LINEBURG


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45 Aq. 9: ˜On the order of the emperor, I returned the whole amount to the people of Tusculum, who
now, no doubt with some astonishment, are not sure who to thank for this unusual abundance.™
46 Frontinus not only tells us that the calculations which are about to follow were worked out ˜through
scrupulous research™ (scrupulosa inquisitione), he also reminds us that he was working on behalf of
˜the best and most diligent Nerva™ (optimi diligentissimi Nervae).
47 He begins this chapter: ˜Enough has now been said about the volume of each aqueduct and a new
method, if you like, of acquiring water . . .™
¨
190 a lic e k on ig
all that happens at On aqueducts 31“4) but also to combat it so effectively
that life at Rome is transformed. The abundance of technical details in his
treatise translates directly, it would seem, into a new abundance of water;
and the link which Frontinus made at the beginning of his treatise between
knowledge and control appears to have been strengthened, for we have seen
him using his newly acquired learning not only to control Rome™s aqueduct
network but also to restore it, to put it back in order.
One of the things which Frontinus does as he celebrates the results of his
detailed research is to weave himself and his emperor into close partnership
once again. Indeed, immediately after he has ¬nished his account of the
network™s distribution ¬gures, he hands the credit for his work over to
Nerva, claiming that it is ultimately thanks to him that Rome™s water
supply has been enlarged:
Now, thanks to the foresight of our most industrious emperor all that was inter-
cepted by fraud or lost by laziness has been added. (Aq. 87)
In so doing, he again employs vocabulary which he has also used for himself,
highlighting the emperor™s impressive ˜diligence™ (diligentissimi principis),
and he does this several more times in the following chapters as he contin-
ues to wax lyrical about the ˜care™ which his ˜pious™ princeps has taken of
Rome.48 Some of this praise touches upon the claim which Frontinus made
towards the beginning of his preface, that the of¬ce of Curator aquarum was
concerned with ˜the health and even the safety of the city™. At On aqueducts
88, for example, when he salutes Nerva™s ˜care™ for Rome, he argues that
one of its most signi¬cant effects has been to improve the general salubritas
of the city, for thanks to the building of new fountains and so on, and an
increase in the number of private grants given by the emperor, the city has
apparently taken on a much more wholesome character:
There is a new appearance of cleanness, the air is purer, and the reasons for the
rather heavy atmosphere, for which the city was infamous in antiquity, have been
removed. (Aq. 88)49
As in his preface, then, we see Frontinus and his emperor apparently sharing
the same attitude and striving for (and ultimately achieving) the same
things. In addition, the rhetoric of purity which becomes central in this
section ties in nicely with ideals of transparency and purging, with the idea

48 See, e.g., Aq. 88 (˜[Rome] feels this care of the most pious Nerva each day™); and Aq. 89 (˜What of
the fact that even these improvements do not satisfy the emperor™s diligence . . . ?™).
49 See also Aq. 89“93, where we see more evidence that Nerva™s cura has resulted in purer waters as well
as greater abundance.
Knowledge and power in Frontinus™ On aqueducts 191
of cleaning up the whole city and getting rid of corrupting factors; and
the image which Frontinus gives of a Rome restored to its former glory “
indeed, improved almost beyond recognition “ helps to give a sense that
the city has truly embarked upon a bright new era. Furthermore, the order
which Frontinus imposes on the material in his text systematically dispels
images of chaos and lack of rule and gives the impression (however wrong it
may be) that under Nerva order and proper control were imposed on Rome
itself.50 As well as insisting on their common approach to aqueduct-related
matters, in other words, Frontinus™ text also appears once again to be more
widely supportive of Nerva™s principate in general, for here, as elsewhere,
it re¬‚ects some of the pivotal aspirations and rhetoric of his reign.
All in all, then, what follows his preface appears to support Frontinus™
initial representation of himself as a devoted public servant whose interests
and activities are entirely in tune with, and thoroughly supportive of, his
emperor. As we shall see, however, the knowledge which he amasses in the
course of his On aqueducts also empowers Frontinus (as the second chapter
of his preface hinted it would) in ways which potentially shatter the sense
of collaborative partnership which he has taken such care to build up.

frontinu s e mpowe red
In the ¬rst place, as well as amassing knowledge Frontinus appears to master
it impressively. This is something which his preface prepares us for, for as
well as explaining that he wants to gather together all data relating to the
water supply system to help him succeed in his new post51 he also indicates
that it is his plan to ˜order™ it, to ˜bring it into line™.52 We have already seen
him doing this most impressively with his list of pipe sizes at On aqueducts
39“63, where he responds to the fraudulent altering of pipes by water-men
by putting everything back in order again, reducing his prose to a systematic
list of equations which sets out each of the twenty-¬ve pipes formulaically,
in ascending size, not missing a single one out. Similarly, his various textual
˜maps™ of the aqueduct network organise and re-organise his newly acquired
knowledge repeatedly, testifying to his command of his material. Moreover,
as well as piling up an increasingly impressive body of facts and ¬gures,
50 This contrasts with the instability and disorder which, as I mentioned above, were probably more
characteristic of Nerva™s principate.
51 At the beginning of Aq. 3, Frontinus makes clear his intention not to miss out anything ˜that relates
to an understanding of the entire subject™.
52 Aq. 2: ˜I have gathered together into this account everything that I could ¬nd that relates to the
whole topic, and have arranged it in order and turned it into one body of material (in ordinem et
velut corpus diducta)™.
¨
192 a lic e k on ig
each of these successive sections brings the city™s water nearer and nearer to
its points of delivery. As I have already explained, Frontinus™ ¬rst ˜map™ (On
aqueducts 4“16) begins in the distant past not long after Rome™s founding,
and as it traces the construction of each aqueduct it charts the distance
which it travels from outside to inside the city. The second (On aqueducts
18“22) then provides more details on the various courses taken within the
city; and, as we have already seen, Frontinus organises the ¬‚ow of his
list of accounting discrepancies likewise from outside the city inwards,
in the direction of reservoirs and distribution centres (On aqueducts 65“
76). Finally, the data presented at On aqueducts 78“86 eventually ends up
at public buildings, private residences, street fountains and the like. The
momentum of Frontinus™ entire text (as well as of individual sections), in
other words, is organised in such a way as to mirror the ¬‚ow of water into
and through Rome to its individual inhabitants, and this narrative current
suggests a certain amount of mastery not just within but also beyond the
con¬nes of his text.
For just as the textual control which he demonstrates in sections like
On aqueducts 39“63 is suggestive of Frontinus™ actual ability to control
and address real errors and abuses, so his on-page ˜induction™ of hydraulic
data from outside Rome to its heart places Frontinus himself at the city™s
centre. Some time after Frontinus has set out the network™s distribution
¬gures he provides us with yet another carefully organised list, this time of
people, not facts and ¬gures: at On aqueducts 98, he explains that Marcus
Agrippa was Rome™s ¬rst ever Curator aquarum, and then (a few chapters on)
recounts the names of all successive incumbents of the post in chronological
order, ending the list at the present day with himself.53 The history of
Rome™s aqueduct network therefore does not end at On aqueducts 15, when
Frontinus has ¬nished telling the story of its build-up, but continues into
the rest of the text and eventually climaxes with our author. Moreover,
in the section in which the history of their construction is narrated, each
aqueduct™s water reaches the city, as we have seen, but not its people; it is
only after Frontinus has spent time tackling fraud and incompetence that
he allows us to see water basins ¬lled and fountains suddenly gushing forth,
and this leaves us with the impression not simply that he is responsible for
increasing the volume of water supplied but even that it is only really under
his curatorship that any of Rome™s water arrives at its destination. Frontinus™
textual organisation, in other words, goes beyond the mere assertion of his
ability to manage and mend the aqueduct network; for topographical and

53 Aq. 102. This list is not, in fact, exhaustive “ several names seem to be missing.
Knowledge and power in Frontinus™ On aqueducts 193
chronological undercurrents combine to turn him into the hero everybody
has been waiting for.54 The pupil of his preface has become an undisputed
expert, and in the process he has claimed an enormous role for himself in
both the running and the history of the city of Rome.
Furthermore, Frontinus not only masters and orders hydraulic
knowledge; he withholds some from his readers. Right from the start of his
treatise, he confuses his readers about whether or not they should actually
be reading. On the one hand, his preface promises us a story about Rome,
its princeps and its principes viri, a story, indeed, that is potentially of interest
to all Roman citizens; on the other, and in the next breath, he insists that he
is its only (or at least primary) intended audience,55 and then proceeds to
underline its narrowly technical focus with a ˜contents page™ of sorts which
promises fact after fact and ¬gure after ¬gure.56 In his opening chapters, in
other words, he at once invites readers in and shuts them out, making his
text seem momentous and all-embracing one moment and dry and exclu-
sive the next; and this bewildering double message continues into the rest of
the treatise. He begins the section following his preface, for example, with
the words Ab urbe condita . . . , a phrase which recalls Livy™s monumental
history of Rome and thus prepares us for an equally weighty and inspir-
ing work;57 as we have seen, however, his account then slides relentlessly
into technical statistics, and these statistics become increasingly frequent
and specialised as he moves from history to topography and then into his
lengthy digression on gauges and pipe sizes. I pointed out earlier that we
learn of the value of that digression several chapters into it, when Frontinus
shows how water-men have altered several pipes™ sizes, but the danger is that
we might not get as far as ¬nding that out, for even before he embarks upon
his list of complex equations at On aqueducts 39“63 the material which he
is presenting is already of such a technical and specialised nature that it may
54 As Evans (1994) 58“61 points out, Frontinus goes out of his way on occasions to draw connections
between himself and Agrippa. As we have seen, he also insists that in between their curatorships the
management of Rome™s aqueduct network slipped into chaos, so in many ways he presents himself
as a second Agrippa, Nerva™s equivalent to Augustus™ right-hand man, who restores the water supply
to its Augustan glory. In addition, however, he is critical of several aqueduct builders at Aq. 4“16
(not least Augustus himself at Aq. 11), and this sets him up in competition not only with earlier
administrators but also with those who were responsible for bringing water to Rome in the ¬rst
place. The claims which he makes about overcoming fraud and discovering what almost amounts
to a whole new supply of water thus counter problems which his treatise suggests date back to the
earliest days of the network™s existence, not just the post-Agrippan era, and set Frontinus up as the
¬rst man in its history to tap its full potential.
55 Aq. 2: ˜In the case of my other books, which I have written after gaining ¬rst-hand experience and
practice, I looked to the needs of those who will follow me. This treatise, too, may be useful for my
successor, but it will be most useful for my own instruction and guidance.™
56 57 Aq. 4; on this point, see esp. DeLaine (1996) 122“3.
See the whole of Aq. 3.
¨
194 a lic e k on ig
well put many off.58 His persistent progression from prose into numbers of
an increasingly complex nature, in other words, relentlessly underlines the
narrow, technical focus of the On aqueducts at the expense potentially of its
wider appeal, and thus has the power to bewilder readers just as his preface
does, not only because they may not be able to follow all of his calculations
but also because they may end up wondering why they are trying.
Frontinus in fact acknowledges the possibility that some of his material
may be ˜dry™ and ˜dif¬cult™ in a passage which most commentators pass
over without really discussing. This is one of several transitional passages
where he concludes the preceding section and prepares for the next, and in
this case he is about to present us with the aqueduct network™s distribution
¬gures (On aqueducts 78“86). Just before he does, however, he offers his
readers a short cut through his text:
It remains to explain the distribution [of water] according to each aqueduct and
in each of the city™s districts. I realise that this account may seem not only dry but
also complex, but I will set it out in spite of that (though as brie¬‚y as I can) so
that my ˜administrative handbook™ will not have any gaps. But for those who are
satis¬ed with knowing the sum totals (summa), you may skip the details (leviora).
(Aq. 77)59
The irony here is that, although his readers may well be tired by now of
dry and complicated ˜details™, this is the very point in the text when they
may really be of interest “ for this is the point, as I have explained, when
water ¬nally reaches Rome™s inhabitants. Moreover, that water only does
so when ˜lump sums™ are broken down into minutiae, something which
the text itself underlines. For if one follows Frontinus™ advice and skips
straight to his summa, one learns nothing at all: the only summa in this
section occur at or towards the beginning of each chapter, before any water
is delivered to its destinations.60 On the other hand, if one does press on
and trawl through his leviora “ as readers must if they want to learn anything
from this section “ the narrative ¬‚ow of each chapter once again works in
harmony with the message being put across (that here ˜details™ are far more
important than ˜totals™), for it relentlessly works its way from broad brush
strokes (˜outside the city™, ˜inside the city™) to smaller sub-categories (˜in the
58 In spite of his assertions in his preface, it is wrong to assume that Frontinus was writing just “ if at
all “ for a specialist audience. His opening “ ˜from the foundation of the city™ “ at Aq. 4, for example,
suggests a more generally educated readership.
59 Rodgers (ed.) (2004) prints summam, not summa here. On this, and the translation of both summa(m)
and leviora, see below.
60 See the opening sentences of Aq. 78 and 79. In the previous section, the ˜sum total™ of quinariae
which Frontinus has recovered is the climax of his account; here, however, the ˜sum total™ (14018
quinariae) is only the starting point of the discussion that follows.
Knowledge and power in Frontinus™ On aqueducts 195
name of Caesar™, ˜for private use™, ˜for public use™), and then on again to
subdivisions of the last of those subcategories:
So, of the 14018 quinariae which we set down as being the total number discharged
from all the aqueducts together, only ¬ve are distributed by the Appia outside the
city . . . The remaining 699 were distributed inside the city, through the second,
eighth, ninth, eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth regions into twenty
reservoirs. Of these, 151 quinariae are distributed in the name of Caesar, 194 to
private parties, and 354 for public use. Of the last category, four quinariae went
to one camp, 123 quinariae went to fourteen public works, two quinariae were
delivered to one fountain, and 226 quinariae went to 92 water basins. (Aq. 79)
The text itself, in other words, is busy fragmenting totals and subtotals into
increasingly smaller fractions, underlining the point that in this section
above all it is the ˜details™ which are the goal.61
Even though Frontinus explicitly invites us to overlook them, then, his
treatise shows vividly what we would miss if we were to take his short cut:
in theory the most vital information which the On aqueducts contains. And
yet there is another, even greater, irony in this, for if we do struggle through
and get to the end of this section we discover that the very ¬gures which
we have just decided were worth tracing to their destinations are already
out of date. Frontinus hints at this when he sums up On aqueducts 78“86
with the phrase ˜this is the volume of water which was calculated up to the
time of Nerva, and this is how it was distributed™,62 but it is at the end of
the next chapter where he really comes clean, when he explains:
It does not escape me that an explanation of the new distribution ¬gures has not
yet been provided; but I will add this when I have done the sums; for it must
be understood that these cannot be published until they have been added up.
(Aq. 88)
What he initially implies are the magni¬cent results of his anti-corruption
efforts of On aqueducts 65“76, then, turn out to be nothing of the sort;
for instead of presenting us at On aqueducts 78“86 with the ˜new supply™
whose ˜discovery™ he has just been celebrating, he distributes only the old,
incomplete quantities based on the faulty records. As we have seen, he
appears all the way through the On aqueducts to be sharing all of his
knowledge with us, often with mind-numbing thoroughness; and he goes
out of his way in this particular section also to share the glory of his

61 Indeed, Aq. 79“86 are themselves subdivisions of Aq. 78, which sets out the discharge ¬gures ˜outside
the city™, ˜inside the city™ and so on for the aqueduct network as a whole before breaking them down
for each aqueduct individually.
62 Aq. 87.
¨
196 a lic e k on ig
¬ndings with his ˜colleague™ and emperor. However, it is he in the end who
ultimately ˜skips over™ details “ the very details which his entire treatise has
been working up to; we, the readers, do not even ¬nd out the revised ˜sum
totals™, for he withholds even them from us. Having seen him ¬ghting error
and fraud right from start, we could in fact be forgiven for feeling cheated
ourselves at the culmination of his account.
So, at the end of his ¬fth and climactic set of data, Frontinus™ On aque-
ducts suddenly becomes more exclusive than ever, for what we learn above all
is that Frontinus is still the only person fully in the know; indeed, although
he claims that Nerva is ultimately responsible for the great improvements in
Rome™s atmosphere and waters, in his treatise it is he who holds the key, it is
Frontinus alone who has the information at his ¬ngertips which will make
the city clean again and bring health and safety to its people, information
which he refuses to share. Thus far, I have talked about the way in which
Frontinus models himself on his emperor, but in many ways his On aque-
ducts models Nerva on himself, for his descriptions of his emperor always
come second, after he has set out his own qualities, and so it is Nerva who
appears to be copying him, not only in his characteristics but even in his
concern for Rome™s salubritas and securitas.63 As well as watching Frontinus
make the post of Curator aquarum seem remarkably similar to the role of
emperor, therefore, we almost see Nerva striving to keep up with his Cura-
tor, and at this point in his text Frontinus leaves him behind. For in spite
of the sense of partnership, and even leadership, which Frontinus concedes
at On aqueducts 87“93, his withholding of crucial information at the last
minute gives the lie to both, turning his emperor into a ¬gurehead who may
take the credit but not the real authority behind these improvements. This
takes us back to the second paragraph of his preface, where Frontinus wor-
ried about the loss of authority that might result from a manager knowing
less about his business than his assistants; indeed, what we perhaps see here
is the relationship between knowledge and control suggested in his intro-
duction being played out very much to Frontinus™ advantage. Frontinus™
discovering and presentation of knowledge not only empowers himself but
potentially disempowers both his readers and his princeps.64 We are faced,
then, with a text which seems at once supportive and challenging; and it
63 It is long after Frontinus mentions that he, as Curator Aquarum, is concerned with ˜the health and
safety of the city™ that we see Nerva taking an active interest in both (at Aq. 87“93).
64 DeLaine and Evans both acknowledge Frontinus™ tendency towards self-promotion (DeLaine par-
ticularly so), but they both suggest that this is entirely compatible with a supportive attitude towards
his emperor (see esp. DeLaine (1996) 129 and Evans (1994) 57“63). I am arguing otherwise “ that he
empowers himself so much through his organisation of knowledge within the text that he diminishes
the authority of his emperor.
Knowledge and power in Frontinus™ On aqueducts 197
becomes more complex still as cracks begin to appear in the control which
Frontinus™ knowledge enables him to claim for himself.

calib rating knowle dg e a nd we i g hi n g up power
When Frontinus suggests at On aqueducts 77 that those who are struggling
to keep up or stay awake might consider skipping his ˜leviora™, he uses
vocabulary which carries intriguing value connotations. Even if Rodgers is
right to print ˜summam™ (meaning numerical ˜sum total™) at On aqueducts
77 instead of the more suggestive ˜summa™ (meaning ˜the most important
things™),65 Frontinus™ choice of the word ˜leviora™ here encourages us to
compare it with the adjective ˜summus™ as well as the noun which derives
from it, for its primary meaning “ ˜lighter™ or ˜less consequential™ “ has
more in common with the value-laden superlative than with its mathemat-
ical counterpart. Though ˜summam™ might prompt us to translate ˜leviora™
as numerical ˜details™, in other words, we must be aware that ˜leviora™ itself
pushes us towards more subjective interpretations of both words, interpre-
tations which are further complicated if we recall another author™s use of
the same word in a near-contemporary text.
Just a quick glance at Pliny the Elder™s Natural history is enough to impress
the reader with its enormous scale. At times in his preface, however, he plays
its dimensions down: he begins by quoting Catullus™ own jest on the size
and signi¬cance of his poetry (˜For you always used to think my tri¬‚es were
worth something™),66 playfully suggesting that his huge compendium is
itself a mere tri¬‚e, and then goes on to describe it more explicitly as ˜rather
light-weight™ (levior):
My audacity has reached such a height that I have dedicated these slim volumes of
rather inconsequential work (levioris operae) to you. (Plin. HN pr.12.)
His reasons for so summing it up are that his compilation ˜does not accom-
modate any talent™: it is not entertaining, it contains no digressions, no
speeches, no ˜interesting happenings™; in fact, he states outright (with
tongue very much in cheek), his subject matter is ˜sterile™.67 He uses ˜levioris™
ironically, in other words, contrasting his work with publications which are
˜pleasant™ (iucundus) and ˜charming™ (blandus), and setting the Natural his-
tory up as ˜lighter™, ˜more inconsequential™, because it is not the type of

65 McElwain (ed.) (1925) and Kunderewicz (ed.) (1973) both print ˜summa™.
66 Catull. 1.3“4: ˜namque tu solebas / nugas esse aliquid meas putare™. See Plin. HN pr.1 for the
quotation.
67 Plin. HN pr.13.
¨
198 a lic e k on ig
text which tends to appeal to Roman readers. For having thus apparently
belittled his work, he soon makes it clear that he values ˜useful™ texts over
˜entertaining™ ones (˜I myself feel that there is a special place in learning
for those who have opted for utility, in spite of the dif¬culties, instead of
popularity through giving pleasure™),68 and so ˜levioris™ morphs from being
a negative apology into a positive claim. Pliny thus teases us with the possi-
bility that his encyclopedia may be ˜tri¬‚ing™, but goes on to hint at precisely
the opposite.
Writing several years later than both Pliny and Frontinus, Tacitus also
exploits the language of ˜tri¬‚es™ to weigh up the import of his Annals. In
fact he does so at a crucial moment in his text, for he embarks upon a
discussion of the potential ˜lightness™ (levitas) of his work at Annals IV, 32,
a passage which is widely recognised as his ˜second preface™:
˜I am well aware that much of what I have narrated and am about to narrate may
seem rather tri¬‚ing (parva) and not worth recording (levia memoratu); but no one
should compare my history with the writings of those who have written about
the Roman people™s ancient past. Their subject included huge (ingentia) wars, the
overthrow of cities, kings driven out and captured . . . However, it will not be
entirely pointless (sine usu) to look closely at matters which may seem tri¬‚ing
(levia) at ¬rst sight, for out of them often come the beginnings of momentous
happenings (magnarum rerum).™ (Tac. Ann. 4.32.)
His emphasis here is more on the nature of his subject matter than his
writing: his work is ˜inglorious™, he explains, because it re¬‚ects the less
than momentous times which it describes. That does not stop it from
being ˜useful™, however, for as he goes on to indicate ˜those things which
seem tri¬‚ing at ¬rst view™ (and therefore also his own writing) are sometimes
more consequential than they might seem. Tacitus thus contrasts ˜levis™ ¬rst
with ingens (˜huge™) and then with magnus (˜great™) to two different ends,
for he succeeds both in denigrating the period (and particularly Tiberius™
principate, the subject of Annals IV) and also in playing up the potential
signi¬cance of his work. In different ways, in other words, both he and Pliny
tease out the language of levitas in order to prompt us to weigh up the value
of their writing, and in order to insist, in the end, on its importance.
Frontinus could not have read Tacitus™ Annals, but he may have read “
or at least known about “ the preface to Pliny™s Natural History, and he
too toys with the comparative in a way which must prompt his readers
to meditate on “ and perhaps be persuaded of “ the value of his own
material, though in his case, in my view, questions remain about some
68 Plin. HN pr.16.
Knowledge and power in Frontinus™ On aqueducts 199
of its relevance. As we have seen, for much of his text he insists on the
vital importance (the summus-ness) of what he provocatively describes at
On aqueducts 77 as ˜less consequential™ facts, on the necessity of having an
intimate knowledge of every pipe and gauge of the water-supply system,
and this is very much in keeping with the ironic way in which both Pliny
and Tacitus play with levis/levior. We have also seen him manage and
order all of that data impressively; but there is also a sense on occasions
that the volume has got a little out of hand, that we have an over¬‚ow
of information, even that some of it is super¬‚uous. I noted above that
one impressive feature of the end of his digression on pipe gauges is that
the list which he presents at On aqueducts 39“63 does not miss a single
¬stula out; this in itself might end up worrying us, however, for ten of the
twenty-¬ve pipes whose dimensions he gives are ˜no longer in use™, a point
which Frontinus drives home by repeating that very phrase (in usu non est)
until it becomes almost a refrain.69 In the process of demonstrating his

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