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Professor of Classics, The University of Vermont


   Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo

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List of tables

page ix

List of maps





I Sex. Julius Frontinus

II The De Aquaeductu

Its date

Its content and form

Its audience and purpose


The curator aquarum and the emperor


The sources


III Language and style


Lexicon of water quality


Formulaic presentation


Rhetorical style


IV The textual tradition


The Middle Ages


Poggio’s quest


The Codex Hersfeldensis


The Codex Casinensis and Peter the Deacon of Monte Cassino


The manuscript tradition prior to C


The recentiores


V Editions and commentaries


VI Editorial conventions and the apparatus criticus


   



   








A Poggio’s use of the De Aquaeductu


B Inscriptions pertinent to Frontinus’ text


C The impossibility of reaching an exact value for the Roman quinaria measure, by Christer Bruun, University of Toronto




Selected editions of De Aquaeductu






Other works


Literary and epigraphical citations






Lengths of the aqueducts (Chapters )

page 



Small adjutages relative to the quinaria (Chapter .)


Pipe-sizes (Chapters )


Quinariae assigned to the various aqueducts (Chapters )


Categories of distribution (Chapter )


Castella and distributions (Chapters )


Distribution by aqueduct (extra urbem) (Chapters )


Distribution by aqueduct (intra urbem) (Chapters




Distribution by regiones (Chapters )



Curatores aquarum (Chapter )




Extra-urban routes of the ancient aqueducts

based on Peter Aicher’s Guide to the Aqueducts of Ancient Rome (), with permission of Bolchazy-Carducci

Publishers, Inc.

page 

Routes of the aqueducts within Rome based on Harry Evans’ Water Distribution in Ancient Rome: The Evidence of Frontinus (), with permission of the University of Michigan Press


Settling-tanks near the seventh milestone




Par tibi, Roma, nihil, cum sis prope tota ruina; quam magni fueris integra, fracta doces non tamen annorum series, non flamma, nec ensis ad plenum potuit hoc abolere decus.

Hildebert of Lavardin, c.  

Metropolitan Rome, the domina orbis, can to this day point with especial pride to one of the gems in her imperial crown: a copi- ous, ever-flowing supply of public water. And beginning at least with Strabo, visitors to the Eternal City have not failed to admire the architectural grandeur of the aqueducts. ‘Der sch¨one große Zweck, ein Volk zu tr¨anken durch eine so ungeheure Anstalt!’ wrote Goethe in November . ‘Diese Menschen arbeiteten f¨ur die Ewigkeit, es war auf alles kalkuliert, nur auf den Unsinn der Verw¨uster nicht, dem alles weichen mußte.’ In the year   Julius Frontinus was appointed by the em- peror Nerva to the post of curator aquarum for the City of Rome. Frontinus exemplifies the ideal of a high-ranking senator who works closely with his prince in service to the commonwealth. He sees the aqueducts under his charge as monuments of Roman greatness, for their practical value more wonderful even than the fabled pyramids. In the present booklet, De Aquaeductu Urbis Romae, Frontinus sets forth his duties, responsibilities and accom- plishments during approximately one year in office as curator. By the time he is writing, Nerva has died and Rome awaits the arrival of the new emperor Trajan, in whose accession Frontinus himself seems to have played no small role. Our author sketches the history of Rome’s aqueducts, fur- nishes a wealth of technical data on supply and delivery, quotes verbatim from legal documents and touches on a variety of other topics incidental to his administrator’s viewpoint. Yet he is not composing a treatise on the engineering of aqueducts, he barely concerns himself with fiscal aspects of management, nor does



he compile what might comprise a comprehensive administra- tive manual of use to a successor. Scholars who are grateful for such information as he provides are nonetheless prone to consult this text rather than to read it. Frontinus, in consequence, has been alternatively under-rated and over-rated both as a tech- nical writer and as an administrator. In plain truth we do not surely understand what purpose he might have intended for the De Aquaeductu and the work remains something of an enigma. Nothing quite like it is known, let alone survives, from the an- cient world. This edition of the De Aquaeductu is the first in eighty years to be based on the single authoritative witness, that sadly blem- ished exemplar which Poggio discovered at Monte Cassino in . ‘Authors surviving in a solitary MS. are by far the easiest to edit,’ wrote Housman. ‘They are the easiest, and for a fool they are the safest.’ But since Fritz Krohn in , no editor has chosen the easy pathway of reliance on this unique manuscript, for all have been misled in vain attempts to retrieve an indepen- dent tradition amongst its fifteenth-century progeny. From the starting-point of the Codex Casinensis there is progress still to be made, I believe, especially by taking into account the idiosyn- crasies of its twelfth-century scribe, Peter the Deacon of Monte Cassino, a man notorious for literary affectation but nonethe- less an intriguing figure in the long process by which classical antiquity was rediscovered and appreciated. No full commentary on the De Aquaeductu has been written since Giovanni Poleni’s masterpiece of , and the task is a daunting one – not least because his credentials were those of a hydraulic engineer and professor of mathematics. In the words of the late Pierre Grimal, ‘Plus que nul autre texte, le trait´e de Frontin impose a` l’´editeur une compr´ehension minutieuse de chaque mot, chaque phrase, et oblige de d´epasser la critique verbale pure et simple pour saisir les realia.’ Indeed, the realia of which he speaks are themselves richly varied. They encom- pass not only the stuff of history, archaeology and technology but extend to such matters as the exacting details of Roman law



and the intricacies of fractions in Roman arithmetical compu- tation. Under such circumstances, a commentator may perhaps be forgiven superficiality of a sort on the one hand and a certain speculative latitude on the other. I have done what I could to give appropriate attention to content and interpretation as well as to text and language. My engagement with the text of Frontinus began a quarter century ago in conjunction with a seminar in Latin epigraphy

at the University of California, Berkeley, in , and the initial stages of my work were supported by grants from that univer- sity’s Committee on Research and from the American Philo- sophical Society. I profited enormously from the resources of the Harvard College Library during a term as Visiting Lecturer in , and in  I enjoyed the congenial hospitality of the Department of Classical Studies at the University of Michigan. The edition and commentary took on a preliminary form dur- ing the year , the period for which I was honoured to be

a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellow. The Foundation’s

generosity made possible a trip to Italy in May , with the op-

portunity for study in the Vatican Library and to re-examine the codex unicus in the abbey library at Monte Cassino. As a Fellow in Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks in  I discovered that the architecture and topography of Rome constitute an unad-

vertised strength of its library. In the final throes of preparation

I received welcome subsidy for cartographic assistance from the

dean’s fund for professional development in the College of Arts and Sciences of the University of Vermont. To all these institu- tions, and to the supportive band of colleagues and friends who comprise them, I express sincere and lasting gratitude. Both text and commentary are by their very nature tralaticious endeavours, and far beyond reckoning are the debts I owe to my predecessors. That I specially admire the accomplishments of Poleni and B¨ucheler should be apparent on every page of this edition, and to the loving labours of Thomas Ashby I have felt the keenest attraction. The bibliography will reveal some at least of the crucial help I have garnered from women and men who



represent an extensive range of scholarly expertise over a period of more than five centuries. Of closer friends those to whom I can no longer render thanks in person include Arthur and Joyce Gordon, Peter Marshall, George Goold and John D’Arms. For help and support of various sorts over many years I re- spectfully acknowledge Crawford Greenewalt Jr, W. Kendrick Pritchett, Richard Thomas, John Humphrey, Bruce Frier, Ruth Scodel, Christina Kraus, John Peter Oleson, James Clauss, Robert Arns, Andrea Salgado, Francis Newton, Z. Philip Ambrose, Peter Aicher, William Mierse, Jane Chaplin, Jacques Bailly, Cyrus Rodgers, Audrey Hunt, Eleanor Rodgers, Jonathan Huener and Lutz Kaelber. Among those who pa- tiently criticised discrete parts of this work I owe special thanks to Charles Murgia, Harry Evans, Trevor Hodge, Michael Crawford, Christer Bruun, Rabun Taylor, Roger Cooke and Michael Peachin. It goes without saying that none of these persons is responsible for any follies in which I have persisted. Helena Fracchia and Maurizio Gualtieri accompanied me on pleasant outings among the remains of the aqueducts and will at- test that I was totally unprepared for their breathtaking majesty. Don Faustino Avagliano, librarian and archivist, graciously received me on two separate visits to Monte Cassino. Long and pleasant hours were spent in great libraries at Harvard, Ann Arbor and Berkeley; in many cases I found rewarding resources in their numerous branches, notably the Houghton Library at Harvard and the Bancroft Library at Berkeley. Amongst indi- vidual librarians, I am specially indebted to Irene Vaslef and Mark Zapatka (Dumbarton Oaks), Jean Hannon (Harvard Law School) and Luminita Florea (Robbins Collection, Boalt Hall, Berkeley). My own library at the University of Vermont has proudly maintained a strong collection in classical studies; for books not available here I am grateful to Connell Gallagher in Special Collections for an occasional purchase, and to Nancy Rosedale, Lisa King, Barbara Lamonda and Daryl Purvee in the interlibrary loan department for constant labours on my behalf.



The map showing the extra-urban courses of Rome’s aque- ducts is based upon a similar map in Peter Aicher’s Guide to the Aqueducts of Ancient Rome (), with permission of Bolchazy- Carducci Publishers, Inc. That for the network within the City is based upon one appearing in Harry Evans’ Water Distribution in Ancient Rome: The Evidence of Frontinus (), with permission of the University of Michigan Press. For expert cartographic modi- fications to these and for the map showing piscinae I acknowledge the cheerful collaboration of my colleague Lesley-Ann Dupigny- Giroux. It was a welcome relief when Christer Bruun agreed to let me include his discussion on the value of the quinaria (appear- ing here as Appendix C), for it spared me the frustrating task of covering the same dreary ground. Professor Michael Reeve has awaited the final version of this book with far more patience than I deserve. For his care- ful scrutiny, gentle corrections and wise suggestions I am more grateful than I can say. Staff of the Cambridge University Press have been consistently helpful: among those who merit special thanks are commissioning editors Pauline Hire and Michael Sharp and production editors Neil de Cort and Alison Powell. Copy-editor Linda Woodward bent to her task with a singular diligentia by which she has deserved well of Frontinus. My wife Barbara Saylor Rodgers has had to hear all of my thoughts from their first tentative expressions, for I rely con- stantly upon her ability as an historian and a Latinist. Her steady encouragement has been, I hope, to good effect, and for my faults she can bear no blame. Warmest of all is my heartfelt ap- preciation for the long, unselfish and never lessening interest of Professor Herbert Bloch: that I am still his disciple is a special joy.




Obscurity veils the origins and early career of Julius Frontinus. As praetor urbanus he convened the Senate on January in the year  , but he soon yielded the post to Domitian (Tac. Hist. ..). A suffect consulship followed soon thereafter, prob- ably in . His birth can with reasonable certainty be set in the later years of Tiberius’ reign. In all likelihood he came from Narbonese Gaul. He may have spent his early years as an eques- trian officer, perhaps with military service in the Parthian cam- paigns of the late s, perhaps as procurator in Spain and/or Africa in the s. His behaviour in the political events of the year  is entirely unclear. Syme suggests that Galba adlected him into the Senate for swift adherence to his cause, but rapid promotion under Vespasian might point in a different direction. Between praetorship and consulship he may have held a mil- itary command (presumably as legatus legionis), if he was on the scene of the Rhineland revolt and received the surrender of the Lingones (Str. ..). After the consulship he was almost

For his praenomen see commentary. Biographical data and testimonia are conveniently collected in RE Julius, no.  (, Kappelmacher)  , RE Suppl. :  (, Eck); PIR ()  . The best accounts of his career are those of Birley ( )  and Eck (a) ; succinctly, Bruun ( ) .

Degrassi in II .: . He can hardly have been consul before : Eck ()  and n.. A consulship in  is unlikely, since he succeeded Cerialis in Britain in the spring of that year.

CIL  .  (Vienne) names a senator Q. Valerius Lupercus Iulius Frontinus; cf. Syme () , () . Syme ()  and ; Eck (a) . Conjectures to account for the short interval between praetorship and consulship have included the unlikely possibility that F. was a patrician: so Birley () , but abandoned (Birley ( ) ). The authenticity of Str.  has been questioned; see RE loc.cit., with bib- liography, also below n. . That his legion was II Adiutrix, later taken to Britain, is an interesting hypothesis: Ward-Perkins () .


immediately appointed legatus Augusti pro praetore for Britain, whither he went as successor to Petillius Cerialis in  and where he remained until the arrival of Agricola in  or . Tacitus’ biography of the successor (Agr. .) describes Fronti- nus’ command only briefly: subiit sustinuitque molem Iulius Frontinus, vir magnus quantum licebat, validamque et pugnacem Silurum gentem armis subegit, super virtutem hostium locorum quoque difficultates eluctatus. His achievements in Britain may have earnt for him the triumphalia ornamenta. References in the Strategemata (.., ., ..) suggest that Frontinus was personally acquainted with Domitian’s campaigns in Germany in , and it is probably to this period that one should assign a dedicatory inscription from Vetera (CIL .). Whether Frontinus held the governorship of Germania inferior is not clear; he may have been legatus legionis or comes of the em- peror. At the appropriate stage he received the proconsulship of Asia, long regarded (with that of Africa) as the pinnacle of a senatorial career. Coins from Smyrna with the legend have long been known, and a recently studied inscription from Hierapolis in Phrygia (modern Pamukkale) at- tests him in that office. His tenure can now with reasonable certainty be fixed to /. The grand gates that bear his name had largely been completed under his predecessor. During the later years of Domitian’s reign Frontinus seems to have played no major role in public life. There is not a shred of evidence, however, to suggest that he was in disgrace, or that he

On the date of Agricola’s succession see Ogilvie–Richmond () ; Birley ( ) . The most recent work on Frontinus’ governorship in Britian is Boni (). Eck (a) . Eck () , with bibliography; cf. Eck () . BMC Ionia, , nos. ; cf. Kowalewski ( ). AE /, . First published by Monaco (); improved by Eck () , and C. P. Jones () . Eck () ; cf. Thomasson () :  no. . One can compare the inscription set up in the forum at Verulamium in  (AE , ): the name is that of the current governor (Agricola), although Frontinus must have had a large part in the building project.


had deliberately chosen to maintain a distance from Domitian. Quite the contrary: it is to the later years of Domitian that Pliny refers in speaking of Corellius Rufus (cos. ) and Frontinus as prominent statesmen: Ep. ..quos tunc civitas nostra spectatissimos habuit. In this period Frontinus may first have turned to literary activities, an amusement somewhat traditional for the senatorial class. The poet Martial writes of having spent time in his com- pany at Anxur (Tarracina), where the two friends enjoyed the leisure of letters (Mart. . doctas tecum celebrare vacabat/Pieridas). Aelian writes of having consulted him on military matters, and Pliny discussed legal topics with him in the early s. The lit- erary treatises (which must surely be dated to these years) look to be products of a contented retirement. A theoretical work on military tactics, highly praised in Antiquity, has not survived. His Strategemata reveal their author’s antiquarian bent; like his gromatical writings, they were ‘safely apolitical’. With the reign of Nerva comes the final and most impres- sive stage of Frontinus’ career. In  he accepted the post of curator aquarum (Aq. and .), and in the same year he served on a senatorial commission looking for economies (Pliny,

See Eck (a) . Southern ()  goes so far as to suggest that Frontinus might have been a member of the ‘privy council’ under Domitian. White () n. is unconvinced that Martial’s Frontinus is our man. Plin. Ep. ..; Aelian, Tact. pr. : Frontinus refers to this work in Str. pr., and it was used by Aelian, Tact. pr. and Vegetius, .and .. These survive only in part, confused to some extent with a commentary by Agennius Urbicus: see Dilke ( ) , Campbell () xxvii–xxxiii, Chouquet-Favory ( )  . For the possibility that the Frontinus of the Corpus agrimensorum is not the same as our man, see Keppie () . Personal experiences in Spain and Africa may underlie parts of this work, and Eck has suggested an official assignment under Domitian: Eck (a) , () . Syme (a) : he means, I suppose, that they reveal nothing of their author’s personality or public status. For a recent review of Frontinus’ literary works, see Del Chicca ().


Pan. .). He held a second (suffect) consulship in February , with Trajan as colleague. His son-in-law Sosius Senecio was consul ordinarius in . And, a year later, Frontinus himself was marked with the signal honour of a third consulship, this time ordinarius and again with Trajan as his colleague. That this honour was not in fact unique only underscores the remarkable status which Frontinus enjoyed. In  and  Julius Ursus also received second and third consulships, both times in immediate succession to Frontinus. Pliny in his Panegyric (., ) mentions these iterated honours (the first by Nerva, the second by Trajan):

duos pariter tertio consulatu, duos collegii tui sanctitate decorasti. Theirs was a praemium – Pliny is unambiguous – for eximia in toga merita, by which he means that they had stood behind Trajan: utriusque cura, utriusque vigilantia obstrictus es (Pan. .). Ursus was Frontinus’ junior by roughly a decade, but his marriage to Hadrian’s sister reveals a special relationship to the princeps. We know of no similar relationship linking Frontinus to Trajan, but one might well have existed. Syme is probably safe in his speculation that Frontinus might have been acquainted with Trajan’s father; and there is little doubt that the third consulship was a reward for his part in approving – we should perhaps say arranging – the elevation of Trajan as Nerva’s heir and successor. Frontinus’ death can be fixed in / by Pliny’s succession to his place in the College of Augurs (Ep. ..). His daughter was married to Q. Sosius Senecio (cos. ord .  , suff .  ); further descendants appear in later inscriptions.

Cf. Syme ().

II ., ; CIL ., . ( = ILAlg. .), AE , . Zevi (). Syme () . Recent discussions on the succession, with good bibliography, are Berriman– Todd ( ), Eck (). For the date see Sherwin-White ()  . McDermott (). Unclear is Frontinus’ exact relationship to his younger contemporary, P. Calvisius Ruso Iulius Frontinus; Eck (a)  not un- reasonably proposes that the connection was one of testamentary adoption. Calvisius Ruso (PIR  ) was consul in , proconsul of Asia in /:

CIL .; II ., ; cf. Mart. ...

see E. Birley (), R´emy (), Syme () .


The spectacular sunset of Frontinus’ life was the product of a combination of political circumstances. For others this era had a radiance of dawn, caught for posterity in the artistic penstrokes of panegyric and propaganda: these are the fellow senators who call Frontinus vir magnus, princeps vir. But it is Frontinus himself who invites us to see his career as one of long and sincere de- votion to public duty. Personal satisfaction prompted his seem- ingly un-Roman request that admirers dispense entirely with a tombstone: impensa monumenti supervacua est; memoria nostri dura- bit, si vita meruimus. This is not modesty. It is rather the proud statement of a man confident of the place awaiting him in the fields of Elysium; there he will join those [qui] sui memores alios fecere merendo.


Its date

This booklet – in its present form – cannot have been completed until sometime early in the year . Frontinus’ appointment as

Presumably from Frontinus’ will: Sherwin-White () ; Eck (a) , Champlin () . Baldwin ()  notes the strikingly similar finale of Tacitus, Agr. .simulacra vultus imbecilla ac mortalia sunt (with reference to Ogilvie–Richmond ad loc.). Plin. Ep. .., where context (dum mavult videri contempsisse) makes plain that Frontinus had not renounced claims to gloria; cf. DeLaine () . Gloria, in the end, was what really mattered. A monument by itself, how- ever traditional and valued (cf. Plin. Ep. .., distressed that the ashes of Verginius Rufus had lain for near ten years sine titulo, sine nomine), was no guarantee that memory would be permanent. With roots of a sterile fig tree the satirist can shatter the record of a lifetime. Juvenal (.) might con- ceivably have had Frontinus in mind; his antithesis of fama and virtus closely resembles Tac. Ann. .. See further H¨ausle () esp. , Champlin () . Emphasis, as one would expect, is on the final verb. Merita are accomplish- ments for the public good; because it implies recognition the word is a stronger (and less-objective) alternative to res gestae. Virgil, Aen. .: Rodgers (). Note also Hor. C. ..sepulchri / mitte supervacuos honores.


curator aquarum took effect in  (.). His first task was to discover what the office entailed: primum ac potissimum existimo nosse quod suscepi (). Study of his curatorial responsibilities and a personal review of the water-system will have taken some time. He speaks, for example, of monitoring conditions during the summer months (., .). The text we have was completed only after Nerva’s death in January : that prince is twice styled divus (.and .). Short of Frontinus’ death (/), a terminus ante quem cannot be fixed. But the content and form of the work itself are wholly consistent with the view that Frontinus prepared it for circulation at no long interval after Nerva’s death. He rehearses detailed instances of unhappy practices he has detected, and he mentions reforms introduced as well as plans undertaken but not yet complete. The work thus seems to reflect what the curator has learnt from (and accomplished in) something like a year’s experience. The date of composition cannot be entirely separated from the question of Frontinus’ term as curator. The post had originally been given to eminent men of some seniority and was an ap- pointment for life; in later practice curators had been younger consulars serving shorter terms as part of the senatorial cur- sus (.n.). Exactly what had been the pattern just prior to Frontinus’ appointment is unfortunately not at all clear (.n.). Some have supposed that Frontinus kept the office until his death–a view that might be supported by the sense of traditionalism represented in his approach to the office and the projected ideal of intimate and continuing cooperation be- tween princeps and curator. Others have argued that the of- fice could not be held simultaneously with a consulship and

Nomination late in  cannot be excluded. From chapter  we can observe a pattern of successors assuming the curatorship with the consuls of the following year – at least for curators who died in office. Trajan’s name occurs but once in the transmitted text – an instance which I judge to be an interpolation (.n.). Note especially .: revised figures are not yet available. The changes Frontinus has outlined will have required a not inconsiderable length of time.


that Frontinus’ term as curator must therefore have come to an end when he assumed the fasces for a second time in February of . If Frontinus relinquished his curatorship at the time of his sec- ond consulship, he might naturally have taken this opportunity to pass on to a successor his collection of data, freshly updated, along with a catalogue of reforms already set in motion and initiatives projected for the future. We could then interpret the words in his prologue (.) to mean: ‘I made some notes for my own benefit, starting at the beginning of my term, and these will now perhaps be useful to my successor.’ It is scarcely credi- ble, however, that Frontinus’ term as curator ended early in . Nerva had more important things on his mind than to replace, after so short a term, an official who was dutifully and effec- tively addressing important problems of urban administration (even if the major aims of reform were successfully under way) – merely to avoid the overlap with a suffect consulship of very limited duration. Add the fact of Nerva’s death and Trajan’s ab- sence (until sometime in ), and it becomes altogether easier to suppose that Frontinus continued as curator at least until his third consulship () or even until his death. Nor can I see any drawback to supposing that he gave this booklet its present form while continuing in office. On the one hand, his statement ‘This will be useful to me’ (.) is better taken as rhetorical lib- erty (with its author still in office) than as rhetorical fiction (from the pen of one who has already retired). On the other hand, his closing words () give no hint at all that it will be someone other than himself who will uphold the trust of the curatorial office.

Cantarelli ( ) , Syme () , Ashby () , Grimal ix, xvi. Eck (a) , speaks of the years after the third consulship, ‘in denen er wohl weiterhin als curator aquarum t¨atig war’. The tenses in chapter  are present perfect (laboravimus, fuisse) and the last main verb is opto; see commentary for difficulties with the final word (C has praestitit). Note also ., where the future tense (adiunxerimus) seems to indicate that Frontinus is still in office.


Let us be satisfied with dating the literary form of the De Aquaeductu as it stands to sometime in , after Nerva’s death and with Trajan not yet come to Rome. Frontinus in this period, during his second consulship and in the months that followed, was among the small circle of senatorial leaders in whose hands lay control of the state’s constitutional helm. Not only did he retain the office of curator aquarum, but he was simultaneously one of the emperor’s vice-gerents at Rome.

Its content and form

In his prologue to the De Aquaeductu Frontinus refers to this work as a commentarius, and explains its genesis as a collection of material made primarily for self-instruction and personal refer- ence (.). Let us look first at what the booklet contains and then at how it fits the definition of a commentarius. The contents fall readily into two categories. The first em- braces the matters that Frontinus outlines later in his prologue (.), while the second category could be called ‘editorial remarks’, Frontinus’ commentary, as it were, on the data he has collected. These comments are indeed so extensive that the rhetorical modesty of the prologue (.) comes very near to embarrassing untruth. ‘For his own benefit’ Frontinus hardly needed to record the delinquencies he had observed and the re- forms he had made in the course of his initial months in office. These, plainly, were included for the edification of some other audience. In the ‘table of contents’ of chapter Frontinus promises the following material (in parentheses are the chapter references to the work itself):

Data on individual aqueducts: persons who built them; dates when they were built; location of the sources; length of the conduits (broken down into types of construction); heights of the terminal delivery points. (Chapters )

The title is that found in C, the unique manuscript; it is not without difficulty (see commentary).


Data on distribution: pipes and their sizes; quantities deliv- ered according to the supply of water available; categories of delivery (imperial properties, public uses of various sorts, private persons); distribution among the wards of the City. (Chapters )

Legal matters pertinent to the right of drawing public water; precautions for upkeep of the channels; penalties for abuse. (Chapters )

For much of this material, most indeed of the first two categories,

a modern writer would have chosen a tabular format. The infor-

mation thus collected all served an administrative aim. Frontinus recognised its potential usefulness and the importance of having

it readily to hand. It is primarily to this material that he refers

when he states that he has collected information in commentarium quem pro formula administrationis respicere possem (.). Not explicitly announced in the prologue are those portions of the work which represent Frontinus’ critical review of the data he has collected and his administrative analysis of the sys- tem he has undertaken to superintend. This is nowhere more noticeable than in his exhaustive scrutiny of the official figures for the quantity of available water () and in his optimistic account of projected improvements (). But comments of an explanatory or editorial nature are not limited to such obvi- ous addenda. They occur throughout the work, combined for

See commentary to .pro suo modo. Of only marginal usefulness perhaps were the ages of the aqueducts and the names of the builders. But the auctores were an essential element of identification, and the dates relate to types of construction used for different aqueducts (and consequently to peculiarities of their upkeep). Evans () . Grimal ix–x,  n.,  n.thinks that these two passages are unannounced in the prologue. That the second is absent there is true enough, but the same could be said of many other passages (e.g.  on the familiae). As was noted by Rubio () , Frontinus probably in fact does announce chapters , although a textual difficulty unhelpfully occurs at the crucial point (.n.).


the most part so harmoniously that, were it not for Frontinus’ explicit statements in the prologue, one would suspect that the booklet was indeed composed post experimenta et usum (.). We find, then, in our text of the De Aquaeductu both data and in- terpretive matter, either or both of which are accepted as normal for the contents of a commentarius. ‘A commentarius could be a pub- lished composition in the plain style, or lack polish altogether:

there was no firm tradition, as for the major genres of prose. The subject matter and the author’s personality, rather than rules of genre, determined the character and quality of the writing.’ Goodyear’s definition, which he applies to Frontinus, is a good one, but more can be said. In a strict sense, the term commentarius describes a text that accompanies and explains something. So in the present work chapters  are the text to which Fron- tinus could refer for details as he and others interpreted the maps or diagrams that he tells us he had prepared (). Or chapters  are an official listing of the calibres authorised for delivery-pipes. Speaking more generally, commentarius was the term applied to notes and records of many sorts, some of which might remain in the form of data such as lists or compendia, while others might be incorporated into a quasi-archival series or be polished for wider circulation. Thus, on the one hand, we have Caesar’s commentarii, while on the other we know of commentarii of individual magistrates and priests which formed the libri ‘records’ of magistracies and priesthoods. An exam- ple from the present work: Frontinus speaks of the commentarii ‘records’ of Agrippa (.), which, beginning with Augustus, had

Chapters are a glaring exception, and I take their awkwardness as an indication that they were an afterthought, included at the last minute:

Rodgers ( ). Goodyear () . Evans () , DeLaine () . On commentarii in general see Von Premerstein ( ) and B¨omer (); cf. R¨upke () esp. . For records and archives of land distributions Nicolet ( ) esp. , Moatti (); grain distributions, Tarpin (); provincial governorships, Haensch (); magistrates and senate, Coudry () esp. ; priesthoods, Sini (), Scheid (), North (); cf. also Panciera–Virlouvet () and below, n. .



apparently been maintained and supplemented up to his own day and to which he refers as the commentarii principum (., ., .). Agrippa kept many records besides those of his water- management cares, and upon such materials as these no doubt he drew in composing a commemoratio of his aedileship, whether or not that was part of a larger autobiography. In short, with no clear distinction required, the term commentarius could embrace both data and interpretive matter. This is precisely what Fronti- nus’ booklet contains. But such a combination is not the rule for a commentarius and, given the rather abstruse subject-matter of water-conduits and water-rights, oversight and upkeep, the De Aquaeductu is in fact unique as a specimen of Roman literature, and even perhaps of the ancient world as a whole. Unsurprising, then, is the lack of consensus over how to cat- egorise this work. Traditional views have been that it is a piece of ‘technical writing’ or an ‘administrative manual’. Such cate- gorisations reflect nothing so much as the perspectives of their proponents. Archaeologists and historians of technology have come to Frontinus for what he can offer them by way of techni- cal information; students of Roman law and government have looked to him for evidence of legal and administrative proce- dures and practices. Recent scholars have taken a wider view, and it can now be agreed that Frontinus should not be accorded the status of a technical writer, much less an authority, just be- cause he administered a vast hydraulic system and therefore had occasion to write about things that were indeed technical. Nor because he is an administrator of high standing must we assume that his text was anything like an administrative guide: it is not, I think, entirely a mark of ironic modesty that even he is unsure that a successor will find his booklet to be of any real use (.). Certainly we must be aware that Frontinus is selective in what he includes and that he can be prescriptive as well as descriptive;

Reinhold (). Pliny, HN . adicit ipse aedilitatis commemoratione. Agrippa’s autobiog- raphy is mentioned in Serv. Dan. ad Georg. .: Roddaz () . Bruun ( ) , , Hodge () , Evans () .



those who use him must do so critically. Similarities between the De Aquaeductu and administrative texts such as the Gnomon of the Idios Logos, libri mandatorum and libri de officiis known from later centuries all seem more apparent than real. However much a pioneer Frontinus might have been, the plain fact is that noth- ing like his De Aquaeductu is known, let alone survives, from the ancient world.

Its audience and purpose

To account for apparent inconsistencies between the prologue and the text as a whole, or for the presence of both promised data and unannounced commentary, it is easy to assume that Fronti- nus’ plans somehow changed between the outset of the work and its eventual completion. Grimal puts it this way: ‘Frontin avoue avoir commenc´e son trait´e pour sa propre instruction. Mais, peu a` peu, son projet a chang´e: il r´efl´echit sur les constatations qu’il fait, critique les renseignements qu’il trouve, et cela modifie la r´edaction mˆeme de son ouvrage, si bien que celui-ci finit par apparaˆıtre comme une sorte de ‘journal’ de sa gestion.’ An administrative report, then, instead of a manual? To a re port of findings about the water commissioner’s office and of initiatives undertaken the label commentarius remains en- tirely appropriate. But ‘report’ implies an audience for whom that report has interest or import. If the commentarius before us goes beyond the stated aim to be merely a work for personal reference, no more could it have been written for an audience

Bruun ( )  is pained that he must cite no less a scholar than Hirschfeld

kann durch in-

schriftliche Dokumente kaum eine Erweiterung erfahren; vielmehr k¨onnen

() : ‘die Abhandlung des Sextus Iulius Frontinus

diese nur als Zeugnis f¨ur die treue Darstellung herangezogen werden’.

Bruun ( ) . On the Gnomon see Riccobono (); for mandata, Finley (), Dell’Oro (b), Marotta ( ); for libri de officio, Dell’Oro (a). Eck (a)  notes that ‘Amtshandb¨ucher f¨ur verschiedene Aufgabenbere-

iche hat es zumindest f¨ur diese Zeit und f¨ur die stadtr¨omischen Amter nicht gegeben.’ For the possibility of Frontinus as a pioneer in gromatical writings,

see Campbell () xxvi–xxxi. Grimal x.




of one, a curator who might be Frontinus’ successor. The audi- ence, then, must have been wider, and for a man of Frontinus’ standing that audience can quite accurately be determined: the senatorial class as a whole and – by no means incidentally – the new princeps. ‘Administrative report’ or not, we still must ask what was Fron- tinus’ purpose in putting this text into somewhat careful literary form for this audience at this time. In this context we cannot neglect that second component of Goodyear’s commentarius – the author’s personality. The De Aquaeductu, as McElwain puts it, gives us glimpses beyond the concerns of an officious adminis- trator: ‘It depicts a man; it depicts motives and ideals, the springs of conduct.’ Ashby sees Frontinus’ senatorial sympathies as in- forming all of his writings, and most especially the De Aquaeductu, in which this author ‘epitomised for all time the ideal of an ef- ficient civil servant’, a representative of ‘the best answer that citizen-government could give to the alternative of professional administration by free or slave delegates of the princeps’. Grimal views this work as ‘un ecrit´ politique’, ‘un manifeste officieux’, and its author as a propagandist for the regime: ‘Frontin n’est que le porte-paroles du Prince.’ Others find a sense of self- enhancement pervading this work; Bruun and DeLaine go so far as to suggest that memorialising himself might have been a distinct motive for Frontinus to put this booklet into literary form. DeLaine also has perceptively noted that literary form and rhetorical features are likely to be more than icing on what had initially been a tedious if data-rich cake. She thinks that

Christ () looks more broadly than have others at Frontinus’ personality. McElwain () xv. Ashby () . Grimal xv–xvi; Hodge ()  is in essential agreement. Grimal does not say which prince: Nerva, whose initiatives Frontinus reports, now dead? Trajan, absent from Rome at the time of publication? Hodge speaks of Nerva and Trajan, with the tendency of modern scholars to oversimplify the continuum. DeLaine ()  n.,  n. remarks on the ambiguity. Bruun ( ) , , ; Evans ()  ; cf. Baldwin () . Bruun ( ) , DeLaine () , .



between a commentarius proper (for personal use) and what we have (intended for some – but hardly extensive – circulation) came a speech to the senate of which the present text would be the published version. Professor Michael Peachin contem- plates a speech as well, but perhaps to a broader audience, along the lines of the contio of Caelius Rufus (mentioned by Frontinus in chapter ). He proposes that our present work might most fittingly be described as a pamphlet, addressed to fellow senators and persons with significant commercial interests involving wa- ter, an apology for – but an unambiguous announcement of – the watchful restoration of policies and penalties that had been, but no longer will be, overlooked by responsible officials. On this view, the final paragraph of the De Aquaeductu, often seen as puzzlingly abrupt, assumes a meaningful significance, and the author ends his work on a note of respectful firmness.

The curator aquarum and the emperor

Whether or not it was part of his purpose in producing our text of the De Aquaeductu – I very much doubt that it was the sole pur- pose – Frontinus’ work describes a close relationship between the emperor and himself as curator aquarum, that is a senior con- sular named to important office as the emperor’s administrative agent. The importance of this partnership is always near the surface – from the opening words (res ab imperatore delegata, mihi ab Nerva Augusto) to the very end (where he is the immediate inter- cessor for those who seek indulgentia principis). This booklet reveals the persona at least of a dutiful and diligent public servant. One essential element in successful administration, as Frontinus presents it, is energetic and personal involvement on the part of the curator. Only intimate familiarity with the system

DeLaine () . Prof. Peachin has generously shared his views with me, both in personal conversation and in a preliminary draft. The fact that this post was filled by the emperor’s own nominee is not without significance: see commentary on ..



under his management can free him from dependence upon un- derlings. Thus far Frontinus himself in the prologue, explicit and unequivocal. Within the text, wide-ranging reforms to eliminate fraus in lower levels of the administration testify to his diligentia, in pointed contrast to the inertia and segnitia of his immediate predecessors. The prologue heralds a second, no less important, theme. Only by shouldering the responsibilities of his office could the curator fulfil the expectations of the emperor who had ap- pointed him – and the emperor it was who bore final responsi- bility for the reliability and adequacy of the urban water system. Since the burden was borne by two men, success could result only from a close cooperation between princeps and curator. Inequalities of the partnership were not to be overlooked, but these were trifling and insignificant in the face of the common goal: by any standards, Rome’s water supply was one of the most magnificent gems in the City’s imperial crown. A collaborative personal relationship between the emperor and his curator was no idealist’s dream; for Frontinus it was an inherent part of the curatorial office as established by Augustus in  . Indeed, the origin and nature lay further back, for this particular Augustan cura was deliberately fash- ioned as a means of perpetuating the public services of Marcus Agrippa, lifelong friend and apparently selfless ally of the first princeps. Beginning at least with his munificent aedileship in  , Agrippa had single-handedly assumed an overall re- sponsibility for Rome’s water supply. From his own purse he had paid for new construction, and he kept a gang of slaves as a standing maintenance crew. On Agrippa’s death Augustus inherited this gang, and with it he accepted the full range of Agrippa’s responsibilities. Parts of Agrippa’s ‘cura’ the prin- ceps kept for himself: the willingness to cover costs of ma- jor building and repairs, as well as the privilege of granting public water to certain private parties. To a senatorial agent he entrusted the routines of administration with concomitant powers (some of which had fallen to Republican censors). The office was not unduly onerous, and the high prestige



it carried was no doubt intended as a deliberate tribute to the lasting achievements of Marcus Agrippa. More than political tact lay behind Augustus’ choice of Messala Corvinus as the first curator aquarum. Over a century had elapsed by the time Frontinus came to the post, and important changes had taken place. Most dramatic of these was that celebrated by Claudius in  , on completion of two new aqueducts which roughly doubled the water supply and added more than a hundred Roman miles of channel. Fol- lowing the Augustan rule, Claudius himself paid the vast sums for construction. Following the example of Agrippa, he insti- tuted an administrative system for their upkeep, which seems in some ways to parallel that under the management of the sen- atorial curator. Composed of imperial slaves and managed by the emperor’s own freedmen, the new branch of administra- tion may gradually have eclipsed the older system. Whatever circumstances might have been in the years just prior to his ap- pointment, Frontinus unmistakably depicts – with or without exaggeration – an administration in shambles. The diligentia that Frontinus brought to his post had positive results which went well beyond restoring discipline among the work crews and clarifying the distinct responsibilities of lesser members of the administrative service (including, of course, the procurator). Reform of the curatorial post itself forms no small part of his accomplishment. Nosse quod suscepi: to avoid the faults he found in his predecessors, Frontinus sought the best possible definition of his job, that contained in the series of legislative acts establishing the curator’s office. With these documents (and an appreciation for the historical circumstances that lay behind them) he had, in effect, a ready-made model for his own performance, not to fashion a new office but to restore to it the senatorial dignity, perhaps even the prestige that it once had held.

The commentarii of the Secular Games, Pighi (), begin with senatus consulta of   relating to their organisation; Scheid () .



The grand example of Marcus Agrippa must never have been far from Frontinus’ mind. Scholars duly note that Frontinus’ maps of the aqueduct network (.) remind us of the more extensive maps set up by Agrippa. I would go further: when Frontinus tells us that he has cast his eyes over even the stretches in outlying gorges and tortuous mountain tracts, it is hard not to recall that Marcus Agrippa once took a boat ride through the sewers of Rome (Dio, ..). His deference to the princeps is no less telling, for nothing can mask Frontinus’ honest pride in the fact that his own administrative diligence in increasing the water supply was practically equivalent to the engineering feat required to develop entirely new sources. Again, dispensing with one of the trappings of his office, Frontinus explains fides nostra et auctoritas a principe data pro lictoribus erit (.). With such apparent modesty he can underscore the security of his own per- sonal relationship with the sovereign, and we should not fail to remember that for more than two decades Agrippa had served his prince with comparable modesty. Finally, inasmuch as it is a rehearsal of his accomplishments as curator, Frontinus’ commen- tarius recalls the published memoir of Agrippa’s aedileship. In recounting his own administrative activities, Frontinus never fails to emphasise that he is acting at the behest or on behalf of the emperor who appointed him. When amending fraudulent mistreatment of the Tusculans’ rights to the aqua Crabra (which, incidentally, Agrippa had respected), Frontinus proceeds iussu imperatoris (.). He undertakes an exhaustive scrutiny of the

water available praeeunte providentia

own discovery that far more water was available than had been known he modestly concedes to the providentia diligentissimi prin- cipis (.). In a matter of financial irregularity we read of the

principis Nervae (.). His

Evans (), Dilke () , , Nicolet ( ) , Evans () . Evans () , Baldwin () , DeLaine () . Note especially .nova quadam adquisitione aquarum and .quasi nova inventione fontium. Pliny, HN . (see above, n. ).



iustitia divi Nervae immediately pursued by nostra sedulitas (.). Official calibrations of pipe-sizes must be recognised and made standard, not least because they are consistent with data in com- mentariis principis (.). Because it will involve construction (an imperial prerogative carried out at imperial expense), he credits to Nerva the plan to improve the quality of Anio Novus and he promises that a prominent titulus will in due course recognise the emperor as auctor of the completed project (.). Such repeated stress on his own close relationship with the emperor lends to this work a self-laudatory tone which might, although I think need not, imply that Frontinus is smug, arro- gant, or deliberately self-serving. The atmosphere in the first half of  was not one in which responsible political leaders were likely to be comfortable, relaxed and confident. Human beings in their seventh decade are not immune to ambition, and Frontinus had a son-in-law whose career was moving forward. Nor was that nexus of which he formed a part an insignificant one: men looked to him as a patron – and he had played a role in Trajan’s succession. It might be fairer to Frontinus to call him an idealist in the cause of the Roman elite, preaching that happy possibilities for the commonwealth could emerge from cooper- ative good will between princeps and senate. Frontinus was one whose seniority and status permitted him to speak for an entire order whose pride and purpose in statesmanship had recovered dramatically in the months since Domitian’s death. Nerva’s regime had kindled new senatorial hopes; however confidently one may have looked to Trajan as a successor, this flickering flame needed special care. Praise of Rome’s aqueducts constitutes praise of the Roman state itself. Frontinus sketches their history along annalistic lines and recites their auctores, great figures in Roman history, whom

Note the enthusiasm voiced by Tacitus Agr. , a work almost exactly con- temporary with the De Aquaeductu. It is unfortunate that Frontinus finds no mention in Wirszubski () . Bruun ( ) , Evans () , Baldwin () , DeLaine () .



indeed he treats as if they were his direct predecessors in a long series of curatores aquarum. There is a touch of the antiquarian in our curator, not surprising perhaps in a novus homo, which finds expression in his mention of the tergiversations of Appius Claudius (.), his interest in the triumphal success of Marcius Rex in bringing water to the Capitol (.), the statutory gems he culls from the archives (., .), the snippet of legal trivia he cites from Ateius Capito (.). But he saves his finest rhetor- ical flourishes for the masonry structures that brought water to Rome. Because they are no less practical than they are grand, for him they outrank the most spectacular wonders of Rome’s predecessors (). They are a plain and visible symbol of all that Rome is and all that she stands for. Their maintenance and upkeep in and of itself is a matter worthy of especial care, cum magnitudinis Romani imperii vel praecipuum sit indicium (.). The water they furnish supplies the public demands of a luxuriant metropolis, serves as a resource crucial to the security of its citi- zenry, and assures a wholesome atmosphere worthy of the regina et domina orbis (.). Frontinus, senior consular and partner of the emperor, im- presses in the end as a man firmly righteous in the vein of an old-time senator. Self-serving or not, he shows himself both will- ing and able to stand before his fellow citizens to exemplify the energies of a lifetime devoted to the best interests of the Roman state. The memoir of an administrator can hardly be more than a modest platform; the speaker’s tones may fall short of resonance; but there is nonetheless in the De Aquaeductu a quiet eloquence in the affirmation of a senatorial idealism. Frontinus was not alone among his contemporaries in comfortably and capably uphold- ing long traditions of senatorial dignity. His voice is that of a man proud of himself, proud of his City, proud of her monu- ments, proud of her standing as queen of the world. If he flatters himself by asserting that his present responsibility is an office administratum semper per principes civitatis nostrae viros (), it is equally

Cf. Talbert () .



true that per quos (.) has a Livian ring beyond the whims of an antiquarian.

The sources

There is no great complexity to the question of Frontinus’ sources. Answers to some questions posed by a new cura- tor could presumably have been found in the archives of his own and closely related bureaux. (Convenient accessibility of the information is another matter, although Frontinus’ decision to include certain types of data does not in itself suggest that these were especially hard to retrieve.) For the data that relate to supplies and deliveries Frontinus explicitly draws upon the com- mentarii principum (.), records that were maintained by the im- perial staff but the origin of which lay in the personal commentarii kept by Marcus Agrippa (.). Official figures for pipe-sizes were also safely recorded in imperial commentarii (.); these sizes had been standard since the time of Agrippa (., .). At his own disposition the curator had a clerical staff whose records must surely have contained a rich miscellany of highly specific data. Frontinus gives no hint of having taken personal measurements of the channel lengths, for instance, a fact which strongly suggests that these figures were already available. The same can be said for location of the sources, and the manner in which he gives directions to Marcia’s spring implies that he used written records (.n.). The nucleus of these records, like that of the imperial registers, was presumably formed during Agrippa’s lifetime. Copies of relevant legal texts might well have been available in the curator’s office (along with mandata issued

Baldwin () . For archives and record-keeping, see Posner ( ), Talbert ( )  , Culham (), Haensch (), Coudry (), Crawford () , DeKleijn ( ) . See also above n. . The practice of detailed accountability dated back to Republican times (, .). Probably even broken down into categories as Frontinus presents them (.n.).



by the emperors), although Frontinus’ remarks on the adminis- trative practices under the Republic (.dum altius repeto leges) reveal that he had undertaken some archival research. For historical details or information to clarify uncertainties he encountered Frontinus could turn to the ordinary range of literary sources. Of these one imagines that the works of Marcus Agrippa were specially useful: from such a primary source Frontinus must have learnt the particular circumstances that at- tended the discovery of Virgo’s springs and the date on which its water was introduced into the City (.). The works of his- torians and annalists sometimes yielded details of similar interest for the earlier aqueducts. Frontinus seems not always to have re- lied on a single source (cf. .constantius traditur), and in one instance (the origin of the quinaria as a standard: .) he ex- presses an equal dissatisfaction with two available explanations, both of which may derive from oral inquiries. Citing a source by name occurs but twice (.Fenestella, .Ateius Capito), and in both cases the point is parenthetical: neither author was his sole or even his main source. Likewise, his reference to the contio of Caelius Rufus (.) is an aside, for rhetorical point.


Studies of Frontinus’ language and style have until recently been focused on the question of the authenticity of Book  of his

Above, n. . Unless one supposes Frontinus to have recreated the story from oral tradi- tions surrounding a picture set up near the springs (.). The date might equally well have been preserved in an annalistic context: he can be similarly precise about the dedication of Claudia and Anio Novus (.), and it can hardly have been novelty that the Fasti Ostienses record a specific date for the introduction of Aqua Traiana in the year . Grimal xiii: ‘Pour chaque aqueduc, Frontin a recours aux dossiers contem- porains de l’adduction.’ The contention bears no close scrutiny and provides an extremely precarious basis for arguments set forth by Roncaioli Lamberti ().



Strategemata. A comprehensive index verborum appeared in , and more sophisticated resources are now available electroni- cally. A few scholars have looked closely at Frontinus’ vocab- ulary and lexicon, others at his prologue or the structure of the De Aquaeductu as a whole. Judgements of his style have embraced the briefly dismissive and the unfairly contemptu- ous. Most critics, however, have appreciated that his material prescribed for Frontinus an intentionally mixed style, which he accomplishes well enough but without distinction.

In der Tat ist Frontin ein Fachschriftsteller. Mehr als die Form inter-

essiert ihn der Stoff. Seine Sprache ist freilich zumeist klar und gew¨ahlt,

bewegt sich gern in ziemlich sorgf¨altig gebauten Perioden und ist sogar mit rhetorischen Stilmitteln wie Alliteration und Prosametrik versehen. Aber auf stilistische K¨unstlerschaft kann er irgendwelche Anspr¨uche

nicht erheben, und sein Stil ist und holperig.

manchmal schwerf¨allig, unsch¨on


commentario sul De aquis Urbis Romae ci presenta una prosa degna


nota: Frontino in questa sua opera, in vero poco conosciuta dalla

critica, ci si revela con uno stile forbito e alquanto singulare per il suo tempo; ci dimonstra anche un fondo culturale considerevole. Il

Chief among the challengers of Frontinus’ authorship are Wachsmuth (), W¨ollflin (), Gundermann ( ). Those whose responses have dealt primarily with philological detail are Fritze (), Esternaux (), Kortz (), and especially Bendz (, ). Costas Rodr´ıguez (), Frontini index. Of electronic materials, those with which I am most familiar are the Packard Humanities Institute’s PHI computer file:   #.() and the IntraText website </>, the latter permits one to search an author’s word-usage by frequency, inverse alphabetical order, and word-length, as well as providing a range of statistical information.

Hern´andez-Gonz´alez (, ), L´opez Moreda ( ), Espinilla Buis´an (), Del Chicca (, ). Santini (), Del Chicca (, ), DeLaine (); Baldwin () treats more comprehensively of both language and structure. McElwain () xv ‘absolute lack of of stylistic charm’. Goodyear ()  ‘in general unaffected, though one finds occasional embellishments’.

Hodge () ‘one of the driest [works] ever written

wholly devoid of

literary pretensions or elegance whatever’. Bendz () , speaking of both the Strategemata and the De Aquaeductu.



suo periodo a volte e` breve, conciso, anzi scarno; a volte ha un tono

solenne e l’ampiezza della prosa ciceroniana

immediatamente d’avere a che fare con un uomo colto e tecnicamente preparato. Frontino infatti in questa sua opera non fa che misurare, controllare e descrivere; poche sono le volte in cui cerca di staccarsi dall’ arida materia trattata. Ma il suo periodo e` sempre sorvegliato e corretto, curato, chiaro nel suo significatoeavolte anche solenne.

Inoltre, ci si accorge

Detailed remarks on Frontinus’ language and style will be found throughout the commentary. Here one may examine a few se- lective features which more extensively inform his writing in the De Aquaeductu.

Lexicon of water quality

Attention to Frontinus’ lexicon has been directed for the most part to his use of technical vocabulary, but in this work the author has occasion to speak of water quality and we can observe that his usage overlaps with both specialist writers and with poets. On water quality in general he notes how it is an important criterion of distribution for different categories of use ( secun- dum suam quaeque qualitatem, in contrast to Marcia, reserved potui tota). (One can compare Pliny, HN ., who speaks of the preference given to Virgo for its tactus and to Marcia for its haus- tus.) When appropriate he makes mention of poor quality, as of Alsietina (.nullius gratiae, parum salubrem) or of the Anio River (.limosus et turbulentus, .deformis ac turbidae). Special boni- tas characterises the water of Marcia’s Fons Augustae (.) and Claudia’s Fons Albudinus (.). Both abundance and reliability are singled out for notice. Claudia, drawing from fontes amplissimi (.) is abundantior aliis; the river water of Anio Novus is in primis abundans (.); Agrippa’s engineers found Virgo to have ingentem aquae modum (.); even without illicit supplement, Tepula’s flow was maintained quamvis notabili siccitate (.). Urban salubritas is one of the benefits of a good water sup- ply (, .,  ; cf. .fontium salubritas). (This characteristic is

Panimolle () .



stressed by both Vitruvius, .., . and Pliny, HN . , .) Alsietina is parum salubris while others are salubriores (.), and Anio Vetus ranks low in quality because it is minus salubris (). Good water has gratia (.) while poor is described as nul- lius gratiae (.). Gratior aquarum sinceritas (.) is appreciated, and the supply from Marcia is called gratissima (.). Purity is of course a desirable quality. The superlative puris- simus is used to describe the Rivus Herculaneus (.) as well as the lake at Subiaco (.). (Compare Horace, Epist. .. pu- rior in vicis aqua.) Purity of Claudia is indicated by sincerus (.), and the tam felix proprietas projected by means of improvements to Anio Novus will make it sinceriorem et iucundiorem (.). Water taken from the Anio River below the dam at Subiaco is mi- nus limpida (.), while that purified in the lake is limpidissima (.). Appearance and coldness are two recurrent features that de- note excellence. Marcia pleases et rigore et splendore (.), and water in the high reaches of the Anio is frigidissimus simul ac splen- didissimus ( .n). We find splendor applied to the spring water of the Rivus Herculaneus (.) as well as to Marcia and the nearby spring of Claudia (., .). (Compare Lucretius, . splen- dor aquai, Horace, C. ..splendidior vitro, Silius, Pun. . aquae splendor.) Claudia’s springs are speciosi and one of them is named Caerulus for its colour (.); water at Marcia’s source is green (.).

Formulaic presentation

In a certain sense, Frontinus assists his reader by adopting a strictly formulaic pattern when he deals with repetitive mate- rial, the kind for which a modern writer would abandon con- nected prose altogether in favour of a more visually accessible

tabular format. (Our author realises that data presented in such a way, while useful for reference, can strike a reader as inordi- nately dull: .cuius comprehensionem scio non ieiunam tantum sed

iis quibus sufficiet cognovisse summam

etiam perplexam videri posse



licebit transire leviora.) The most immediately noticeable examples of Frontinus’ ‘tabular’ style are his list of pipe-sizes (chapters ), data on distribution from individual aqueducts (), and the roster of curatores aquarum (), all of which are printed distinctively in editions since Krohn’s. Almost equally formal are chapters , in which he discusses the available sup- ply of each aqueduct and accounts for discrepancies between the imperial records and his own measurements. Even chapters , in which Frontinus proceeds chronologically, are as much statistical as historical. For each aqueduct, from the earliest to the most recent, he systematically gives the location of the source and then follows with data on the length and type of conduit. Chapter can serve to illustrate Frontinus’ virtually formulaic procedure. In §he locates the starting-point of this aqueduct: (a) concipitur Appia (b) in agro Lucullano (c) via Praenestina (d) inter miliari- um septimum et octavum (e) deverticulo sinistrosus passuum septingentorum octoginta.


The sentence usually begins with concipitur + name of the aqueduct (., ., ., ., and cf. .concipitur ex lacu Alsietino); for two others we find the name before the verb (., .); and for the last the verb is delayed until after part (c) and then given a different prefix (.Anio novus excipitur ex flumine).


This part does not invariably appear (only here, ., and .; but cf. .palustribus locis, .excipitur ex flumine, .trans flumen viamque).


In the case of Aqua Marcia (.) there are directions along two different roads: the Via Valeria, present when the water had been brought ( ), and the Via Sublacensis, built under Nero.

Frontinus interjects an occasional comment in addition to essential data (e.g. .), and sometimes he affects a pointed use of variatio (., ., contrasted with ., ., etc.). Evans () . Chapters ., ., ., ., ., ., ., ., ..




The form here (inter miliarium + ordinals) is unique. Fronti- nus’ commonest construction is ad miliarium + ordinal (., ., ., ., .), but there are two instances of the abla- tive miliario (., .).


A side-road leading from highway to source is specified ei- ther to the right (., ., ., .) or to the left (., .):

ablative deverticulo + number of passus in the genitive. In two instances the transmitted text notes that the directional ref- erences are for persons travelling from Rome (., .). For Anio Vetus, Virgo and Anio Novus there is no deverticulum (., ., .).

In .we follow Frontinus’ pattern of indicating first the length of the conduit as a whole and then the lengths of its various parts broken down by type of construction. (a) ductus eius habet longi- tudinem (b) a capite usque ad Salinas, qui locus est ad portam Trigeminam, (c) passuum undecim milium centum nonaginta. (d) <ex eo (e) rivus est> sub<t>er<raneus pas>suum undecim milium centum triginta, (f) supra ter- ram (g) substructio et arcuatura (h) proximum portam Capenam passuum sexaginta.


ductus eius habet longitudinem (., ., ., ., and cf. .Claudiae ductus habet longitudinem), ductus eius efficit longitudinem (., and cf. .with Iuliae instead of pronoun), venit per longitudinem (.). Slightly different is .ductus Anionis novi

efficit (cf. .rivi subterranei efficiunt, .ductus



a capite ad Salinas


a capite ad urbem (.), an explanatory

phrase (ita exigente libramento .), otherwise omitted (., .,

., ., .).


The construction habet longitudinem is followed with passuum (genitive) + number, that of effecit with passus (accusative).


At this point the phrase ex eo is transmitted at ., ., ., .(cf. .<ex eo>). In two cases it is followed by nominatives (., .), in three by ablatives (., ., .). The ablative is used without ex eo in two instances (., .), possibly also a third (.).




rivus subterraneus (., restored at .), otherwise ablative (., .,., ., supplied ., .).


supra terram substructio (., cf. substructio supra terram .); opere supra terram (., ., ., .), all followed by passuum +

number; supra terram per passus

.; omitted ..


Another ex eo appears at this point in ., ., ., .(also .[ex] eo), to introduce subcategories of construction above ground. .and .are anomalous, both because of nomi- natives (substructio, arcuatura) and because there is less detail. Elsewhere the ablative is consistent: substructione (., .), substructione rivorum (., ., .), substructionibus (.); opere arcuato (., ., ., ., ., .). All are followed by passuum except ., .per passus.


In three chapters there is a further breakdown between rural and suburban sections: longius ab urbe pluribus locis per vallis (.), superiori parte (., .); propius urbem a septimo miliario (., ., .); cf. also .proximis urbi locis a septimo miliario, .locis compluribus.

Rhetorical style

No reader of the De Aqueductu has ever failed to be struck by the enthusiastic outburst in chapter : Tot aquarum tam multis necessariis molibus pyramidas videlicet otiosas compares aut cetera inertia sed fama celebrata opera Graecorum. There is no lack of rhetoric in Frontinus’ prologue (), where such might in any case be expected. But there are throughout the work sections written, if not carefully, then at least in a manner that reveal an author whose education was worthy of a Roman senator. By way of example, we can look to a passage where Frontinus is intending to write persuasively, but not necessarily with literary elegance.

De Laine () , for instance, draws attention to ‘the rhetorical nature of the passage and its supercilious tone’. Grimal xvi speaks of ‘le ton solennel de l’introduction’; see further Santini (), Del Chicca ().



.Non dubito aliquos admiraturos quod longe maior copia actis mensuris inventa sit quam erat in commentariis prin- cipum. cuius rei causa est error eorum qui ab initio parum diligenter uniuscuiusque fecerunt aestimationem. ac ne metu aestatis aut siccitatum in tantum a veritate eos recessisse credam, obstat id quod ips[e actis] mensuris Iulio mense hanc unius- cuiusque copiam quae supra scripta est tota deinceps aestate du- rantem exploravi. quaecumque tamen est causa quae praecedit, illud utique detegitur decem milia quinariarum intercidisse, dum beneficia sua principes secundum modum <in> commentariis adscriptum temperant. sequens diversitas est quod alius modus concipitur ad capita, alius nec exiguo minor in piscinis, minimus deinde distributione continetur. cuius rei causa est fraus aquario- rum, quos aquas ex ductibus publicis in privatorum usus derivare deprehendimus. Frontinus begins with rhetorical understatement, echoing

his introduction to this portion of the work (.ante omnia itaque capita ductuum metiri adgressus sum, sed longe, id est circiter quinariis decem milibus, ampliorem quam in commentariis modum inveni, ut per singulas demonstrabo). A reason for the discrepancy he states as a matter of fact: cuius rei causa est, predicated by abstract noun with subjective genitive (error eorum), the pronoun defined in a relative clause. Word-order in the relative clause builds a crescendo of indignation: prepositional phrase functioning as temporal ad- verb (ab initio), modified modal adverb (parum diligenter), pronoun in genitive (uniuscuiusque with ellipse of aquae), verb and emphatic direct object (fecerunt aestimationem). The next sentence starts with his purposeful dismissal of what might have been an excuse for his forerunners, and ends with

confident self-satisfaction. Both the initial clause (ne

+ indirect statement) and the sentence as a whole end with first-person verbs, the latter’s present perfect emphasised by its


With the litotes non dubito, cf. also in this passage parum diligenter, nec exiguo minor.



collocation with present participle (durantem exploravi). One al-

most takes the main sentence to be ipse

feature of which recalls by contrast the preceding sentence. First

are the repetitions (actis mensuris, uniuscuiusque). Next, the two

aestate) are more specific

durantem; note

also the hyperbaton and alliteration in tota deinceps aestate duran-

tem. Finally, hanc

and thereby reliable data in the preceding nine chapters. Yet the whole sentence is built around an entirely prosaic obstat id quod.

An unexciting prosaic style informs the whole of the following

sentence (quaecumque

which is the emphatic decem milia quinariarum and a tiresome rec-

ollection of the discrepancy with imperial records that Frontinus himself has detected and demonstrated. But a second set of numerical differences allows Frontinus now to sound one of his favourite notes, the fraus aquariorum. The facts are stated with an elaborate tricolon, replete with

.), alliteration (con-

cipitur ad capita

and variation (ad capita, in piscinis, distributione). Again, the declar- ative statement of fact as we saw above: cuius rei causa est, now followed by a noun with far stronger negative force and with a

more immediate subjective genitive. The relative clause now has as its subject the writer himself, and the tense authoritatively is the present. Note the chiastic word-order of the prepositional phrases ex ductibus publicis in privatorum usus, and the alliterative finale derivare deprehendimus.

minimus, deinde distributione)

anaphora and ellipsis (alius modus

quae supra scripta est points to demonstrable

temporal ablatives (Iulio mense, tota

than ab initio, and they intertwine with copiam

exploravi, nearly every

temperant), the only striking feature of


continetur, minor

Recall the hendiadys aestatis ac siccitatum near the beginning of this sentence.

It may not be coincidental that Frontinus speaks in .of notabilis siccitas in

a context of his personal monitoring of water supplies (the verb there also

in the present perfect). Cf. ab eo quod ., ex eo quod ., ., .. It matters little whether deprehendimus is present or (more likely) present perfect.




The Middle Ages

Virtually nothing is known of the fate of Frontinus’ commenta- rius from the time of its publication until it was discovered in the fifteenth century. From its mere survival we can surmise that it attracted some attention in late Antiquity, and one can guess at reasons: a lasting prestige which attached to the au- thor; a tone that might have appealed to imperial idealists (or to bureaucrats); a subject-matter which never completely lost its relevance, given the practical necessity of maintaining an essen- tial service for Rome. The title De Aquaeductu possibly dates to this same period, and there are tantalising hints that it might even have been familiar to an administrative audience. Yet the booklet can never have achieved widespread circulation, and its very existence must always have been precarious. Codex Casinensis  (C), our oldest manuscript of this text, was written at Monte Cassino about the year . The copyist, as it happens, was no ordinary scribe: he was Petrus Diaconus, an enigmatic but remarkable monk who left his erratic footsteps indelibly impressed on the history of that venerable abbey. But Peter the Deacon’s interest in Frontinus did not end with simple transcription. Into his Chronica consulum, dictatorum et imperatorum, a curious but very important compilation made a few years later, Peter inserted references to four of Rome’s earliest aqueducts.

For the title, see commentary. DeLaine ( ) ,  points to possible verbal echoes of this booklet and something of its flavour in the For mula comitivae formarum Vrbis of Cassiodorus (Var. .), but she acknowledges that they may likely be no more than coincidental. For another possible link to late Antiquity, but still more tenuous, see .n. arcuatura. By contrast, Frontinus’ Strategemata was far better known in the Middle Ages:

see Reynolds ( )  ; cf. J. Martin ( ). Both manuscript and scribe are discussed at greater length below (pp. ). Codex Casinensis  , p.(ed. Florilegium Casinense .(), p.). The special interest which attaches to these entries was first revealed by Bloch () esp. and Plate .



He can have drawn these references only from a text of the De Aquaeductu, presumably from the copy he had himself exscribed. The Monte Cassino manuscript, as it happens, is now the surviv- ing archetype, and Peter’s references constitute the only known use of this text by any writer in the Middle Ages. The next person to reveal an acquaintance with this work of Frontinus was the enthusiastic book-hunter Poggio Bracciolini (), and Poggio himself deserves full credit for its rediscovery – at Monte Cassino and in the very copy made there three centuries earlier by Peter the Deacon.

Poggio’s quest

By spring of  Poggio had heard – we do not know how – of the possibility that a Frontinus manuscript was to be found at Monte Cassino. He wrote to his friend Niccol`o Niccoli on  June  (Epist. .), ‘Nudius tertius locutus sum cum administratore monasterii Cassinensis satis diligenter de Iulio Frontone. Pollicitus est se missurum mihi librum, cum primum redierit, dummodo reperiatur; nam multos deperditos paucis ante annis dicit. Petiit a me titulum libri, tradam ei ante re- cessum suum et confido nos habituros librum.’ In subsequent letters to Niccol`o during the summer of  Poggio mentions

DBI () : . We rely on Poggio’s letters to Niccol`o for tracing this story. For convenience numbered references are to Tonelli’s edition (); the letters have been newly edited by Helene Harth (). ‘Fronto’ for ‘Frontinus’ is to be explained in part by ignorance (the work had as yet not been seen), but this name occurs in the tradition of the Strategemata (see Gundermann’s preface, xii) – and there is even an epigraphic attestation:

CIL . Sex. Iuli Frontoni. Poggio uses ‘Frontinus’ for the first time in Epist. . (Nov. ), not perhaps coincidentally just after receiving a report of the Hersfeld manuscript (see below). Panormita’s ‘Iulius Fronto’, occurring some months later, seems to reflect adherence to the form that had gained initial currency. As late as  Traversari writes (Epist. . ) ‘Frontonem de aquaeductibus’, but corrects himself on the spot: ‘Est tamen id opus non Frontonis, ut putavimus, sed Frontini.’



a delay in acquiring the text, and finally on November he reports that the search has been unsuccessful (Epist. .): ‘Iulius Frontinus non reperitur in monasterio Cassinati, nam rescripsit nobis ille, cui curam demandaramus, se diu quesisse librum, sed minime inveniri.’ But, he continues in high spirits, ‘Hec autem minima est iactura, nam aliunde expiscabimur.’ The new hope arose because Poggio had been approached by ‘quidam monachus amicus meus ex quodam monasterio Ger- maniae’. The monk was Heinrich von Grebenstein, present in Rome on one of several official visits on behalf of the abbey of Hersfeld, but with a sideline interest in trading books. Poggio lost no time in sharing with Niccol`o two highlights on the list he had received from the monk: ‘inter ea volumina est Iulius Frontinus et aliqua opera Cornelii Taciti nobis ignota’. Contacts with the Hersfeld monk were protracted for more than three years. In the fall of  Poggio asked for an ‘inven- tarium cuiusdam vetustissimi monasterii in Germania, ubi est ingens copia librorum’ (Epist. .), and he seems to have re- ceived it in the spring of  when Heinrich von Grebenstein was once again in Rome. On  May Poggio wrote that the new inventory was a disappointment (Epist. .): he could do no better for Niccol`o than to send him ‘partem inventarii sui, in quo describitur volumen illud Cornelii Taciti, et aliorum quibus caremus’. Hopes of acquiring the treasures from Hersfeld remained un- realised: in February  the monk again arrived in Rome

Epist. . ( June): ‘Si Iulius Fronto veniet, qui procul dubio, nisi perditus est, veniet, hec per proprios tabellarios deferentur ad Poggium.’ Epist. . ( August): ‘De Monte Cassino, hoc est Iulio Frontone sollicitus sum, sed mirum est; tam pauci eo accedunt aut inde ad nos veniunt.’ Epist. . ( September): ‘Iulium Frontonem aliquando eruemus ex agro illo Cassinati, sed durum est impellere istos nostros barbaros, ut aliquid sit eis dulce preter pretium.’ That the ‘German monastery’ was Hersfeld emerges from other letters:

Epist. . ( May ) and . ( Feb. ). For the monk’s identity see Pralle () . The existence of these same works is reported by Panormita to Guarino in a letter which probably dates from April  (see below).



absque libro (Epist. .), and we hear from Poggio of no further contacts. Not long afterwards, however, he had an opportunity to visit Monte Cassino. This time he could search for himself, and on July he wrote from Anagni that he had found the text of Frontinus (Epist. .): ‘Vidi autem bibliothecam monasterii, repperique librum, in quo erat Iulius Frontinus De aqueductu

urbis et item Firmici Matheseos libri 

hoc mecum, ut transcribam libellum Frontini, cum sit mendosus et pessimis litteris adeo ut vix queam legere.’ Poggio was less than punctual about returning the borrowed codex to Monte Cassino. In December  he writes to Niccol`o that he is about to return the book: he has copied Frontinus and in its other contents he has no interest. But Niccol`o seems to have pleaded for a delay, and a letter of Ambrogio Traversari indicates that the book might still have been in Rome as late as April of . The manuscript of Frontinus Poggio discovered was the copy made by Peter the Deacon, and the volume he borrowed was none other than Codex Casinensis  (although not exactly in its present state). Poggio mentions that the manuscript contained

Portavi volumen

Although there is still a promise that the book will come later. Note the singular liber