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525Roman Water-Engineers #1

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  • James Mathews
    Feb 24, 2014
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      >>>> Roman Water Engineers #1 <<<<

      Ancient water-engineers, particularly the Romans, have been subjected to criticism which, being ill-informed, is predictably bitter.  It is alledged that the Romans built the elegant and massive water aqueducts across valleys unnecessarily, having failed to realize that ‘water seeks its own level’, and that a pipe could have been taken (for Instance) down into the valley of Gard and up the other side.  This criticism is wide of the mark on two points.  First it is absolutely clear from the writings of Archimedes, Hero, and Vitruvius that they all fully understood the pressure-equilibrium  principle, and second, the closed-pipe system is in many ways a much less satisfactory answer to engineering problems.  It is less expensive, but very much more difficult to construct, requiring very special skills.  It is unreliable, and subject to frequent bursts and leakage.  Once constructed , the conduit itself is not accessible for maintenance, and if it becomes blocked, it may have to be completely dismantled and rebuilt.  An open-channel  aqueduct, by contrast, can be inspected and cleaned regularly, and as Frontinius points out (II, 124), it is even possible to rig up a temporary by-pass and carry out repairs on a short section without turning off the main water supply.


      G. Landels, “Engineering In the Ancient World,” (Univ. of California Press, 1981

      Respectfully Submitted;

      Marcus Audens
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