You are here


This paper analyzes a fairly recently published inscription from Beroia in Northern Greece which describes the water supply and distribution in the town. I identify what is particular and even unique in this text and what it contributes to our knowledge of local practices of water management in the Roman world. Among the inscription’s uncommon features is that there seems to be certain similarities between what took place in Beroia and what Sex. Iulius Frontinus did as curator aquarum in Rome under Trajan.

In 1998, in the corpus of inscriptions from Beroia in Northern Greece, a text with a rather unique content was published (I. Beroia 41). Its nature has gone unnoticed and it does not seem to have received any further attention since the entry in SEG 48, 743, to judge from later issues of the SEG. The text describes several actions by a benefactor concerning the water supply and distribution in Beroia, apparently in the early II c. CE. Water pipes were laid out, fountains were restored or built, and the distribution (tous merismous) was organized. In addition, the benefactor measured the water, and gave the rest to the city councillors (the bouleutai). The names were recorded and deposited in the town archive (the grammatofylakion).

It is as if a local Frontinus had been at work, someone who operated somewhat like the great administrator of Rome’s water supply. Like the author of the De aquaeductu urbis Romae, the benefactor of Beroia measured the volume (we are not told how), organized the distribution between public and private users, determined who the privileged possessors of a private water supply would be (though in Rome the emperor did that), and finally set up an archive. Nowhere else outside Rome do we find such a detailed description of water management (cf. Habermann 2000, 115-16). An inscription from Lucus Feroniae simply lists castella and some public buildings receiving water (AE 1978, 296), a text from Sardis lists a series of fountains (Buckler & Robinson 1932, no. 17), while documents from Urso in Spain and Venafrum in Italy, among other relevant sources, establish that the city council will decide about the portioning out of the water (Eck 1995, 238). This shows that the cura aquarum was not always managed in the same way at the local level.

The details from Beroia are uniquely informative and yet invite further comment. For instance, nowhere else do we find such a blatant statement of the unequal distribution practice in the Roman world: the bouleutai were to receive the rest (it is not quite clear which other needs had already been seen to). In Rome, Frontinus simply informs us that the emperor makes the decision. No criteria are given although lead pipe stamps show that closeness to the emperor must have been central.

The paper also discusses the identity of the anonymous benefactor and organizer of the water distribution. The editors and the SEG tentatively proposed the proconsul Macedoniae, based on three letters on l. 1 (anth[upatos?]). Yet one may doubt that this Roman official would become so deeply involved in local matters, although epigraphic evidence on evergetism from Roman provinces show proconsuls occasionally supervising the building of aqueducts.

This paper instead explores the possibility that a private individual was the author of the revamping of Beroia’s water supply. In fact, there is evidence for private initiative, as one Claudia Ammia, assisted by her two sons, is known to have paid for an aqueduct for Beroia, by means of which she brought water to the town ek ton autes chorion (Tataki 1988, 191; I. Beroia 40). She is dated the 1st/2nd c. CE, but whether she was the unknown benefactor mentioned above remains uncertain.Likewise, whether any influence from the capital could have occurred in connection with these hydraulic arrangements must remain purely speculative, although also for Frontinian studies the Beroian discovery is undoubtedly noteworthy.


  • Buckler. W.H. - Robinson, D.M. (1932). Sardis VII. Greek and Latin Inscriptions I. Leyden.
  • Eck, W. (1995). Die Verwaltung des Römischen Reiches in der Hohen Kaiserzeit. Ausgewählte und erweiterte Beiträge I. Basel - Berlin.
  • Habermann, W. (2000). Zur Wasserversorgung einer Metropole im kaiserzeitlichen Ägypten. Neuedition von P. Lond. III 1177 (Vestigia 53), Munich.
  • I. Beroia = L. Gounaropoulou - M.B. Hatzopoulos, Epigraphes kato Makedonias I. Athens 1998.
  • Tataki, A.B. (1988). Ancient Beroea Prosopography and Society. Athens.

© 2020, Society for Classical Studies Privacy Policy