Aqua Virgo

Roman aqueducts: Rome Aqua Virgo (Italy) Rome - ROMA Aqua Virgo
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There is a great deal of literature about the Aqua Virgo, because it is the one ancient aqueduct that remains functional within modern Rome. Fourteen years after he built the Aqua Julia, Agrippa constructed the Aqua Virgo (19 BC) in order to supply water to the Campus Martius, which Augustus was in the process of developing. There are two theories with regards to the aqueduct's name. Frontinus suggests that it was named after the young girl who discovered its source. Others, however, believe that it was named after a statue of a water goddess housed in a temple near the source.

Pope Nicholas V renovated the ancient Aqua Virgo channel in 1453 and led the water to the Trevi Fountain and the fountains of Piazzo del Popolo. Its modern name is Acqua Vergine and can be visited, see the web. In the 1930's a pressurized version of the Virgo was built, the Acqua Vergine Nuovo, quite separated of the other channel(s) [WDS].
Source and course
Settling basin of the Aqua Virgo (J.B. Piranesi)
The Virgo's source was positioned near Rome in a marshy area north of the Via Collatina, just before the 8th milestone. Several feeder channels throughout its course augmented the Virgo's water volume. One consequence of these channels was an influx of precipitate impurities that could impede or even obstructed its flow, and therefore the Virgo required periodic maintenance. The plan of the Virgo complemented that of the Julia and met the specific requirements of the districts that were poorly served by earlier aqueducts. The Virgo distributed water to the Via Lata, Circus Flaminius, Campus Martius and Transtiber. The service to the Transtiber illustrates one of the main reasons for the construction of the Pons Agrippae. The Virgo required a bridge to carry the water to the Transtiber. Frontinus notes that the Transtiber already received water from the Appia, Anio Vetus and Marcia, but this supply was limited by the constraints of the delivery pipes running across the Pons Aemilius. The aqueduct was also to service Agrippa's baths near the Pantheon and the artificial stream near the baths, called the Euripus. The Virgo entered Rome via a circular route to the north, subsequently eliminating the difficulties of tunnelling through densely inhabited areas. It terminated at the Villa Julia and transported 100,000 m3 of water per day into Rome. All but about one kilometre of the Virgo ran underground.
Ditribution
Frontinus suggests that little of the Virgo's volume was allocated for private use, only about 15%. This seems plausible because of its distribution to the Campus Martius that is primarily a non-residential area. Certainly some of the water was intended for Agrippa's public bath near the Pantheon. It also supplied an artificial stream near the baths namd the Euripus (Aicher, 1995:39). About 22% of the Virgo's capacity was used for buildings in the Martius and Transtiber, including warehouses and industrial zones along the Tiber. Its limited service to the Transtiber probably indicates that the water was used for public means and not as a luxury for private dwellings. The remaining 63% of the water was distributed for 'usibus publici'.
Quality
The Virgo's water was apparently quite cold and pure, according to Seneca and Martial. Seneca refers to it as pleasant water to bathe in, while Martial twice mentions its coldness. Cassiodorus (Var. 7.6) says
'The Aqua Virgo runs with delightful purity, for while other waters during excessive rains are invaded by earthy matter, the Vitgo's current runs pure as a never-clouded sky.
The Virgo is one of the aqueducts that was in use the longest. It is still used today, though the water is unsuitable for drinking. The Trevi Fountain, on the Collis Quirinalis, and other display fountains on the Campus Martius are supplied with water by the Virgo.

From E.J. Dembskey: The aqueducts of Ancient Rome" (master thesis 2009)



HOME More literature on more aqueducts Last modified: June, 2015 - Wilke D. Schram (w.d.schram@romanaqueducts.info)



Monumental arch

Acque Vergine

Upstream vieuw

Plaster and Sinter

Upstream vieuw

Settling basin

Model of a basin

Arch of Claudius

Three Virgo arches

Inscription

At via Nazareno

at vicus Caprarius

Two chamber basin

Opus Signinum

Trevi fountain

Agrippa gestures

Maiden Virgo

Aureus

Aureus