Thursday, February 28, 2013


Lázaro Gabriel Lagóstena Barrios, José Luis Cañizar Palacios, Lluís Pons Pujol (ed.), Aquam perducendam curavit: captación, uso y administración del agua en las ciudades de la Bética y el occidente romano. Cádiz: Universidad de Cádiz, 2010. Pp. 557. ISBN 9788469363737.

Reviewed by Lavinia De Rosa, Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali (

Version at BMCR home site

[The table of contents is listed at the end of the review.]

The volume gathers the proceedings of an international conference held in Cádiz organized by the Seminario Agustín de Horozco de Estudios Económicos de Historia Antigua y Medieval. Its aim was to address the collection, use and administration of water in the towns of Roman Baetica, as well as its links with Hispania and the rest of the Roman West, from a multidisciplinary perspective by bringing together specialists in historical and environmental fields. This recent approach in Roman hydraulic studies, which draws on geologists, speleologists, engineers, is influenced by current global water problems.1 The papers—6 invited lectures (ponencias invitadas) and 22 submissions—deal with different locations in the Roman West, but chiefly focus on ancient Spain. They are all written in Spanish, except for one in English, one in Portuguese, two in Italian, and two in French.

We read about the urban water supply, the water supply in the countryside, water legislation, water-connected religious and cultural aspects, economic uses of water, and public baths. Many papers contribute to our knowledge of ancient water systems in various locations – as Mérida, Córdoba, Tempul, Consuegra – by reporting on new archaeological discoveries or field explorations, or editing already available documentation; others, instead, provide overviews on general themes or reflections on special situations in the Roman West.

This variety of topics is undoubtedly an asset, as are the book's many illustrations, which include ancient drawings, historic landscape paintings, and recent photographs, as well as graphs and tables. On the other hand, overall the volume appears uneven in quality and depth, as is often the case with conference proceedings. Gathering the contributions into thematic sections would have facilitated consultation, as would an introduction.2

Since the general trend in hydraulic studies has traditionally been the analysis of individual aqueducts or the water management systems of a single town, papers gathering evidence for a wide area as a whole are especially welcome additions to the field.3 Studying the topic in a broader geographical and administrative context—such as that of a Roman province, for example—is a more effective way to shed light on how ancient people came up with technical and political solutions to their water supply needs in relation to the environment resources. This is borne out by Francisco Beltrán Lloris' reflections on irrigation systems in Tarraconense, based on a study of epigraphic documents of water controversies between neighbour communities. Lázaro G. Lagóstena Barrios points out the combined use of GIS and online databases with traditional historical and archaeological sources to investigate water management, with a special focus on Baetica. María del Mar Castro García also combines traditional and innovative approaches in her study of the Mellaria and Italica aqueducts.

General studies of aqueducts in a given area are especially valuable, considering how difficult it is to gather information about surviving structures. This is especially true of Spain, where scanty epigraphic evidence makes it hard to precisely date most known aqueducts, although it would appear that none is earlier than the imperial age, as José María Blázquez Martínez shows in his description of the principal aqueducts of Hispania. Chronological uncertainties are also addressed in the paper by Lluís Pons Pujol and Lázaro Lagóstena Barrios, who look at the available evidence for the aqueducts of Mauretania Tingitana.

Considering that the paucity of evidence in Spain is indeed a problem, it is regrettable that the studies in this volume only deal with the most spectacular and easily accessible remains of aqueducts, neglecting a number of less well- preserved ones; moreover, their authors usually limit themselves to mere descriptions, although usually detailed. It would have been desirable for them to include all the aqueducts in a given area, however recorded—in literature, archaeologically or topographically—including those we cannot date. This is what Cristóbal González Román has done: he lists all the aqueducts of Baetica in a table providing chronological, descriptive and bibliographical information. So far 44 aqueducts are known in the area, a minimum to update as new discoveries are made.

What we miss in this volume is a spatial and chronological quantitative analysis of aqueduct distribution in the areas under study, as related to the laws and administration of towns and their uses of water; in other words, we would like to know how many aqueducts were built in a given area and when, and how many of them supplied colonies or municipia, and for what purposes. There is a real advantage to this kind of synthesis. It would help us to gain a more pragmatic understanding of the impact of aqueducts, "una de las grandes aportaciones de Roma a Hispania" (Blázquez Martinez, p. 126), which were mainly built, as it seems, on the occasion of new foundations or changes in government organization. Without a distribution trend, based on whatever evidence is currently available, one runs the risk of being left with nothing but a sequence of unconnected, if still useful, data.

However, although a comprehensive view is still out of reach, some conclusions can already be drawn, and it is regrettable that they are not adequately brought out in this volume. For example, it is remarkable that aqueducts in Spain were frequently used to supply facilities in Baetica like the salazones, or fish-salting workshops, as well as military camps in Mauretania—unusual in the ancient world for security reasons, since the water channels could provide easy access in the case of an enemy attack.

A final discussion of the arguments put forward by the contributors would have been desirable; it is unfortunate that the concluding lecture by Prof. Dr. D. José María Blázquez (Real Academia de la Historia), scheduled in the program of the meeting, was not included in the volume.

Table of Contents

Les aqueducs romains , le territoire et la « gouvernance » de l'eau. Philippe Leveau.
El agua y las relaciones intercomunitarias en la Tarraconense. Francisco Beltrán Lloris.
El agua en las ciudades de la Bética: organización y funciones. Cristóbal González Román.
Polisemia e polimorfismo della cura aquarumtra repubblica e impero. Anna Domizia Bianco.
Estudiar el agua en la Antigüedad: una metodología para su investigación en el marco de la Bética romana. Lázaro G. Lagóstena Barrios.
Los acueductos romanos en Hispania. José María Blázquez Martínez .

Las conducciones romanas de Mérida. Nuevos datos para su conocimiento. Mercedes Gómez de Segura Iriarte, Pedro Dámaso Sánchez, Nuria Sánchez Capote, Isaac Sastre de Diego.
El abastecimiento de agua a la Colonia lulia Augusta Faventia Paterna Barcino. Carme Miró i Alaix.
La continuidad de los sistemas hidráulicos. Nuevos testimonios en Córdoba. Antonio Moreno Rosa, Guadalupe Pizarro Berengena.
Nuevas aportaciones al estudio hidráulico del acueducto romano de Tempul. Jenny Pérez Marrero, Isabel Bestué Cardiel.
El Municipium Sexi Firmum luliumy el agua. El acueducto y la producción de salazones. Elena Sánchez López, Jenny Pérez Marrero, Margarita Orfila Pons, Isabel Bestué Cardiel.
Identificación de un nuevo acueducto en Baetica: estudio preliminar de recientes hallazgos en la Sierra de Lijar. Angel David Bastos Zarandieta.
A captação e o uso da água em Bracara Augusta. Rui Morais.
Valeria: el foro como ninfeo, el ninfeo como templo, ¿qué es qué? Angel Fuentes Domínguez, Mónica Montoro Castillo.
Sierra Aznar ¿ castellum aquae o caput aquae? Esperanza Mata Almonte, Francisco de Borja Zuleta Alejandro, Lázaro Gabriel Lagóstena Barrios, Luis Cobos Rodríguez.
Arqueología experimental en las termas romanas de San Juan de Maliaño (Camargo, Cantabria- España). María Luisa Ramos Sáinz, Raquel Vigil de la Villa, María Lacal Ruiz, María José Alcega Martínez.
Public Baths in the Roman and Islamic Medieval World: some Reflections on Hygienic and Moral Issues. Ieva Reklaityte.
Captación y traídas de aguas en la ciudad hispano-romana de Consabura (Consuegra. Toledo). Francisco Giles Pacheco.
Estudio arqueológico de la presa romana de Consuegra (Toledo). Santiago Rodríguez Untoria.
La presa romana de Muel: novedades de hidráulica romana en el Valle del Ebro. Paula Uribe Agudo, Ma Ángeles Magallón Botaya, Javier Fanlo Loras, Manuel Martínez Bea, Rafael Domingo Martínez, Ieiva Reklaityte, Fernando Pérez Lambán.
Captación y almacenamiento del agua en el oppidum iberorromano de Zahara de la Sierra (Cádiz). Luis Cobos Rodríguez, Luis Iglesias García.
Control y uso del agua en las villas de la Bética. Alejandro Fornell Muñoz.
Sobre los sistemas de regadío en época romana. El caso del territorio de Tarragona y Almería. Alberto Prieto Arciniega, Isaías Arrayás Morales, Mª Juana López Medina
Drenaje de espacios agropecuarios romanos: concepción e identificación. Daniel Martín-Arroyo Sánchez.
Infraestructuras hidráulicas en el territorio de una colonia romana de la Bética: el caso de Astigi, Colonia Augusta Firma (Écija, Sevilla, España). Pedro Sáez Fernández, Salvador Ordóñez Agulla, Sergio García-Dils de la Vega.
Presencia y significado de las aguas saladas y salmueras en la Antigüedad. Nuria Morére Molinero.
El agua en la escritura pública del poder: panegíricos, legislación imperial y leyes municipales. José Luis Cañizar Palacios.
Leggi prediali e regolamenti cittadini: realizzazione e gestione degli acquedotti africani. Massimo Casagrande.
Notas sobre ius aquarum en la Bética. Carlos Sancho De la Calle.
Les aménagements fluviaux dans le delta du Rhin: représentations anciennes de l'organisation romaine des eaux deltaïques. Melissa Simard Morin.
El uso del agua en la cultura visual romana. Irene Mañas Romero.
Captación y uso del agua en contextos funerarios y rituales. Estructuras hidráulicas en la necrópolis de Cádiz (siglos III a.C. - I d.c.). Ana María Niveau de Villedary y Mariñas, Verónica Gómez Fernández.
Los acueductos de Mauretania Tingitana. Estado de la cuestión. Lluís Pons Pujol, Lázaro G. Lagóstena Barrios.
La gestión integral del agua en la provincia Hispania Ulterior Baetica. María del Mar Castro García.


1.   A good example of this approach is Vers une gestion intégrée de l'eau dans l'Empire Romain : actes du colloque international Université Laval, octobre 2006, édités par Ella Hermon.
2.   A short description of the conference is available on the website.
3.   Some especially significant recent studies in this vein are published in the proceedings of the international conferences organized by Frontinus-Gesellschaft, notably Cura aquarum in Sicilia, Cura aquarum in Campania, Cura aquarum in Ephesus, Cura Aquarum in Israel.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.