Abstract: Floods of the Tiber in Ancient Rome: The Eternal City Goes Under

Ancient Rome was perhaps the largest and most architecturally sophisticated western city until the Victorian era, but this impressive metropolis was frequently the victim of violent floods.  The Tiber river could rise as much as 15 meters above normal water levels and left large sections of the city submerged for up to a week at a time. This lecture will survey the history and characteristics of these floods, their effects on the city, and how the Romans attempted to prevent or alleviate flooding.  Finally, it will suggest some surprising ways in which ancient Rome was unusually well-suited to surviving the onslaught of these natural disasters. As we have seen with the devastation caused by hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and recurrent flooding in the Midwest, floods remain a serious threat today.  Given this reality, it is worth examining how the largest city of the ancient world met this danger.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

 Floods of the Tiber in Ancient Rome. Gregory S. Aldrete, The Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, 2007.

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