This unit seeks to raise awareness of basic, yet, historic principles of architecture as they apply to the provision of water to an urban center. Exploration of Roman aqueducts should serve this goal. It fits the study of classical civilizations in the ninth grade world civilizations curriculum. Moreover, it lends itself to interdisciplinary teaching, a great way for students to see things in context. Studying aqueduct architecture encourages proficiency in quantitative skills, language arts, and organizational skills. Quantitative activities such as measuring, using scale, and calculating volume facilitate developing math skills. Critical reading of primary and secondary sources, document based questions, discussion, reflective writing, descriptive writing, and persuasive writing teach and/or reinforce language arts skills. Readings and activities can also touch on the levels of organization or government necessary to design, build, and maintain an aqueduct. The unit is not a prescribed set of steps but is meant to be a framework through which objectives, strategies, activities, and resources can be added or adjusted to meet student needs, address curriculum goals, and help students to make connections between the past and contemporary issues.
The inhabitants of Rome satisfied their need for water first from the Tiber River. Rome grew from a small farming community along the Tiber into the capitol city of an empire with almost one million inhabitants. Like all urban centers of the past and present, and future, Rome had to deal with the challenges of gathering and maintaining enough freshwater to provide for a suitable level of health, nourishment and hygiene for its inhabitants. The people of Rome met this challenge through the adapting and refining aqueduct architecture from the Assyrians, Etruscans and others. Yet the Romans not only emulated others but raised the bar of accomplishment through the sheer quantity of aqueduct construction throughout its empire. The effectiveness of their work is evident in the almost 2,000 year-old remains of the grand edifices such as the arches of the Porta Maggiore in downtown Rome and in the ruins of the 12km arcade that supported the Aqua Claudia across the Campagna. Similar technology is also still apparent in water authorities across the United States today. The Catskill Mountains a historical source of Manhattan's drinking water is tethered by aqueduct. Los Angeles uses aqueducts to bring water and carry it away from the city. These modern examples show that principles of aqueduct design used by the Romans continue to serve large urban centers. To help students make connections between the past and present as well as prognosticate what challenges lie ahead for the future, the unit references local water authority infrastructure issues as well as global freshwater supply and demand problems. This unit can be used as an interdisciplinary unit with the support of a math teacher or as a component of the study of classical civilizations.