September 21, 2023


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The story of how Marcus Agrippa constructed the Aqua Virgo

7 min read

Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa was a Roman statesman, army normal, and architect. He was the right-hand man to King Octavius when he took over after the assassination of Julius Ceasar in the course of the Ides of March. There may be additionally an exquisite portray of the ides of march by the artist Vincenzo Camuccini and it was aptly named, ‘The Demise of julus Ceasar’.

Marcus Agrippa built the Aqua Virgo
Marcus Agrippa constructed the Aqua Virgo

Along with main the Roman empire to victory in a number of wars, he was an ready architect as effectively. Agrippa built the Aqua Julia in 33 BC which is one other aqueduct that offered water to a number of components of the Roman empire, particularly the town of Rome.

Earlier than we go any additional let’s perceive why an aqueduct was wanted within the first place.

What was the necessity to construct an Aqueduct?

Within the early days, civilizations have been constructed close to water sources, for instance, probably the most well-known Indus civilization was constructed on the banks of the Indus river. Water is a giant precedence for people and so they wanted a supply that gives them with simply that regularly.

Water was essential for agriculture, cooking, sanitation, and so on. However as empires grew they may not all be constructed on the banks of rivers. That they had to make use of up the inside lands as effectively.

These inside lands didn’t have entry to common water and though they may depend on rainwater, it was not sustainable. As a result of it’s irregular, to start with, and relying on rainwater alone it might assist foster a group of possibly 500 individuals whereas, with a continuing water supply like a river or a lake, it might possibly service shut to five,000 individuals. So it was essential that they work out an answer for water.

And the reply was the aqueduct which moved water from the rivers to the inside locations of the empire.

Now shifting again to the Aqua Virgo, it was no shock that Agrippa was tasked to construct the Aqua Virgo 14 years later in 19 BC.

Earlier than we bounce on to how Marcus Agrippa constructed the Aqua Virgo. We have to discover the rationale why was the aqueduct wanted within the first place.

Why Marcus Agrippa constructed the Aqua Virgo?

There are two important causes why the Aqua Virgo was wanted to be constructed:

– There is just one a part of the Roman empire that’s current on the west financial institution of the River Tiber. This half was referred to as Transtiberim which accurately means ‘throughout the Tiber’. They didn’t should assume an excessive amount of about this title.

It is a particular a part of the empire as a result of it housed all of the immigrants akin to a number of Jewish and Syrian communities. They introduced in their very own traditions and values. In addition they participated within the civic establishments that have been very important for all the financial system.

Since this was an essential a part of the empire, that they had to offer the group with glorious water services to assist foster these communities. Though this half acquired water from different sources, it was not sufficient because the supply was constrained by the supply pipes. An aqueduct was wanted to hold water from Rome to Transberitum, throughout the Tiber river.

Marcus Agrippa built the Aqua Virgo
Marcus Agrippa constructed the Aqua Virgo

– The Roman empire had created a number of synthetic canals and lakes to service the empire and these faux ones wanted to be replenished with common sources of water.

So, Aqua Virgo was constructed additionally to service Agrippa′s baths close to the Pantheon. The bogus canal close to the baths referred to as the Euripus, and the Stagnum, a synthetic lake, as talked about here.

Transferring on to the title of the aqueduct there are some attention-grabbing theories.

Theories relating to the aqueduct’s title

– Sextus Julius Frontinus was a outstanding Roman civil engineer, writer, soldier, and senator and in his works, he means that the Aqueduct is known as after the woman who discovered the supply for this construction. It sounds okay, however I discover it onerous to consider that that is true.

– The opposite idea means that it was named after the statue of a goddess present in a temple close to the water supply. I discovered this to be extra plausible given Virgo might very effectively be the title of a Goddess. The Romans have been fairly religious.

Though these two theories current potential circumstances, the title was truly modified later.

Marcus Agrippa constructed the Aqua Virgo however the title was modified to Acqua Vergine later

Over time, the previous couple of km of the construction stopped working and it needed to be rebuilt. It was Pope Nicholas V who sponsored the restoration course of. In mild of this rebuild, it led to a brand new community of a number of water ducts across the roman empire. This additionally retrieved the unique springs of the supply of the Aqua Virgo. This was located on the eighth mile of the by way of Collatina current to the north of Rome.

Marcus Agrippa built the Aqua Virgo which supplies water to the  Trevi Fountain in Rome
Marcus Agrippa constructed the Aqua Virgo which provides water to the Trevi Fountain in Rome

So for a while, the Aqua Virgo was renamed Acqua Di Salone. This was referencing the realm through which its authentic springs have been current. But it surely was later named ‘Acqua Vergine which accurately means Aqua Virgo in Italian.

We moved too ahead into the story. Let’s again up a bit and see what issues Agrippa confronted when he constructed the Aqua Virgo.

The issues confronted when Marcus Agrippa constructed the Aqua Virgo

Precipitate impurities

Aqua Virgo′s supply was in an space close to Collatina which was current within the north of the town of Rome. There have been many extra feeder channels of its water throughout its 21 km size which aided the huge quantities of water it delivered to the town of Rome. It was practically 100,000 cubic meters of water.

Though the feeder channels offered extra sources of water, these channels induced precipitate impurities that even obstructed the circulate of water.

So Agrippa put a system in place such that the Aqua Virgo was at all times underneath common periodic upkeep.


Nimby-ism actually stands for Not In My Again Yard and that is predominant even at the moment. You’ll have positively heard of landowners protesting in opposition to these telecom corporations who need to construct cell towers throughout a sure route or in opposition to the federal government who need to construct these wind generators. This identical drawback existed within the Roman empire as effectively.

From Collatina to the internal areas of Rome, the Aqua Virgo needed to go by the japanese suburbs. Constructing this aqueduct throughout these suburbs will hamper the day by day lifetime of the residents and so they fought for the development to not happen.

They invariably received and Agrippa needed to discover a answer for this. He determined to take an extended route which elevated the size of the aqueduct to 21 km. This was for much longer than the anticipated size initially.

The Roman architectures have been superb and the fascinating half is that some even stand to this very day and a few are even functioning. The explanation for that’s that the Roman generals held the architects to very excessive accountability requirements.

Architect accountability was enforced by the Roman empire

The artists and designers belonging to the Roman empire have been form of mentally pushed to take their work critically. As a result of any constructive final result out of that may go to them. However in case of adverse outcomes, they’d be solely accountable.

That’s the reason the buildings had such detailing. Each small facet was checked and the architects labored as if their life trusted it. Frankly, their lives did rely upon it.

There may be one story involving Agrippa and Aqua Julia, his first aqueduct building in 33 BC earlier than the Aqua Virgo.

Example of Roman Architecture - Roman Forum after the ruins
Instance of Roman Structure – Roman Discussion board after the ruins

To have distinctive focus and dedication whereas setting up the Aqua Julia, Agrippa and his household, involving his spouse and his kids, have been made to face underneath the aqueduct when the water from the supply was first being let into the development.

If any minor flaw was current then the construction will collapse. As it will not be capable to deal with the power with which water gushed in. When it collapses, Agrippa and his household can be beneath. That collapse would end result within the demise of its constructor.

Such strict guard rails led to immense dedication to their craft. The Aqua Virgo is a scintillating instance of this as it’s nonetheless the one Roman aqueduct nonetheless in use at the moment.

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