Lecture 8. Supplying Water, Displaying Hygiene, and Extending Authority: The Power and Pride of Water Management in Roman and Constantinople, 200 BCE - 300 CE

This lecture module explains how “supplying water, displaying hygiene, and extending authority” became intertwined narratives in the administrative bureaucracy of the Roman Empire. In the late first century CE, Rome’s water commissioner Sextus Julius Frontinus proudly wrote in his water-related treatise, De aquaeductu urbis Romae: "Just compare with the vast monuments of this vital aqueduct network those useless Pyramids, or the good-for-nothing tourist attractions of the Greeks.“ In many ways, this statement encapsulated how Roman emperors and officials viewed hydraulic engineering as the foundation of the empire’s political authority and economy. From monumental aqueducts to luxurious baths to flush toilet technologies, the Romans made water management as an essential part of their imperial identity politics.

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