Monday, 12 October 2009

Old Aqueduct park, Rome

We took the metro this morning to the outskirts of southern Rome and got off at Giulio Agricola station, this area of Rome was built up in the 1970's and is composed mostly of a very pleasant neighborhood of low condo buildings. At the end of the street in front of us stretches the park with its gigantic aqueducts stretching across the landscape, the low one is the Aqua Felice and Marcia, the tall one is the Aqua Claudia whose arches have a height of 28 meters. It was started by Emperor Caligula and completed by his uncle Emperor Claudius, I still drink water from that spring every day.


The old Via Latina also comes by there, in ancient times you would use it to go south towards the Pontine Marshes, the Via Appia antiqua is also part of this park. We also saw an old Roman Villa which in the year 900 was transformed into a fortified farm house. The Villa is very ancient and no one lives there now, but several others have been bought by wealthy people who turn them into luxury homes, imagine owning a 2000 yrs old house. People are proud of a 150-year-old house back home. It is quite marvelous to see those old aqueducts, at one time Rome had 11 of them stretching 750 Km bringing water to the city. The first one was built in 330 BC and 2 aqueducts still function today, the Aqua Marcia and the Aqua Vergine feeding fountains like the famous Trevi fountain. It is thought today that more clean water was available to every citizen of ancient Rome than today. Enormous cisterns were built everywhere to store water and even wealthy individuals could build their own cistern for their private homes. We saw one near by built by a man who made an enormous fortune selling bricks, the ruins of one of his villas is in the park with the enormous cistern next to the aqueduct. We also heard of the army of slaves needed to clean, maintain and repair the aqueducts, quite the workforce. Considering that mathematics and other sciences were in their infancy, it required quite a lot of ingenuity to devise such a system. The Romans simply built big and solid arches so the aqueducts could carry the load of all this water rushing towards Rome. What we see in the open air is only 70 Km of the whole system, everything else was underground. The Aqueducts functioned until 537 AD and then bit-by-bit the system disappeared, by the year 1000, the system no longer worked and the knowledge was lost. We would have to wait until 1500 to see the system partially restored.


On our way to the park, we passed one metro station called Porta Furba, I thought this was a very odd name, it means traitors gate, I asked Nancy our guide why was it called that, she tells me that Coriolanus, the same fellow who has a play written by Shakespeare, was a hero of ancient Rome, he turned against Rome and went to help the Volci, a people who lived south of Rome about 2300 years ago, when Rome was still a small city and an emerging power. He brought the Volci army to this gate and as he was about to attack the city, his mother appears, she said to him: who am I meeting, my son or the enemy of Rome?

Apparently Coriolanus was so ashamed of what he was about to do that he listened to his mother and turned his army away from Rome. A fitting story for Italy and the power of motherhood. 



  1. One should never, ever underestimate the power of motherhood my friend. Be it for good or ill.

  2. Love,love these pictures and background stories you do for us Laurent!
    ..I'll bet Coriolanus' mother made sure he had on clean underwear before going off to war.

  3. oh my ... the aquaducts are such amazing pieces of engineering!