Message to the teacher and reader:

  • Most but not all of the questions below, can be answered by reading the book of Dr. A. Trevor Hodge (1992 / 2002): Roman Aqueducts and Water Supply, and/or consulting this website.
  • Please inform the website owner about mistakes, slips of the pen, bad use of the English language etc. Also suggestions for supplements are most welcome. Please contact

Some 16 (+2) Intriguing Questions

Related to (Greek and) Roman aqueducts
to be treated in your paper, report, treatise or thesis:
  1. What engineering instruments did the Romans use to plan an aqueduct? How did they measure the difference in level between the water source and the town that paid for the aqueduct?
  2. Who were the responsible officials for the construction of the aqueducts; who paid for it: wealthy private persons, water users, town council, Roman government, Ceasar, or a water firm?
  3. How much money was involved in the construction of 1 km aqueduct in ancient times? How expensive is it nowadays to build a 1 km highway?
  4. Who was responsible for the maintenance and repair of the (11) aqueducts of Rome? What was the role of Agrippa in this respect?
  5. How did the Ancient Romans try to prevent illegal tapping of aqueduct water?
  6. List the major users of aqueduct water in Roman times and of piped water in present times.
  7. Romans used lead pipes for the water distribution within the cities. Lead is poisonous and the Romans knew this, so why were they not poisoned? Hints:
    • How is the flow of the ancient water system different that a modern system?
    • The Romans loved calcareous water
  8. Who was Frontinus? Include the following in your answer:
    • What is a calix and how was it sued?
    • Describe a quinaria and how it was measured.
    • How would you calculate the water usage in Roman times?
  9. The Romans loved calcareous water which caused scale inside the aqueduct channels and pipes. Find out the chemical representation of this process. In the Middle Ages people used these deposits for what purposes?
  10. Romans prefer calcareous aqueduct water because it origins from so-called karst-mountains. Explain why.
  11. What were the differences and similarities between the ancient aqueducts and the modern water supply (sources, transport, use of water towers, distribution within the town, measuring the water usage, accountability, type of users, public heath)?
  12. The history of the Roman aqueducts is interrelated to the Roman army. Explain at least three ways the army was connected to the aqueduct system. How were Nonius Datus and/or Belisarius involved in aqueducts?
  13. What is a siphon?
    What are the pros and cons of a siphon compared to:
    • An aqueduct bridge?
    • A detour around a valley along the contour lines?
  14. How did a siphon work? Give some examples of Greek and Roman siphon systems and why they were built. There are (two) examples of double siphons: where and why have they been built?
  15. There is evidence that a siphon was constructed under a river. Where was is built and why was it built?
  16. What compelled the Romans to create these monumental buildings? Why didn't they just got their drinking water straight from the river?


  1. The origin of the presence of holes and lids in Greek terracotta aqueduct pipes is still unclear. What do you think (and please elucidate your answer):
    1. Useful / necessary during construction of the pipeline e.g. to fix watertight coating between pipe elements and/or after repair?
    2. Useful / necessary during cleaning operations?
    3. To let escape air from the aqueduct pipes?
  2. It is still unclear why the Greeks used multiple small pipes in stead of one big one. What do you think (and please elucidate your answer):
    1. They were not able to construct bigger pipes
    2. To prevent leaks because of the lower pressure
    3. There are less calcareous deposits because the higher velocity in smaller pipes
    4. In an early stage only one small pipes lines was constructed; in a later phase a second (small) pipe was needed because of a growing demand.

Wilke Schram, 11/21/2009
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