Thursday, May 21, 2009

Engineering in Classical Rome

A couple terms ago, as an elective, I took a course on Roman Art & Archaeology. The course as a whole was very interesting but one small aspect of the course really caught my attention. One of the items that we discussed was Roman aqueducts.

Historically, cities always had to be located close to a body of water because all humans need water to survive. This really limited where cities could be located. Before the classical period, there was no way to transport water across long distances (think about how heavy water is!) but in ancient Rome they engineered a system for transporting water across great distances using aqueducts.

Aqueducts were large structures that spanned great distances at a very slight angle. These aqueducts connected large bodies of water to remote city locations and used gravity to maintain a continuous flow of water into the city. Some aqueducts even ran through mountains – the engineers would tunnel through the mountain from each side and meet in the middle. This required incredible precision and is an amazing engineering feat!

When the aqueducts reached the city, the water was then directed into the homes and fountains of the city and for the first time in history, people had the luxury of running water into their homes!

It is really interesting to reflect on how much engineering has impacted the world – imagine life without something as fundamental as running water.

Final thoughts – what is yet to be invented that 2000 years from now will be considered as fundamental as running water?

18 comments:

  1. I tool a religious studies course that discussed the Roman Empire as a background so we could understand the culture, and some of the aqueducts they made would be impressive if they had today's materials, let alone what they were limited to. Their engineers were really skilled - how many of our roads and water mains do you think are going to be around in 2 millenia?

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  2. I took an engineering elective course where we studies various aspects of Roman architecture, design, and engineering. I have always been a fan of Roman art and culture. Learning about how the Romans built arches, a bridge to cross the Rhine, and the dome of the Pantheon was amazing. The course concluded by taking a 10 day trip to Rome.

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  3. Romans are generally famous for their advanced engineering accomplishments, although some of their own inventions were improvements on older ideas, concepts and inventions.

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  4. I visited the aqueduct that you picture above -- Pont du Gard in southern France (not in Rome, but built by the Roman Empire) -- and was struck by what an engineering marvel is was. What will we be designing today that will still be standing in 2,000 years?

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  8. I feel identify with article because some years ago I also took some courses on Roman Art I could learn some other techniques I didn't imagine.

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  10. The oldest architectures are the best. Although modern technology is creating great modern looking buildings.

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  11. romans had the go on the right architecture.

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  14. Roman engineers made a lot of contributions to the Roman civilization. No wonder it rose up to be the most powerful empire of that time. Their engineering designs are both practical and beautiful.

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  15. The making of these aqueducts has allowed people to congregate in areas where are no water and this led to the formation of large cities. They really did an amazing job because they haven't even invented concrete yet.

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