Groundwater exploitation for public and private uses in the towns of the Roman province: the emblematic example of Formia (Latium adiectum: central Italy)

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Formia was a Roman municipality (central Italy) and one of the Roman notables' favourite holiday destinations from the 2nd century B.C. to the 1st century A.C. The town was also a strategic hub for sea and land trade and drew its strength from its geographic position, climate and abundance of spring waters near the sea. This wealth of freshwater, managed by special magistrates (curator aquarum), had multiple public and private uses: (i) intake structures (draining tunnels, cistern and an octagonal hall/musaeum/nymphaeum which may have been used as a model for the most famous octagonal hall of Nero's Domus Aurea in Rome); (ii) supply structures (above all aqueducts); (iii) storage structures (above all cisterns); and, finally, (iv) utilisation structures for public use (thermal baths, probably a pond/piscina dulcis and at least two fountains located along the Appian Way, the regina viarum of the Roman period) and private use (balnea and nymphaea/oeci described by the famous architect Vitruvius who was born in Formia). Hence, as a municipality located in the hinterland of the caput mundi, Formia may be regarded as a typical example of management and public and private use of water resources in the Roman period.

Keywords: aqueduct, cistern, cult of water, groundwater exploitation, Roman period

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