The Emperor Trajan (2/2)

Trajan recorded many of his achievements in images on specially minted coins, The victory in Dacia was recorded on coins, as well as all the scenes on Trajanís column, there was a coin for the new Forum Traiana in the centre of Rome, a new highway, the Via Traiana, and a new high quality, high capacity Aqueduct, the Aqua Traiana, which was to bring fresh spring water to all areas of the city.

In the beginning of Trajanís reign, the curator of the cityís water supply was Sextus Julius Frontinus, he documents most carefully the sources, routes and volumes of water supplied by the cityís existing aqueduct system, and this work, remarkably, has come down to us in modern times.

In the time of Trajan the Roman city aqueduct system was quite old, and Frontinusís work was largely concerned with repairs and maintenance of an out of date system that no longer delivered sufficient water for a rapidly increasing population.

Another problem is that all the existing aqueducts at that time came from the east of Rome, the sources were from rivers or springs providing water that carried dissolved salts that were deposited inside and eventually blocked the pipes and ducts, and also sometimes carried very large amounts of silt that blocked the ducts and reduced the water flow.

Part of Trajanís revised system was to bring in fresh spring water from the north-west of the city, water that was collected from fresh water springs distributed in the mountains around the Crater Lake known as the Lacus Sabatinus, known today as Lake Bracciano. The water collected was gathered from many sources around the lake, it was filtered at source through the volcanic ash aquifers around the lake and brought clockwise around the lake before heading down to Rome.

This new aqueduct, named the Aqua Traiana after the Emperor Trajan, provided a copious supply of very high quality clean water to all areas of Rome, it arrived very high above the city on the top of the Janiculum hill where it was also used to power grain mills.

It is almost certain that it was taken over the river Tiber to supply Trajanís new bath complex, and also to provide water for an artificial lake, a Naumachia, in the area that would become later known as the Vatican Hill, and where the first Basilica of St. Peter, would be built by the Emperor Constantine.

The Aqua Traiana was damaged several times by the action of the Barbarians, but was restored and is believed to have kept running as late as the 9th or 10th century.

In the very early years of the second century A.D. Trajan organised a major overhaul and restoration of the existing system. The details of this work did not come down to us via Frontinus, who died in about the year 104.

Our project is about Trajanís Aqueduct, how it was built, where itís sources are, and what remains today.

We know it was inaugurated in the year 109, just 1900 years ago. It was restored in 1612 by the Pope Paulo V (Borgese), and once more powered water mills on the Janiculum hill above Trastevere in Rome.

Today it is in a sad and sorry state of destruction and decay, much that was known and still working just fifty or a hundred years ago, has today been lost. We will find, film and record all that still remains today.

Continue reading about the Aqua Traiana: 109 was a big year for the Emperor Trajan...
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Aqua Traiana


  • The year 109 was a big year for the Emperor Trajan. He inaugurated three public works in close succession: His monumental baths complex near the Colloseum, his naumachia water theatre on the Vatican Field, and perhaps most significant for the health of his people, the Aqua Traiana Ė his great aqueduct which was the first and only supply of clean water to the West of the river Tiber.

    The Baths and the Water theatre; on which the romans liked to re-enact their naval battles for the enjoyment of the local population; would both have required a good supply of water, and between them, perhaps, would have justified the construction of a new Aqueduct....

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