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    Cozza, Lucos
    2008.
    Mura di Roma dalla Porta Latina all'Appia.
    Papers of the British School at Rome,
    Vol. 76,
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    99.
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    Goodson, Caroline J.
    2007.
    Material memory: rebuilding the basilica of S. Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome.
    Early Medieval Europe,
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  • Volume 88
  • November 1998
    , pp. 166-178

The Walls and Aqueducts of Rome in the Early Middle Ages, A.D. 500–1000 *

  • Robert Coates-Stephens (a1)
    • (a1)
      The British School at Rome
    • https://doi.org/10.2307/300810
    • Published online: 01 March 2012
Extract

Our knowledge of the city of Rome after the fall of the Western Empire is largely determined by its position as the seat of the Papacy. Historical studies are based principally upon the Liber Pontificalis and the writings of the popes themselves, while architectural and archaeological research has concentrated on the city’s numerous churches, many of which for the period A.D. 500–850 are remarkably well-preserved. The best known modern syntheses in English from each field are probably Peter Llewellyn’s Rome in the Dark Ages (1971) and Richard Krautheimer’s Rome. Profile of a City (1980). If we look beyond the purely ecclesiastical, however, we find very little Archaeological studies of Rome’s urban infrastructure—walls, roads, bridges, aqueducts, sewers, housing—tend to stop, at the latest, with the Gothic Wars of the mid-sixth century. The lack of research, and therefore lack of data, have in turn been interpreted as a sign that early medieval Rome was a city bereft of an artificial watersupply, and of the resources necessary to maintain such structures as the Aurelianic Walls. Studies of medieval urbanism have been affected by this dearth of evidence proposing, for example, settlement models with the population of the city crowded into the Tiber bend in order to obtain water.

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    COPYRIGHT: ©Robert Coats-Stephens 1998. Exclusive Licence to Publish: The Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies
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    1 The standard monograph on the walls remains Ian Richmond, The City Wall of Imperial Rome (1930), whose lack of interest for post-classical phases has been criticized by Ermini, L. Pani, ‘“Renovatio murorum” tra programma urbanistico e restauro conservativo: Roma e il ducato romano’, SCIAM 39 (1992), 496. The chief studies of the aqueducts are Lanciani, R., I commentarii di Frontino intorno le acque e gli acquedotti (1890), Van Deman, E., The Building of the Roman Aqueducts (1934), and Ashby, T., The Aqueducts of Ancient Rome (1935); B. Ward-Perkins has remarked on a similar absence of data here regarding the early medieval phases (From Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages (1984), 153). For settlement patterns characterized by concentration within the Tiber bend see: Krautheimer, R., Rome. Profile of a City (1980), 56; Laurenti, M., ‘Via Lata. Edifici imperiali lungo via del Corso’, BA 16–18 (1992), 165; Gilkes, O., Passigli, S. and Schinke, R., ‘Porta Pia: excavation and survey in an area of suburban Rome, Part 2’, PBSR 62 (1994), 130; Evans, H., Water Distribution in Ancient Rome (1994), 146.

    2 Cassiodorus, , Var. 1.25, 28 and 2.34, and the Anonymous Valesianus 67 both speak slightly ambiguously of ‘moenia’, although Isidore, Hist. Goth. (annus 513), is more precise: ‘muros namque eius iste redintegravit’. A lost inscription records a restoration of the Porta S. Petri by Pope Symmachus at this time: ‘Antistes portam renovavit Simmacus istam / ut Rome per eum nichil esse non renovatum’— Silvagni, A., ‘La silloge epigrafica di Cambridge’, RAC 20 (1943), 97. For the sources of funding, see additionally: Cassiodorus, , Var. 12.18 and A. Chastagnol, La Préfecture urbaine à Rome sous le Bas-Empire (1960), 341.

    3 Restorations during the wars: Procopius, , BG. 1.14, 21 and 3.24, and, in less detail, Chron.Marc. MGH CM II, 108 (‘Totila… muros evertit… sic veniens Belisarius murorum partem restaurat.’) and LibPont 60.4 (‘Ingressus autem Vilisarius… custodiis et monitionibus vel fabricis murorum aut reparationem fossati circumdedit civitatem Romanam et munivit.’). After the wars: Pragmatic Sanction, 25: ‘Consuetudines etiam et privilegia romanae civitatis vel publicarum fabricarum reparationi vel alveo Tiberino vel foro aut portui Romano sive reparationi formarum concessa servari praecipimus, ita videlicet, ut ex isdem tantummodo titulis, ex quibus delegata fuerunt, praestentur.’ (Corpus Iuris Civilis, Novellae, app. VII, 25). A number of texts refer to Narses’ work to restore the towns and ‘moenia’ of Italy (AuctHannExtr 1.4), the churches (Paul Deacon 2.3), and even the Palatine in Rome (ExcSangallensia in MGH CM II, 336; Agnellus 95). CIL VI.1199 records his rebuilding of the Ponte Salario, destroyed by the Goths.

    4 Over a century earlier Pope Gregory I had helped the Byzantine authorities to organize the city’s defence during the first wave of Lombard invasions, although his letters make no reference to any building work (Reg 2.45, 5.36, 9.240). However, considering that a description of the walls, usually dated to the late seventh century, excludes the Porta Chiusa, Ardeatina, and either the Labicana or Praenestina from its list of gates, we might assume that these were blocked up during the siege of 592–3 (Valentini, R. and Zucchetti, G., Codice topografico della città di Roma, vols 1–5 (19401953), 2.14153).

    5 Richmond, op. cit. (n. 1), 49.

    6 For example: ‘A porta Metrovia usque Latinam: turres xx, propugnacula ccxciiii, necessariae xvii, fenestrae maiores forinsecus c, minores clxxxiii’ (Valentini and Zucchetti, op. cit. (n. 4), 2, 202–7).

    7 Davis, R., The Lives of the Ninth-century Popes (1995), 126.

    8 Richmond, op. cit. (n. 1), 267.

    9 Richmond, op. cit. (n. 1), 41–3.

    10 Such dating is proved throughout Richard Krautheimer’s five-volume analysis of the early churches of Rome, Corpus Basilicarum Christianarum Romae (1937–77); a straightforward study of the same buildings’ masonry techniques is provided by Bertelli, G., Guidobaldi, A. Guiglia and Spagnoletti, P. Rovigatti, ‘Le strutture murarie degli edifici religiosi di Roma dal VI secolo al IX secolo’, RIA 23–4 (19761977), 95173. S. Gibson and B. Ward-Perkins note the same eighth- or ninth-century techniques in the earliest phases of the Leonine Walls: The surviving remains of the Leonine Wall’, PBSR 47 (1979), 3057 (Part 2 in PBSR 51 (1983), 222–40).

    11 The lack of more precision in dating such characteristic masonry means that we cannot rule out absolutely the possibility that one or two examples here might even be attributed to the early eighth-century work of Gregory II and Gregory III (we know, for example, that the former commenced work at the Porta Tiburtina; example 6 of Fig. 1 could therefore belong to him). The question awaits more study of the buildings of Rome’s so-called ‘dark age’ of 640–750.

    12 The tower is identified by A. Colini as the seventh to the west of Porta Asinaria; the blocks had been buried by his time (Storia e topografia del Celio nell’ antichità (1944), 126).

    13 Richmond, op. cit. (n. 1), 267.

    14 Richmond, op. cit. (n. 1), 37–8.

    15 Lucos Cozza, the foremost scholar of the monument, has detected such patching in the north wall of the Castro Pretorio, where he believes the effects of ancient subsidence, perhaps caused by an earthquake, were made good in re-used brick of high modulus (Mura di Roma dalla Porta Nomentana alla Tiburtina’, Analecta Romana Instituti Danici 25 (1997), 36).

    16 Rome’s water supply in post-classical times is discussed by Ward-Perkins, op. cit. (n. 1), 135–49. Church amenities will be considered in more detail in Section IV, below. For munera and lacus see Evans, op. cit. (n. 1), 11. For wells see Hubert, E., Espace urbain et habitat à Rome du Xe siècle à la fin du XIIIe siècle (1990), 78–9 and n. 55.

    17 Most of the references from property documents are given in Hubert, op. cit. (n. 16), 76–8. RegSub 21 speaks of baptisteries near Subiaco being supplied with water from a ‘forma antiqua’ in A.D. 1051. For the aqueducts of the Renaissance see the exhibition catalogue Il trionfo dell’ acqua (1986), 203–31.

    18 The inscription was first recorded by A. Cassio, in Corso delle acque antiche portate da lontane contrade fuori e dentro Roma sopra xiv acquedotti nelle xiv regioni dentro Roma (1756–7), vol. I, 260. He reports that the fragment was found by his colleague, Giuseppe Rosatio, inserted in an opus reticulatum arch of the aqueduct, later re-used for the seventeenth-century Acqua Paola. The text read ‘BELISARIUS ADQUISIVIT… / ANNO D…’ Lanciani says that the inscription was ‘malissimo copiato’ (op. cit. (n. 1), 166), and indeed it is hard to credit the form ‘Anno D’ in an ancient inscription. The name Belisarius appears in ancient Latin inscriptions only as a dating reference in epitaphs, and the forms are ‘Bil-/Vil-/Vel- or Wil-isarius’, never ‘Belisarius’ (cf. ICUR, n.s.). It is not unlikely, in fact, that Rosatio had copied a modern inscription: Pope Paul V, who rebuilt the Traiana entirely between 1608 and 1612, set up many inscriptions, one of which—the surviving inscription of the terminal fountain on the Janiculum—reads, in its last lines:‘AB MILLIARIO DUXIT/ANNO DOMINI etc. etc.’ If a similar phrase had appeared in a contemporary inscription relating to work at the springs, it might easily have been mistaken for Cassio’s text.

    19 Van Deman, op. cit. (n. 1), 20, 330, 334; Ashby, op. cit. (n. 1), 99, 240, 310.

    20 Mancioli, D., Ceccherelli, A. and Valenzani, R. Santangeli, ‘Indagini all’ acquedotto Claudio-Felice nell’ area della Banca d’ Italia’, Archeologia Laziale 12.1 (1995), 307. This masonry, known as ‘opus vittatum’ or ‘opus listatum’, appears in phases of the Castro Pretorio and Aurelianic Walls dating from the third to the nineteenth century.

    21 Quilici’s study of the underground specus of the Virgo failed to reveal any trace of post-classical work (Sull’ acquedotto Vergine dal Monte Pincio alle sorgenti’, Quaderni dell’ Istituto di Topografia Antica della Università di Roma 5 (1968), 125–60). The Aqua Traiana was completely rebuilt by Paul V between 1608 and 1612.

    22 Colini, op. cit. (n. 12), 97. His fig. 54 provides a very clear view of the eighth-century brickwork of a pier next to the Scala Santa which still survives, but has since been heavily restored.

    23 Valentini and Zucchetti, op. cit. (n. 4), 2.173.

    24 Valentini and Zuchetti, op. cit. (n. 4), 2.199; LibPont 97.61, 104.21; 107.16.

    25 The mill was discovered in 1912, and assumed to be connected with medieval milling and dyeing (Gatti, G., ‘Notizie di recenti trovamenti di antichita in Roma e nel suburbio’, BCAR 40 (1912), 159); when re-excavated in 1980, no material later than the early fifth century was found, however (Schiøler, T. and Wikander, Ö., ‘A Roman water-mill in the Baths of Caracalla’, Opuscula Romana 14 (1983), 5564). For the latrine and ‘medieval settlement’ see Iacopi, I., ‘Terme di Caracalla. Note sul progetto di indagine archeologica’, in Roma: archeologia nel centro I. L’area archeologica centrale (1985), 584–96. A renaissance well-head in the north palaestra points to exploitation of the subterranean drains to a very late date, and the engineer L. Lombardi tells me that he has found terracotta water-pipes roughly inserted into calcareous deposits in the outflow of the main cisterns of the Baths—evidence for a supply of water into the complex after a long period of disuse. The excavations in the Circus Maximus are described by Vittucci, P. Brandizzi, ‘L’ emiclico del Circo Massimo nell’ utilizzazione post-classica’, MEFRM 103 (1991), 23–6.

    26 Lanciani, who believed that the ‘Jovia’ was in fact the Aqua Marcia, cited one of these documents erroneously, in such a way that the farm appeared to be situated near Tivoli, thus providing apparent proof that the aqueduct was indeed the Marcia (op. cit. (n. 1), 107); the error was then repeated in Ashby, op. cit. (n. 1), 91.

    27 Levels from Lanciani (op. cit. (n. 1), 170) and G. Garbrecht and H. Manderscheid, ‘Etiam fonte novo Antoniniano. L’ acquedotto Antoniniana alle Terme di Caracalla’, Archeologia Classica 44 (1992), 206–8 In the seventeenth century Fabretti reported seeing remains of what he believed to be the Alexandrina further north of Via degli Angeli (De aquis et aquaedutibus veteris Romae (1680), 4). They had vanished by Lanciani’s day, but, even so, we can be sure that they did not belong to the aqueduct, since the ground-level of the (surviving) vineyard and villa visited by Fabretti (the Villa Certosa, in the modern Via Casilina, number 222) is considerably higher than that of the specus in Via degli Angeli. On the other hand, a plan drawn by Gismondi in the 1920s shows the Alexandrina continuing, underground, due west of Via degli Angeli, towards the Marcia-Claudia, and hence the Antoniniana (Ashby, T. and Lugli, G., ‘La villa dei Flavi cristiani “ad duos lauros” e il suburbano imperiale ad oriente di Roma’, MemPontAc 3.2 (1928), pl. xx).

    28 Fabretti, op. cit. (n. 27).

    29 The toponym ‘Aqua Antoniniana’ appears only in the various late antique regionary catalogues of Rome (Valentini and Zucchetti, op. cit. (n. 4), 1.154, 185, 255, 309), but the common opinion that it was built by Caracalla specifically to furnish his new baths seems logical. The ‘fonte novo antoniniano’ of the same emperor’s inscription at Porta Tiburtina can refer only to the adaption of a new spring for the Marcia, not to a branch off it (CIL VI.1245). The ‘Aqua Alexandrina’ is first mentioned in SHA, Alexander 25.3. Contrary to common opinion, however, the passage does not state that it was built to supply the reconstructed Baths of Nero, which had in any case always been furnished by the Virgo. For the ‘Trophies of Marius’ and its supply see Steinby, M., LTUR 3.351–2.

    30 Reduced post-Roman defensive circuits: de Azevedo, M. Cagiano, ‘Il restauro di Narsete alle Mura di Milano’, Istituto Lombardo. Accademia di Scienze e Lettere. Rendiconti 112 (1978), 259–79; Manasse, G. Cavaliere, ‘Le Mura Teodericiane di Verona’, Atti del 13 congresso internazionale di studi longobardi. Teoderico il Grande e i Goti d’ Italia (1993), 635–44; Christie, N. and Rushworth, A., ‘Urban fortification and defensive strategy in fifth- and sixth-century Italy: the case of Terracina’, JRA I (1988), 7389. I know of no attempt to calculate the numbers necessary for garrisoning Rome’s walls; according to Procopius, Belisarius complained to Justinian that he had ‘only’ 5,000 soldiers for such duties (BG 1.24.2), which puts into perspective a recent estimate of 5,000 for the total early medieval population of the city! (Hodges, R., ‘The riddle of St Peter’s Republic’, in Paroli, L. and Delogu, P. (eds), La storia economica di Roma nell’ alto medioevo alla luce dei recenti scavi archeologici (1993), 356). The most reliable estimates of Rome’s population up to the sixth century have been calculated by Durliat, J. on the basis of the annona (De la ville antique à la ville byzantine (1990), 113–23): his figure of 60,000 for the end of the Ostrogothic period would presumably have fallen considerably after the Gothic Wars, only to increase marginally as a result of the influx of refugees following the Lombard invasions. Krautheimer, op. cit. (n. 1), 65, in fact allows a maximum of 90,000 at the time of Gregory the Great. For a discussion of settlement in the city from A.D. 500 to 1000 see Coates-Stephens, R., ‘Housing in early medieval Rome’, PBSR 64 (1996), 239–59.

    31 For church baths see LibPont 48.12, 53.8, 97.62; for the bath at San Martino ai Monti, known from an inscription, see Silvagni, A., ‘La basilica di S. Martino’, ASRSP 35 (1912), 408–10. The bath at San Clemente is currently being excavated (by F. Guidobaldi) and awaits publication. For baths and diaconiae see Davis, R., The Lives of the Eighth-Century Popes (1992), 238. Baptisteries are recorded by the Liber Pontificalis in addition at Sant’ Agnese fuori le Mura, San Vitale, Santa Maria Maggiore, Santa Sabina, San Paolo fuori le Mura, San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, San Michele in the Vicus Patricius, Santa Susanna, and Santa Maria in Trastevere (34.23, 42.5, 46.3 and 7, 46.8,48.2,48.10, 53.9, 98.9, 106.30), and known from excavation at San Crisogono, San Marcello al Corso, Santo Stefano on the Via Latina (Krautheimer, op. cit. (n. 10), 1.152, 2.211 and 4.249), Santa Cecilia (RAC 67 (1991), 451–3), San Lorenzo in Lucina (Archeo 9.1 (Jan. 1994), 27), San Marco (RAC 68 (1992), 336–7) and Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (MEFRA 108 (1996), 780). Regarding fountains, we have Flodoard’s description of the Aqua Virgo after its restoration by Hadrian I: ‘Multiplicat renovans diversa lavacra labore / Virgineaque rigat rivis populi agmine formae’ (De Christi triumphis apud Italiam, PL 135.808; this may represent an early reference to the Fountain of Trevi). Flodoard also speaks of a fountain at the Lateran (op. cit., 806). The Liber Pontificalis, 53.7–8, describes fountains at Saint Peter’s and Sant’ Agata on the Via Portuensis, and a property document of A.D. 955 records another outside the Porta Flaminia (PL 133.916).

    * This article is an expanded version of a paper read at the Second International Roman Archaeology Conference at Nottingham in 1997. Research was carried out during my tenure of a Rome Scholarship in Italian Studies at the British School at Rome and with the financial support of a Study Abroad Studentship provided by the Leverhulme Trust. My thanks are due to both organizations, and also to: Genevièvre Bloomfield, Lucos Cozza, Antonella Parisi, and Andrew Wallace-Hadrill.

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    • June 10, 2015

    Travertine reveals ancient Roman aqueduct supply

    June 10, 2015, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    Travertine reveals ancient Roman aqueduct supply

    The aqueducts of Roma Vecchia delivered water from the Apennines into Imperial Rome. Credit: Courtesy of Bruce Fouke

    For hundreds of years, the Anio Novus aqueduct carried water 87 km (54 miles) from the Aniene River of the Apennine Mountains down into Rome. Built between AD 38 and 52, scholars continue to struggle to determine how much water the Anio Novus supplied to the Eternal City—until now.

    By studying limestone deposits that formed from the flowing water within the aqueduct , called travertine, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers reported in the Journal of Archaeological Science an actual estimate for the aqueduct’s flow rate of 1.4 m3/s (± 0.4).

    “At this rate, the aqueduct would have supplied the city with 370 gallons of water each second,” said lead author Bruce Fouke, a professor of geology and microbiology and a member of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois. “That’s enough water, per second, to take a three-hour shower or to take 7 baths.”

    This buildup of travertine within the aqueduct channel indicates the average water level, called the wetted perimeter. According to the wetted perimeter near Roma Vecchia, where the ancient Anio Novus aqueduct and travertine are well preserved, the aqueduct was almost always full of water.

    Still, their estimate is significantly lower than previous estimates, which did not account for the travertine. They found that even a small amount of travertine deposit served to significantly reduce the water flow by 25 percent.

    Former estimates have tried to reconcile flow rates recorded in AD 97 by Rome’s water commissioner Sextus Julius Frontinus in his classic text entitled De Aquis. “We believe his data should not be used, considering he did not have the means to accurately measure water flux and flow velocity,” Fouke said. “Furthermore, Frontinus’ data contained many discrepancies, which he blamed on measurement error, water theft and fraud in his water department.”

    Travertine reveals ancient Roman aqueduct supply
    A cross-section of travertine, formed from limestone deposits in water flowing through the aqueduct. 

    Other recent estimates have used an average velocity. However, this new study found differences in slope across the aqueduct that could have caused velocity to vary by more than 1 m/s in some places. In turn, this would dramatically change estimates of the volume of water being transported.

    “Regardless of the different estimates , researchers agree that these aqueducts were the core piece of infrastructure that permitted the large-scale urbanization,” Fouke said. “With this reliable water supply, Rome’s population was able to grow between 600,000 to a million people during the first century AD.”


    Explore further:
    Los Angeles fetes 100 years of aqueduct

    More information:
    The paper “Travertine-based estimates of the amount of water supplied by ancient Rome’s Anio Novus aqueduct” is available online: DOI: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2015.05.006 .

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