ARCHAEOLOGY AT THE AUTONOMOUS UNIVERSITY OF BARCELONA, SPAIN.