Frontinus' Legacy

Essays on Frontinus' de aquis urbis Romae
Deane R. Blackman and A. Trevor Hodge, Editors
A joint study edited by a hydraulics engineer and a classicist, focusing on Frontinus' writings on Roman aqueducts


The city of Rome depended on a complex system of aqueducts for survival, and Frontinus purports to tell his readers how best to manage this system. Although his text is largely technical, his treatment of technicalities is not always clear, raising the question of how well he, and the Romans, really understood hydraulics.

This interdisciplinary study of Frontinus' work addresses the questions that lie between the lines of his text. How large a work force was required to build an aqueduct, and how did they go about doing it? What did such an undertaking cost, and who was responsible for paying? Who decided which route should be followed? Why did Frontinus feel a need to write this book? Who was his audience?

To date, Frontinus has been subjected to very little critical scrutiny. Deane R. Blackman and A. Trevor Hodge have gathered here a wide range of recognized authorities—in classics, hydraulics engineering, surveying, financing, and the formation of calcium carbonate deposits in the water conduits-- to examine the puzzle Frontinus has left us.

Deane R. Blackman is Associate Professor of Engineering, Monash University.

A. Trevor Hodge is Distinguished Research Professor of Classics, Carleton University.

Praise / Awards

  • "This book may be considered an addition to each engineer's background in terms of historical development, not only of water related sciences but also of construction materials, surveying, and management of a construction site, among other items that are of importance within a large engineering scheme. . . . [T]his book on Frontinus may be recommended to all who are interested in the origins of our professions, or want a more general background on the living conditions in ancient Rome, yet who are not necessarily looking for a book about the specific origins of hydraulics during the Roman era."
    —Willi H. Hager, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, December 2002
  • ". . . the careful presentation of mathematical and engineering analyses in the first section of the book will provide a firmer basis on which archaeologists and classical scholars can build their own interpretations. . . . Both scholars and students concerned with Frontinus and the issues presented by the De aquis will now have to consult this book."
    —John Peter Oleson, University of Victoria, Mouseion, Series III, Volume 1, No. 2 (2001)
  • ". . . it does make important contributions to our understanding of Frontinus the man and his treatise. Classical archaeologists need to be conversant with the mathematical thinking and interpretation of Roman measurements laid out by the editors. Blackman and Hodge provide a worthwhile service by outlining the 'cultural disconnects' between the Roman world and our own in matters of public administration and the construction of large-scale projects."
    —Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow, Brandeis University, Technology and Culture, July 2002

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 184pp.
  • 6 drawings, 11 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2001
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06793-0

Add to Cart
  • $26.95 U.S.