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constructed numerous aqueducts
to bring water from distant sources into their cities and towns, supplying public baths
, fountains and private households. Waste water was removed by complex sewage systems
and released into nearby bodies of water, keeping the towns clean and free from effluent. Aqueducts also provided water for mining operations, milling, farms and gardens.
Aqueducts moved water through gravity alone, being constructed along a slight downward gradient within conduits of stone, brick or concrete. Most were buried beneath the ground, and followed its contours; obstructing peaks were circumvented or, less often, tunnelled through. Where valleys or lowlands intervened, the conduit was carried on bridgework, or its contents fed into high-pressure lead, ceramic or stone pipes and siphoned across. Most aqueduct systems included sedimentation tanks, sluices
and distribution tanks to regulate the supply at need.
‘s first aqueduct supplied a water-fountain sited at the city’s cattle market. By the third century AD, the city had eleven aqueducts, sustaining a population of over a million in a water-extravagant economy; most of the water supplied the city’s many public baths. Cities and municipalities throughout the Roman Empire
emulated this model, and funded aqueducts as objects of public interest and civic pride, “an expensive yet necessary luxury to which all could, and did, aspire.”