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The City in Roman Palestine$
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Daniel Sperber

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780195098822

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195098822.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 25 October 2021

Water Supply, Sewage, and Drainage

Water Supply, Sewage, and Drainage

(p.128) 9 Water Supply, Sewage, and Drainage
The City in Roman Palestine

Daniel Sperber

Oxford University Press

It is well known that Erez Yisrael was not blessed with a plentiful supply of water. Other than the narrow winding Jordan, there are few rivers in the country and hardly any fresh water lakes, other than the Sea (!) of Galilee and Huleh Lake (which virtually no longer exists). Consequently, the cities, which required an abundant and regular flow of water, relied mostly on wells and on rainwater trapped in numerous small private and public cisterns. Fountains (springs) might have been situated at considerable distances from the city, and water would have been transported via an open canal (such as in present-day Wadi Kelt between Jerusalem and Jericho), through a closed piping system, which sometimes spanned hills and valleys for many miles, or by aqueducts (such as those near Caesarea). There were also large underground water systems with vent pipes surfacing at regular intervals to relieve water and air pressure and to enable workers to inspect and clear out the silt deposits and other obstructions (witness the magnificent complex bringing water to Jerusalem through the adjacent Armon ha-Naẓiv). There were also overhead pipes made of lead, earthenware, or at times even wood that were laid out carefully above ground, taking advantage of the lay of the land and using gravitational force to transport water over a great distance from a source high in the hills to a city situated low on the plains. Such piping systems required considerable sophistication in planning and construction, not only in choosing optimal routes but also in calculating water pressures and the strengths and diameters of piping units, in placing air vents to relieve excessive pressure, and in installing sludgecocks for removing silt deposits and for filtering the water. A detailed description of different water-supply systems can be found in the work of the great first century C.E. Roman architect Vitruvius in his De Architectura.

Keywords:   Agrippa, Bathhouses, Cisterns, Forica, Idolatry, Koilia, Latrines, Mikveh, Nymphaeum, Palatium

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