Magazine article The Spectator

Hadrian on the Somerset Floods

Magazine article The Spectator

Hadrian on the Somerset Floods

Article excerpt

Since the Somerset Levels are a flood plain, nature will flood it. Romans had no problems with that.

Much of Rome was lowlying and pretty marshy. The main drain - the cloaca maxima, only incidentally a sewer as well - was constructed early in Rome's history to make the forum inhabitable. The 250-milelong Tiber flooded every four or five years, with a big one every 25 years or so, not helped if water backed up from the sea. Flood plains like the Campus Martius were often deep in water.

Julius Caesar would have diverted the Tiber away from Rome, behind the Vatican.

After a nasty inundation of the city in ad 15, the emperor Tiberius established a quango to consider the matter. It suggested diverting lakes and rivers upstream.

The towns affected by this - Florence and others - argued that this would result in them being flooded; nature should not be tampered with; the majestic river-god Tiber would feel insulted 'deprived of all his tributaries'. …

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