versión española


When the water arrived to a city it was necessary to distribute it from the castellum up to the fountains, the houses, the thermae, etc.  These canalizations, tubes and pipes could be wooden tubuli, clay tubuli or lead fistulae.

The wooden tubuli were not very usual and they were used especially in mountainous or wooded areas; they were small trunks, connected with metallic mandrels; inside the trunks a little channel to flow water was carved.

The clay tubuli were mud pipes –red terracotta, for example- with a diameter between 16 and 20 centimetres and a thickness of 3,6 centimetres.  Each tubulus can reached between 50 and 70 centimetres long.  The clay was a very used material in Rome –they made in clay all the kitchen recipients, so the clay tubuli were always well appreciated.  In addition, this material was very cheap, the manufacture was very easy and it was not necessary qualified staff to its maintenance; at the same time the clay tubuli were safer and they preserved the taste of water.




The opposite happened with the lead fistulae.  From the Antiquity it is known the harmful character of lead that could cause evident pathologies –probably in some emperor- and intoxications along the Roman history and that caused illnesses to the miners and lead workers and to everyone that used frequently lead –through lead fistulae and kitchen recipients-.  However, lead becomes especially damaging in the open air, so the lead fistulae, if they were correctly buried, must not have been as harmful as people thought.  These lead fistulae were made in plates between 5 and 15 millimetres thick and 2,90 metres long; the plates were curved with hot bronze mandrels by hammering and with clay flanges; then, both sides were welded by running liquid lead over the clay flanges; finally, the tubes were connected with short muffs welded in both extremes, so the workers obtained a perfect hermeticism with scarce risks of breaking down in a normal use.  The normal calibre of the pipes was established according to the water flow. 


Worker weldind a lead fistula, picture from the explanatory panels of the Museum of the Forum of Cesaraugusta.  (Photo: Roberto Lérida Lafarga 28/04/2008)


Workers curving a lead plate to make a fistula, picture from the explanatory panels of the Museum of the Forum of Cesaraugusta.  (Photo: Roberto Lérida Lafarga 28/04/2008)


The calibre was measured in quadrants, i. e., a quarter of a inch (0,4625 centimetres); the normal measures varied between pipes of 5 quadrants –called in Latin quinaria (2,3125 centimetres)- until pipes of 15 quadrants (6,9375 centimetres) to a smaller distribution of water, or pipes with bigger calibre to a distribution of water in a bigger scale, the vicenaria -20 quadrants (9,35 centimetres)- and the centenaria -100 quadrants (46,25 centimetres). To manufacture these fistulae required qualified staff, so the manufacturer engraved his name on the fistulae together with the owner’s name –if it was a particular-, the emperor’s name or the name of a community; sometimes it was engraved the name of the project manager or the name of the monument.  In a fistula from Pompeii in the age of the emperor Hadrian (CIL 15, 7309) we can read: Imp[eratoris] Caes[aris] Trai[ani] Hadriani Aug[usti] sub cura Petroni Surae proc[uratoris] Martialis ser[vus] fecit (translation “(Property of) the emperor Caesar Trajan Hadrian Augustus, under the responsibility of Petronius Sura, the slave Martial did it”).


Lead fistulae from Vasio (nowadays Vaison la Romaine, Provence, France)

(Photo: Roberto Lérida Lafarga 6/8/2007)




In Aragon, we can say that from the Roman bridge-aqueduct of Caesar Augusta, destroyed and replaced by the medieval Puente de Piedra (“Stone bridge”) the archaeologist recuperated a series of lead fistulae that are preserved in the Museum of the Forum of Cesaraugusta.  The aqueduct that supplied water to the city of Caesar Augusta took water from the ancient Gallicum river (nowadays Gállego river).


Detail of a lead pipe from the bridge-aqueduct of Caesar Augusta with a numerical inscription: CCCLXXXV.  Museum of the Forum of Cesaraugusta.

(Photo: Roberto Lérida Lafarga 28/04/2008)


Lead pipes from de plomo the bridge-aqueduct of Caesar Augusta.  Museum of the Forum of Cesaraugusta.  (Photo: Roberto Lérida Lafarga 28/04/2008)




- MALISSARD, Alain: Los romanos y el agua: La cultura del agua en la Roma antigua, Barcelona, 1996

- BELTRÁN LLORIS, Miguel: “El agua profana en la cuenca media del valle del Ebro:  AQUA DUCTA.  La captación del agua, presas, embalses, conducciones”, en AA. VV.: Aquaria: Agua, territorio y paisaje en Aragón, Zaragoza, 2006

- CONNOLLY, P. y DODGE, H., La Ciudad Antigua.  La vida en la Atenas y Roma clásicas, Madrid, 1998