Managing Waste – the Ancient Roman Way

The Ancient Romans were famous for their water and wastewater systems. They truly were the hydraulics engineers of the ancient world.  Wastewater systems and management were slow to progress after the Roman period, and in most cases, they declined. In fact, many primitive wastewater systems contributed to outbreaks of typhoid and cholera in the Middle Ages and even Victorian England.

Fortunately, today’s wastewater systems are much more advanced and when you need yours cleaned, the team at HydroVac can help you. But today we’re going to look back at the wastewater systems of the Ancient Romans.

Engineering Marvel of the Ancient World

Ancient Rome’s water system was one of the marvels of the ancient world and it continues to be a source of wonder today. After all, these amazing feats of construction were built more than 2000 years ago without the aid of modern technology.

Amazingly, some Roman sewers are still in use in parts of the world where the Romans ruled. This includes countries like Lebanon, Syria and Tunisia.

How did Roman Wastewater Systems Work?

Water from places like baths, latrines (toilets), palaces and fountains was discharged into Rome’s drainage and wastewater collection system. These systems were designed and constructed on a massive scale and mostly comprised of sewers and drains.

The Romans buried most of their sewers under the city or kept the waste channels covered with large stones. Underground Rome was a very active place. Hundreds of people were employed to check and maintain them, and the sewers and drains emptied directly into the Tiber River.

Something Smells

Despite their brilliant engineering and durability, Roman sewers ignored many basic sanitary principles. They carried sewage, urban runoff, and drainage water together. Such a system made it necessary to have large openings along the streets. These openings exposed Romans to a terrible stench, which also posed a health risk. To reduce the risk to public health, Romans had only two protections:

  1. The masses of water from infiltration and the aqueducts which constantly flushed the drains.
  2. The hilly nature of the city which gave the drains a steep slope.

Cloaca Maxima

At more than 2500 years old, the Cloaca Maxima is one of the world’s oldest functioning wastewater and stormwater systems. Built by the Etruscans around 500 BC, it was originally constructed as a trench and canal system to drain a sandy marsh in order to build a large portion of downtown Rome.

The Romans later expanded it and adopted it for their use. It is made of hewn stone, concrete and masonry ranges. It still treats stormwater and sewage overflows today during very heavy rain, but it is mostly a relic and tourist attraction.

Today’s Wastewater Systems

Today, sewer systems are so integrated into a city’s infrastructure that we forget just how large the system really is. Waste is part of our everyday life yet the only contact we have with it is through the use of our kitchens and bathrooms. We should all be thankful for this.

The sewer systems we use today date back to the Industrial era of the 19th century. We can all work together to make them the best they can be. The team at HydroVac are 100% dedicated to the maintenance of your wastewater system, ensuring you get the best possible service and a more efficient and effective wastewater system.

To find out more about modern systems and how we can assist you with your wastewater maintenance, contact us today.