The story of how Marcus Agrippa constructed the Aqua Virgo

Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa was a Roman statesman, army basic, 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 a beautiful 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 in a position architect as nicely. Agrippa built the Aqua Julia in 33 BC which is one other aqueduct that supplied water to a number of elements of the Roman empire, particularly 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 had 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 an enormous precedence for people and so they wanted a supply that gives them with simply that frequently.

Water was crucial 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 nicely.

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 neighborhood 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 transferring 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 soar on to how Marcus Agrippa constructed the Aqua Virgo. We have to discover the explanation why was the aqueduct wanted within the first place.

Why Marcus Agrippa constructed the Aqua Virgo?

There are two principal 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 known as Transtiberim which accurately means ‘throughout the Tiber’. They didn’t must suppose an excessive amount of about this identify.

It is a particular a part of the empire as a result of it housed all of the immigrants similar 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 had been important for all the economic system.

Since this was an essential a part of the empire, they’d to supply the neighborhood with glorious water services to assist foster these communities. Though this half obtained 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 pretend 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 substitute canal close to the baths known as the Euripus, and the Stagnum, a synthetic lake, as talked about here.

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

Theories relating to the aqueduct’s identify

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

– The opposite principle 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 nicely be the identify of a Goddess. The Romans had been fairly religious.

Though these two theories current potential instances, the identify was really modified later.

Marcus Agrippa constructed the Aqua Virgo however the identify 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 through 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 during which its authentic springs had been current. However it 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 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 dropped at town of Rome. It was almost 100,000 cubic meters of water.

Though the feeder channels supplied extra sources of water, these channels induced precipitate impurities that even obstructed the stream 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 immediately. You’ll have positively heard of landowners protesting towards these telecom firms who wish to construct cell towers throughout a sure route or towards the federal government who wish to construct these wind generators. This similar downside existed within the Roman empire as nicely.

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

They invariably gained and Agrippa needed to discover a resolution 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 had been wonderful and the fascinating half is that some even stand to this very day and a few are even functioning. The rationale 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 had been type of mentally pushed to take their work significantly. As a result of any constructive end result out of that may go to them. Alternatively in case of damaging outcomes, they’d be solely accountable.

That’s the reason the buildings had such detailing. Each small side was checked and the architects labored as if their life relied on it. Frankly, their lives did rely on 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 developing the Aqua Julia, Agrippa and his household, involving his spouse and his kids, had 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 could not be capable to deal with the drive with which water gushed in. When it collapses, Agrippa and his household could be beneath. That collapse would consequence within the loss of life 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 immediately.