When you call your plumber today, there is a good chance that ancient Rome is not on your mind. However, the work that today’s plumbers do is inspired by the astonishingly advanced plumbing that existed in Rome. Although historians and scientists are just scratching the surface of the roots of the plumbing system in Rome, what they have learned is remarkable.
Running water was a norm in ancient Rome.
Most people don’t think of running water existing in the ancient world, but Rome was anything but primitive. Most people in the city of Rome and in many locations throughout the empire had running water in their homes as well as a complex sewer system for moving away waste. Wealthy residents of Rome even had hot and cold running water in their homes. It is believed that the plumbing system in Rome was capable of bringing fresh water to homes from hundreds of miles away.
Lead pipes were at the center of Rome’s plumbing.
Rome relied on lead pipes to create their plumbing system. Once plumbers realized the potential of lead piping, the plumbing infrastructure expanded dramatically. Scientists have confirmed the use of lead in Rome’s pipes by testing soil in the waters in which Rome’s plumbing system is believed to have emptied. The sediment level that is congruent with the time of Rome’s empire contains lead from pipe runoff. Although some people speculate that lead poisoning was the trigger for the fall of Rome and that the runoff killed a large amount of marine life, there is little evidence to back up these claims.
Plumbing is a sign of Rome’s power.
The fact that Rome was able to conceive and build such a complex plumbing system is indicative of its unmatched wealth and power. Rome had to get the lead for its pipes from modern-day France, Germany, Spain, and England, which demonstrates its purchasing power, and the Empire’s ability to build and maintain the expensive system shows its wealth.
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