Why was the water from some aqueducts that fed the water to ancient Roman fountains(nasoni) cold?

  • 1
    How is this a history question, rather than a plumbing question?
    – Joe
    Sep 12, 2013 at 16:05
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    You don't find aqueducts at many places other than Rome. Nasonis are part of roman history. Any documents that I find in web are able to explain the architecture employed, so I posted the question here.
    – Varun
    Sep 12, 2013 at 16:19
  • The water also came via the Avens river from lacus velinus in Reate. Its water came from mountains. referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/brill-s-new-pauly/… perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/… Sep 12, 2013 at 16:37
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    Even though this question has more to do with physics than history I still never realised that yes the water, from the aqueducts, would have felt cold to most humans. +1.
    – Apoorv
    Sep 15, 2013 at 11:38

2 Answers 2


This drifts into a science Stack Exchange question somewhat, but consider the following:

  • Until the advent of PVC pipes, stone aqueducts would have insulated the original (cool) temperature better than exposed metal piping. Unexposed piping would have been about equivalent to stone depending on ground temperature.
  • If I recall correctly Roman aqueducts didn't have large urban reservoirs per se; so the effect of continuously flowing water would cool down the drinking supply before it reached the fountain. In the case of open air aqueducts the more energetic water molecules could have escaped the system entirely.

Water mainly came via the Avens river Nar (that goes into Tiber) from lacus velinus near Reate. Its water came from mountains. Marius Curius Dentatus has drained the waters of the lake into the river Nar. In doing so, he created the marmore waterfalls:

The Marmore Falls, extolled during the centuries for its beauty, appears like a roaming water column distributed on three drops. Wrapping the flora in a cloud of white foam , cover a different in high of 165 metres. The scenery disclosed to the visitors eyes is the work of men made since centuries, from the Roman period, tried to canalize the waters of the Velino river to fall the into the Nera river.

Its history began in 271BC when the Roman consul Curio Dentato made a reclaimed work in the plain of Rieti realizing a canal of beyond two kilometers up the cliff of Marmore.

The lake is now known as Lago Piè di luco


"Rivers and the Power of Ancient Rome" By J. B. Campbell

Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography: Iabadius-Zymethus by Sir William Smith

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    Addressing temperature: I couldn't find a link (for my English eyes anyway) listing the typical water temperature in this lake. I know alpine lakes, fed water by snowmelt, are rather famous for having very cold water. The pictures for this lake do look like an alpine lake, but technically is elevation is way below the "alpine" level of 1,500 m.
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 12, 2013 at 17:49
  • Hmmm. I did find a scientific study in that lake. They saw (if I'm reading things right) the water there get at least as warm as 68F in July of 2000. That didn't at first seem all that cool to my sheltered first world self, but in July in Ancient Rome it would certianly feel that way. It is way colder than I'd want to swim in. "Alpine" Lake Tahoe has a summer water temperature that doesn't tend to venture over 70, and its famous for how cold its water is. (I went there one summer. I can vouch it felt freaking cold).
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 12, 2013 at 18:05
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    When looking at various sources abut the aqueducts, these claims do not seem to hold up. Waters generally did not come from rivers, but hilly areas. Sep 12, 2013 at 19:13
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    @LennartRegebro - So you are saying they don't hold water?
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 13, 2013 at 18:13
  • @T.E.D. in Rome, the river Tiber did not hold enough water by far to fill the needs of the city, hence the aquaducts were constructed to bring in money from remote areas, where it was tapped from rivers, lakes, and underground reservoirs. It was also pretty much an open sewer. So in Rome at least, the (majority of) the water did indeed not come (directly) from a river.
    – jwenting
    Sep 14, 2013 at 4:24

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