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Roman Architecture: Engineering an Empire

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Author Topic: Roman Architecture: Engineering an Empire  (Read 4339 times)
Krystal Coenen
Superhero Member
Posts: 4754

« on: July 16, 2007, 03:48:44 pm »


The combined length of the aqueducts in the city of Rome is estimated between 420 and a little over 500km. However, only 29 miles (47 km) were above ground, as most Roman aqueducts ran beneath the surface of the ground. Building underground helped to keep the water free from disease (the carcasses of animals would not be able to get into the aqueduct) and helped protect the aqueducts from enemy attack. The longest Roman aqueduct was that of Constantinople (Mango 1995). Perhaps the second longest, the Zaghouan Aqueduct, is 57.5 miles (92.5 km) in length. It was built in the 2nd century to supply Carthage (in modern Tunisia).

The arcades, a series of arches, popularly shown to depict an aqueduct, should not be confused with the aqueduct itself. These arches, sometimes on several tiers, together with tunnels, were constructed to maintain the pitch of the aqueduct, and the flow of water, over irregular terrain, for the long course to its destination.

Roman aqueducts were extremely sophisticated constructions. They were built to remarkably fine tolerances, and of a technological standard that had a gradient of only 34 cm per km (3.4:10,000), descending only 17 m vertically in its entire length of 50 km (31 miles). Powered entirely by gravity, they transported very large amounts of water very efficiently (the Pont du Gard carried 20,000 cubic meters nearly 6 million gallons a day and the combined aqueducts of the city of Rome supplied around 1 million cubic meters (300 million gallons) a day (an accomplishment not equalled until the late 19th century and represents a value 25% larger than the present water supply of the city of Bangalore, with a population of 6 million). Sometimes, where depressions deeper than 50 m had to be crossed, gravity pressurized pipelines called inverted siphons were used to force water uphill (although they almost always used venter bridges as well). Modern hydraulic engineers use similar techniques to enable sewers and water pipes to cross depressions.

A portion of the Eifel aqueduct, Germany, built in AD 80, showing the calcium carbonate that accretes on the sides of the channel without regular maintenance.In addition to the expertise needed to build them, Roman aqueducts required a comprehensive system of regular maintenance to repair accidental breaches, to clear the lines of debris, and to remove buildup of chemicals such as calcium carbonate that naturally occur in the water.

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