Are there any historical references to this being done? Either for fun, as revenge of some kind or for any other reason?

If this was common practice; did anyone try to prevent it from happening or was it accepted as another facet of daily life?

Thanks in advance!

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    Welcome to History:SE. What makes you think this might have been done? Oct 8, 2017 at 19:53
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    @sempaiscuba I was thinking about things you can do with an aqueduct. The first I came up with was walking on top of it. The second was pissing into it. Some Romans must have had the same thought pattern :-)
    – Jesbus
    Oct 8, 2017 at 20:02
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    Given the size and duration of the Roman Republic/Empire, I'd be amazed if this didn't happen at least once. Whether it was note worthy enough to have been recorded (and for those records to have survived) is a different matter.
    – Steve Bird
    Oct 8, 2017 at 20:04
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    Aqueducts included tunnels, ground level canals, and bridges over ravines. There was no pissing into the underground tunnels. I wonder if the above ground sections were roofed in some or all places to avoid birds flying overhead and dropping poop into the water.
    – MAGolding
    Dec 3, 2017 at 21:56

1 Answer 1


I doubt that very much. Pecunia non olet, remember? Money doesn't stink, said Vespasian to Titus, when the latter complained about his father for raising tax on urine.

Urine was a valuable ingredient for making leather and as an ingredient for cleaning. Urine was collected wherever possible. Shopkeepers kept jars ready for passers-by and customers relieve themselves in, then to sell the contents to leather makers. That's why Vespasian taxed it.

Apart from that, have you seen how high viaducts are? It's a pretty steep climb for a prank. Roman justice was harsh. I have absolutely no idea what a pissing prankster would get, but 20 hrs community service had to be invented yet. The very least one could expect was a severe lashing. Probably a lot more.

Certainly by the population who would not be amused if someone pissed into their drinking water. Rome didn't have a formal police force. There were the vigiles, a corps of firefighters and night watchmen formed out of slaves and ex slaves (that should give you an idea how low this public service rated into society). Even a formal office for prosecution did not exist.

Justice was handled much more handled by individuals themselves. Being arrested by the vigiles would be the least of your worries. If the crowd caught you in the act, you could expect some real hard justice. More than enough to stop most modern pranksters.

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    Frontinus discusses laws and penalties concerning interfering with the aqueducts.
    – justCal
    Oct 9, 2017 at 0:02
  • @user2448131 Thank you for this helpful resource.
    – Jesbus
    Oct 9, 2017 at 7:15
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    @Jos I don't think the people would notice, the urine would probably be very diluted at the time someone drinks it.
    – Jesbus
    Oct 9, 2017 at 7:17
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    When my sister and I would play, we had this story going in Ancient Rome, and these centurions would come by every so often and demand taxes from the townspeople for the sun, wind, water, air, etc. It was humorous. :)
    – ezra
    Oct 10, 2017 at 20:04

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