Public Health in Rome / Gesundheit in Rom

[Back to: Roma]

Water supply / Wasserversorgung

  • Aqueducts incl. Aqua Claudia, built AD 38-52, “one of Rome’s most visually impressive aqueducts”, romanaqueducts.info/aquasite/romaclaudia/index.html / Aquädukt Aqua Claudia, erbaut AD 38-52
  • Cisterns, e.g. Cisterna antica on Palatine Hill / Zisternen, z.B. Cisterna antica auf dem Palatin (Collis Palatium, Mons Palatinus)

Bathing facilities / Bäder: thermae, balneae

Drainage & sewage: Cloaca Maxima: “one of the world’s earliest sewage systems. Constructed in Ancient Rome in order to drain local marshes and remove the waste of one of the world’s most populous cities”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloaca_Maxima / Entwässerung & Abwässerentsorgung: Cloaca Maxima: eines der weltweit frühesten Abwassersysteme – angelegt, um die Senke zwischen Kapitol und Palatin zu entwässern und Abwasser zu entsorgen, https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloaca_Maxima

Tiber Island / Isola Tiberina: „Being a seat of the ancient temple of Asclepius and later a hospital, the island is associated with medicine and healing … in 293 BC, there was a great plague in Rome. Upon consulting the Sibyl, the Roman Senate was instructed to build a temple to Aesculapius … and sent a delegation to Epidauros to obtain a statue of the deity. The delegation went on board a ship to sail out … … they obtained a snake from a temple and put it on board their ship … Upon their return up the Tiber river, the snake … swam onto the island. They believed that this was a sign from Aesculapius … which meant that he wanted his temple to be built on that island. … The island … was modeled to resemble a ship as a reminder of how it came to be. Travertine facing was added in mid or late first century by the banks to resemble a ship’s prow and stern, and an obelisk was erected in the middle, symbolizing the vessel’s mast … Faint vestiges of Aesculapius’ rod with an entwining snake are still visible on the “prow”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiber_Island / Tiberinsel: Die Insel erleichterte die Überquerung des Tiber, was für die Entstehung von Rom strategisch bedeutsam gewesen sein dürfte. Anlässlich einer schweren Seuche 293 v. Chr. wurde auf der (isolierten) Insel ein Tempel errichtet (eingeweiht 289 v. Chr.); weitere Gebäude dienten der Unterbringung Kranker. Heutiges Krankenhaus: Ospedale Fatebenefratelli; https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiberinsel


Rosen, G. (1958 / 1993): A history of Public Health. Expanded edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD

p.13: Rome

p.14: As clinicians, the Romans were hardly more than imitators of the Greek, but as engineers and administrators, as builders of sewerage systems and baths, and as providers of water supplies and other health facilities, they set the world a great example and left their mark in history … the Roman system of water supply is unparalleled in history.

p.15: Sextus Julius Frontinus (c. 40-104 A.D.). … prepared the book De aquis urbis Romae … primarily a source of information about the water supply of Rome. But it is much more than that. It is the first full account that we have of an important branch of public health administration.

p.18: The great sewer of Rome, the Cloaca maxima … probably dates from early Republican times. It drained the marshy ground at the foot of the Capitoline Hill and emptied into the Tiber, where it was about 10 feet wide and 12 feet high. The Cloaca maxima is still part of the drainage system of modern Rome.

p.18-9: § Climate, soil and health

… the need for locating new towns on salubrious sites had been recognized. According to the Roman architect Vitruvius Pollio, liver inspection by the augurs was employed for this purpose. Several animals that had grazed on the land … were slaughtered … This awareness of the close relationship between environment and health was later reinforced by Greek ideas, which found a theoretical underpinning in the Hippocratic work on Airs, Waters, and Places. Vitruvius, in his book De Architectura …, stresses the importance of determining the salubrity of a site and gives exact indication for the selection of places suitable for the founding of cities and the construction of buildings. He also gives considerable attention to the position, orientation, and drainage of dwellings.

p.21: § The workers’ health

The Romans were aware that disease could result from occupational hazards.

p.22: § The provision of medical care

p.23-4: By the second century A.D. … a public medical service was constituted. … In the first century A.D. … Columella mentions valetudinaria, or infirmaries, for slaves; and Seneca tells us that such establishments were used even by free Romans.

p.24: § Baths as well as Bread and Circuses

During the period of the Empire, it was customary to visit the public baths regularly.

p.25: § Public Health administration

Augustus set up a Water Board to deal with the water supply. … aedile …supervision of the public baths … cleaning of the streets … Control of the food supply … aediles … supervised the markets …

(Rev. 4 Apr 2017)