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Roman Technology and Engineering

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Titus Livius was quoted as saying, “Rome has grown since its humble beginnings that it is now overwhelmed by its own greatness.”, and his statement could not be more right (Livius 1823). During its reign, Rome quickly became the most technological and engineering advanced empire of its time.

This became undeniably clear to its citizens when these advancements improved their overall health, safety, and living conditions. These achievements not only allowed for Rome to expand its borders exponentially, but also allowed the empire to support a strong community and dominate the seas both through military prowess and through trade. Among many of the Romans engineering and technological feats, the aqueducts of Rome and their innovative shipbuilding advanced their culture remarkably.

One of the true testaments to Roman engineering is the Roman waterway system known as the aqueducts. The Roman aqueducts was a waterway system built to bring a constant flow of water into the empire in order to supply fountains, toilets, homes, etc. The aqueducts were built from a combination of stone, brick and the special volcanic cement, and stretched about 260 miles, 30 miles of which were visible arched structures (Heaton 2003). In order to maintain this massive water system, the Romans assigned a Curator Aquarum to oversee this project in which slaves, laborers, and legions all took part in building 11 separate aqueducts over a span of 500 years (Heaton 2003).

The first aqueduct was called the Aqua Appia and it was built in conjunction with the great southern road named Via Appia in and another aqueduct called the Aqua Novus stretched the farthest from the city, reaching approximately 59 miles away (Heaton 2003). Approximately 200 cities were supplied by the aqueducts and nearly 1 million inhabitants were capable of being supplied water by this vast system, far surpassing the capability of any civilization ever before.

One of Rome’s most important, if not the most important, engineering achievements was their ability to copy and improve the construction of already existent ships. The Romans had realized their rivers’ strategic importance for trade, protection and ultimately their own welfare. Trade was vital to Rome’s growth and development, and these new ships made this possible.

The Romans imported a variety of materials such as beef, iron, olive oil, and timber. They also exported wine, pottery, and papyrus among other things (McCormick, 1992). This helped to keep Rome’s economy sufficient. The Romans also developed a strong Navy to protect their trade routes from pirates. The Romans ingenuity and perseverance for a successful empire made them a great seaward force.

These technological and engineering achievements made Rome the dominating empire in ancient history. The contributing technology that led to the aqueducts and their understanding of sustainable agriculture made it possible for its population to live long, healthy, comfortable lives. This is still a dominant factor in present day sustainability. The Romans engineering superiority that created their unstoppable sea power also contributed to the success of this great civilization.

The History of Rome by Titus Livius. Translated from the Original with Notes and Illustrations by George Baker, A.M.. First American, from the Last London Edition, in Six Volumes (New York: Peter A. Mesier et al., 1823). Retrieved from: http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=170&Itemid=27 Heaton, Chris (2003). Roman Aqueducts. Retrieved from: http://www.unrv.com/culture/roman-aqueducts.php McCormick, M. (1992). Anthropology — rome and india: The ancient sea trade edited by vimala begley and richard daniel de puma. Choice, 30(2), 346-346. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/226027715?accountid=32521

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