Category Water Engineering in Ancient Civilizations. 5,000 Years of History

Chronological Table

[1] Sanlaville (1996).

[2] For a recent synthesis of the birth of agriculture and the Neolithic revolution, see the book of the pre­historian and archaeologist Jacques Cauvin, Naissance des divinites, naissance de l’agriculture, la revo­lution des symbols au Neolithique, revised in 1996.

[3] Some have proposed that population pressure explains the exodus which clearly accompanied the Neolithic spread (each generation seems to have migrated 20 kilometers or so). But according to Jacques Cauvin, this explanation is inadequate; he sees in addition a profound change of mentality, responding to the call of the “new frontier”.

[4] According to Geyer and Besanfon (1997), the Euphrates was in a sedimentation phase until the VIIth millennium BC, having a braided morphology which favored early seasonal, non-irrigated agriculture. From the VIth millennium BC, the river entered a new phase of erosion of its bed into its own alluvia. The terraces that were formed as a consequence, protected from flooding a dozen or so meters above the riverbed, became favorable to permanent settlements. Irrigation then became necessary.

[5] Cauvin (1969), p. 239. Evidence of such drainage may also have been observed at Bouqras.

[6] See for example Huot (1994), describing the explorations performed by the American archaeologist John Oates in 1967-68.

[7] See reference books like Roux (Ancient Iraq, Allen & Unwin, 1964); Oates (Babylon, Thames & Hudson, 1986).

[8] This is from a tablet that also carries the very first account of the Flood. The tablet is from the Nipur collection at the University Museum of Philadelphia; the translation was published in 1914 by A. Poebel (Kramer, History Begins at Sumer, Chapter 23).

[9] Balancing device making it possible to use manpower to lift water for irrigation of fields; see Figure 2.4 in the following chapter.

[10] This account, called Royal Chronicle of Lagash, is thought to be somewhat satirical. It probably dates from the middle of the 2nd millennium BC. Livius, Articles on Ancient History, http://www. livius. org/cg-cm/chronicles/cm/lagash. html.

[11] Extract of a poem entitled “The Feats and Exploits of Ninurta” (Kramer, 1961, Chapt. 3).

[12] Kramer, History Begins at Sumer, Chapt. 23.

[13] The Epic of Gilgamesh, Translation of Timothy R.(Wolf) Carnahan http ://www. ancienttexts. org/index. html.

[14] Contenau (1927), Volume 3, p. 1507; Roux (1964), Chapter 7.

[15] A 1977 investigation in the northeast of Afghanistan uncovered ceramic remnants of the Indus civi­lization: see Lyonnet (1981).

[16] This view reflects discoveries by Russian archaeologists in recent decades. See Kohl (1984), Masson (1992), Sarianidi (1992).

[17] Quote from the historian Sima Qian, who lived about 100 BC, Sima Qian, Shi Ji 29, transl Burton Watson.

[18] The China scholar Marcel Granet has collected the legends and traditions of the ancient Chinese writ­ings. For the legend of Yu the Great, see “Danses et legends de la Chine ancienne”, first published in 1926 (pages 244 and 468 in the re-publication of 1994).

[19] Papyrus of Ani; Egyptian Book of the Dead Translated by E. A. Wallis Budge http://www. sas. upenn. edu/African_Studies/Books/Papyrus_Ani. html.

[20] Lalouette (1984), II, Chapt. 3, adapted.

[21] Text engraved in a tomb at Amarna, after Lalouette (1984), II, Chapt. 4, adapted.

[22] After Jean-Marie Durand (1998), Documents epistolaires du palais de Mari, II, 806.

[23] Durand (1998), II, 81.

[24] Stordeur (1989); Cauvin (1997), Chapt. 16, p. 239; we have adopted the dating indicated by Cauvin, recently recalibrated.

[25] After Michaael Janssen (1988).

[26] Margueron (1991), Volume II, p. 29.

[27] Vallet (1997).

[28] Rachet (1993).

[29] De Graeve (1981), Chapt. 4, F; Roaf (1990).

[30] Eridu, State Org. of Antiques and Herritage, Baghdad, 1982.

[31] The Bahrain and Oman archaeological sites of the 3d millennium BC have been partially explored (Cleziou, 1987). It has been established that the copper used in lower Mesopotamia in this period came from the mines of the mountains of Oman. At the eastern extremity of the peninsula have been found remnants of tar used to waterproof seagoing vessels, as well as objects characteristic of the Indus civi­lization. The tasty dates of Dilmun are celebrated in Sumerian texts. Dilmun had numerous artesian wells and luxuriant palm groves.

[32] Casson (1971).

[33] The funeral chapel (mastaba) of the tomb of Akhethetep, on display at the Louvre museum, dates from 2400 BC and contains engravings of large sailing vessels with two masts, allowing a distribution of the wind force on the hull.

[34] Tablet of the Lagash Dynasty (2570 – 2340 BC), somewhat deteriorated. From Sollberger and Kupper (1971), p. 44.

[35] Kramer (1986), Chap 6. To commemorate his victory over Umma, Eannatum had the famous “stela (stone monument) of the Vultures” engraved; it can be seen in the Louvre museum.

[36] Prologue adapted from Finet (1996). Laws 53 and 56 from the Translation of L. W. King (1910) Edited by Richard Hooker http://www. wsu. edu:8080/~dee/MESO/CODE. HTM . The proclamation of year 33 of the reign is from Renger (1990), from Driver and Miles, Babylonian Laws

[37] See Steinkeller (1988) for a description of the nag-kuds according to Sumerian texts, also Van Soldt (1988) for the equivalent natbaku from a later date. The concept seemed to last more than a thousand years.

[38] after a Sumerian text called “The Farmer’s Almanac” (Kramer, 1986, Chapter 11).

[39] Herodotus, The History, Translation of David Grene, book I, 193.

[40] after Bonneau (1993), p. 94.

[41] Xenophon, Anabasis, Book II, Chapter IV, 13, Translation of C. Brownson.

[42] Strabon, Geography, (Translation of F. Lasserre), Les Belles Lettres, 1981, 16, 9-10, adapted.

On the other hand it seems now to have been established that contrary to certain legends, there is not a true dam constructed on the Tigris before the period of the Persian Empire.

[43] See Schnitter (1994).

[44] law No. 70, from the edition of Andre Finet (1996).

[45] Xenophon, Anabasis, Book I, Chapter VII, 14, Translation of C. Brownson.

[46] Strabon, Geography, 16, 10 (Translation of F. Lasserre), Les Belles Lettres, 1981, adapted.

[47] From Sollberger and Kupper (1971), “Royal Sumerian and Akkadian Inscriptions”. For the works of the kings of Larsa, see Renger (1990) and Charpin (2002).

[48] Herodotus, The History, book I, 184-186, Translation of David Grene.

[49] Ibid., book I, 191.

18 Inscription on a clay cylinder called “the cylinder of Babylon”; Translation of Lecoq (1997), Chapter


[52] Helms (1987 a-b).

[53] Helms (1987 b).

[54] Helms (1987b).

[55] Ibid.

[56] Margueron (2004).

[57] Margueron (2003).

[58] J.-M. Durant, Documents epistolaires du palais de Mari I, (1997), doc. 157-159, adapted.

[59] Inscription on the head of a clay spike, found in the Mari palace, adapted from Sollberger and Kupper (1971).

[60] Margueron (1988), Geyer (1990), Monchabert (1990), Margueron (1991), Calvet and Geyer (1992).

[61] Calvet and Geyer (1992), Chapter 9. This dam, built with limestone blocks cemented with a chalk – based mortar, could be a Hellenistic or Roman reconstruction, given the proximity of Doura Europos, of a structure from Mari or even from an earlier time, for there is a very ancient inhabited site here.

[62] Akkadian texts engraved in cuneiform writing on tablets of baked clay; this evidence dates from the reign of Zimri-Lim, one of the Amorite successors of Yahdun-Lim, who reigned 14 years and was the last king of Mari.

[63] Durand (1998), II, 793. This document suggests that the canal Isim-Yahdun Lim extends to Terqa, a hypothesis that we have adopted in Figure 2.11.

[64] Ibid., II, 784.

32 Durand (1998), II, 796.

33 Ibid., II, 804.

34 Ibid., II, 805.

[66] cit. after Lafont (1991); see also Durand (1998), II, 813. If indeed it is of the Mari canal that one speaks here, it must have extended to Der. The wadi Der is called Balih, from the name of one of the major tributaries of the Euphrates, which seems to be a common practice in usage.

[67] Geyer (1990).

[68] Jean-Claude Margueron is a strong proponent of the hypothesis of an ancient navigation canal (see his various publications). Prior to the era of Zimri Lim, from which the texts cited herein are drawn, a message sent by a king of upper Mesopotamia, whose domains include Mari and its region, is of inter­est. The message asks that precious wood coming from Qatna in Syria, coming down the Euphhrates to Suprum, “be brought upstream by boat to Saggaratum, from there (again by boat) to Qattunan (further up the Khabur). From there, the wood can be transported on carts…” (Durand, letter No. 187). J. C. Margueron brought this letter to my attention. The importance that it gives to Suprum as a transfer port, and to Saggaratum as a stopover, is quite consistent with the notion of a grand navigation canal.

[69] Calvet and Geyer (1992), chapt. 2.

[70] This name does not have great significance; the Greeks tended to attribute numerous ancient works to the legendary Semiramis.

[71] “Etapes de Parthie”, cited from Calvet and Geyer.

[72] Callot (1983).

[73] Contenau (1927), Volume 3, p. 1373.

[74] Ghirshman, 1968.

[75] Inscription of Sennacherib, cited from Jacobsen and Lloyd (1935).

[76] See Jacobsen and Lloyd (1935) for a report of field studies on the dam and the inscriptions of Bavian and the aqueduct of Jerman; and Schnitter (1994) for details of the weir of Ajileh.

[77] A stela mentions Rusa without further note. According to Paul Zimansky (1985), the king Rusa II (680 – 654 BC) deserves credit for this project.

[78] Regarding supply of water from the Tushpa and Rusahinili, see Garbrecht (1980, 1988).

[79] This title could be contested by the Homs dam in Syria that is attributed by some to the Egyptians, but that probably dates from the Roman occupation. We come back to this in Chapter 7.

[80] This process is known to us through the quite complete study of Henri Goblot (1979).

Modern studies tend to disagree with his belief that the qanats originated in Urartu.

[81] Account of the eighth campaign of Sargon II against Rusa I, tablet conserved in the Louvre museum, citation after Goblot (1979).

[82] Ctesias, History of the Persians, 13, adapted from the Translation of J. Auberger. Later, Polybius mentions even more clearly the “underground canals” of this region (extract cited in Chapter 7).

[83] Strabon, Geography, (Translation of F. Lasserre), Les Belles Lettres, 1981, adapted.

[84] Bader, Gaibov, Gubaev, and Koshelenko (1996);Gaibov and Kochelenko (2002): according to these authors, irrigation of the Merv oasis began as early as 2100 BC.

[85] This exploration was led by Jean-Claude Gardin, with the participation of P. Gentelle and B. Lyonnet. For the layout of the canals, see Gentelle (1989); for a synthesis of the hydraulic works, with dating of the canals revised from analysis of ceramics, see Gardin (1998).

[86] We nevertheless discuss in this chapter certain projects of the Ptolemites, the successors of Alexander and sovereigns of Greek culture, when these projects are continuations of work of the Pharaonic era.

[87] This account, called the “stela of famine”, relates the difficult years that were said to have occurred under the reign of Djoser, 2nd Pharaoh of the 3rd Dynasty (about 2600 BC). The stela was engraved after the fact, under the Ptolemites, but it is likely the retranscription of a much older text or tradition. Translation by Lichtheim, http://www. touregypt. net/faminestele. htm.

[88] Geography, book XVII, 1,3, Translation of Pascal Charvet.

[89] See Daniele Bonneau (1986), Gunther Garbrecht (1987), and the commentaries of Jean Yoyotte and Pascal Charvet (1997) in “The Voyage to Egypt” of Strabo.

[90] slabs of black stone, a fragment of which can be seen in the Cairo museum; the main slab, the “Palermo Stone”, is in that city’s museum (see for example Roccati, 1982).

[91] Geography, book XVII, 1, 48, Translation of Pascal Charvet.

[92] Macehead said to be of Khashkemoui, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

[93] Ibid., Book 2, 99.

[94] According to Nicolas Grimal (1992).

[95] Kerisel (1999).

[96] the Arabs have given this name to the remains of the works; it means “dam of the nonbelievers”

[97] Gunther Garbrecht (1985) gives a detailed account of the conclusions of this exploration.

[98] Funeral inscription of prince Ouni (2400 – 2350 BC), from Claire Lalouette (1984), I.

[99] Grimal (1988), Chapter 6.

[100] Goyon (1986).

[101] Herodotus, The History, book II, 29, Translation of David Grene.

[102] citation from Jean Vercoutter (1991).

[103] Mirgissa was explored between 1962 and 1968 by a French expedition directed by Jean Vercoutter. For an overview, see Vercoutter (1991). For navigation between Aswan and Semna, see Goyon (1986).

[104] Geography, book XVII, 1, 35, Translations of Pascal Charvet, adapted.

[105] 10 cm per century, according to Butzer (1998). The normal level of the Nile at the latitude of Fayoum, today at an elevation of +24 m, was probably about +20 m at the beginning of the IInd millen­nium BC.

[106] These data are from the geological studies synthesized and analyzed by Butzer (1997). The eleva­tion of -2 m reached around 2000 BC is derived from the geological work of Gardener and Caton – Thomson (1929), cited by Garbrecht (1996). Annual evaporation in this region is estimated at 1.7 m; the lake level could therefore fall some 20 m in a dozen years.

[107] Butzer (1998).

[108] Grimal (1988), Chapter 7.

[109] see the synthesis of Gunter Garbrecht (1996).

[110] and even at +9.7 m for the temple of Medinet Madi, according to Butzer (1998).

[111] Butzer (1998).

[112] Herodotus, The History, Book 2, 149, Translation of David Grene.

[113] Regarding the fact that the “lake of Moeris”, that is to say the entire depression, was excavated arti­ficially, it is clear that our author’s sources were not straightforward with him. See for example the notes of Jean Yoyotte in his edition of Strabo’s The voyage in Egypt, page 142.

[114] Garbrecht and Jarritz (1992). See also Garbrecht (1996).

[115] citation after Redmount (1995).

[116] The classical authors attribute many things to “Sesotris”, as they do to Semiramis of Mesopotamia.

[117] This zone is unoccupied in the Middle and New Empires, as attested to by Jean Yoyotte (see his note 266 in Strabo’s Travels in Egypt (Le voyage en Egypt); see also Carol Redmount, 1995). This author raises the possibility of a canal to Tell el-Rebatah built in the New Empire; the canal would be more to the north, and more modest, than the actual canal of the two seas. The text of Linant de Bellfonds nice­ly describes the remains of two distinct canals to the west of this site, one on the north flank of the wadi Tumilat valley, the other on its south flank.

[118] See the synthesis of C. A. Redmount (1995).

[119] Grimal (1998), Chapter 14.

[120] Herodotus, The History, book II, 158, Translation of David Grene

[121] Soule (1997), II, 2.

[122] Stela of Chalouf, after Pierre Lecoq.

[123] Bibliotheque historique, book I, 33, 11.

[124] Geography, XVII, 25, Translation of Pascal Charvet, adapted.

[125] We will see in chapter 9 that it is not until the 10th century AD that a true gated lock appears, in China.

[126] Redmount (1995); Mayerson (1996).

[127] after Henri Goblot (1979).

[128] Everyone knows the legend of the Queen of Sheba who is said to have visited king Solomon at Jerusalem. In reality, there is no historical evidence of this queen. Regarding Arabia Felix, the reader can consult, for example, the articles of Jaqueline Pirenne (1979) or the work of Jean-Franfois Breton (1998).

[129] Breton (1998), p. 28. See also Breton, Arramond, Coque-Delhuile and Gentelle (1988) for the wadi Bayhan; also Coque-Delhuile (2001). The earliest settlements at Shabwa date from 1900 – 1800 BC.

[130] after C. Robin (1992), “Inventory of sudarabic inscriptions, I”, Haram 2. The reference to the god Matabnatiyan indicates that this text dates from before the 2nd century BC.

[131] Robin (1992), Haram 49.

[132] citation from Jacqueline Pirenne (1982). The inscription of easement has also been found: “Karib’Il Bayyin reserved (for water flow) around the city of Nasq to its boundaries: 60 sawahit (?)”

[133] Robin (1992), Haram 10. The date of this inscription is doubtless from between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD.

[134] Breton (1998), p. 64.

[135] Ryckmans (1979); Breton (1998), p. 34

[136] sourate 34, verses 15 and 16.

[137] See for example Rachet (1993) for the prehellenistic period.

[138] Sporting games (or rituals) using the bull are practiced by the Minoans in many-roomed palaces that less civilized people might have taken to be frightening labyrinths. But in their frescoes, the Minoans seem rather to express the joy of living.

[139] see J. W. Graham (1987), p. 219-221; N. Platon (1988), volume 1, pa. 350-410.

[140] This is the building that Arthur Evans calls the caravanserai.

[141] according to Rodney Castleden (1990), p. 73.

[142] City situated near the northeast extremity of Crete, to the north of Zakro.

[143] Akrotiri was uncovered in 1967 by Spiridon Marinatos. Thera is the ancient name of Santorin.

[144] after Sylvie Muller (1996, 1997).

[145] Castleden (1998).

[146] Plato, Critias, 118 Translated by Benjamin Jowett http://classics. mit. edu/Plato/critias. html

[147] Homer, Iliad, XXI, 250, translated by Samuel Butler http://darkwing. uoregon. edu/~joelja/iliad. html#b21

[148] Taylour (1983), Chapter 5.

[149] Ibid.; Nicolas Platon (1988), volume 2, pp. 277-292.

[150] This reconstitution is due to E. Zangger. Our source is the article of C. W. Shelmerdine (1997).

[151] Strabo, Geography, IX, 2, 16, Translation of H. C. Hamilton, Esq., W. Falconer, M. A. http://www. perseus. tufts. edu.

[152] Strabon, IX, 2, 40, Translation of R. Baladie, adapted.

[153] see Guy Rachet (1993), pages 71 and 470, and Nicholas J. Schnitter (1994), pages 11-13. The reports of both these authors are based on the work directed in the 1980’s by J. Knauss, University of Munich. The studies show that, contrary to what had been thought beforehand, lake Copais had never been completely drained by the Mynians.

[154] All these details are known thanks to the work of a German team, directed by Eberhard Zangger, who studied the site between 1984 and 1988 (Zangger, 1994).

[155] The structural details of the dam are provided by Schnitter (1994), from an early study of the dam by Balcer.

[156] from Praxitelis Argyropoulos (1979). See also Trevor Hodge (1995), Chapter 1.

[157] Numerous works mention the tunnel of Samos; among them, see Jacques Bonnin (1984), Chapter 9; Trevor Hodge (1995), Chapter 1.

[158] Herodotus, The History of Herodotus, III, 60, Translation of George Rawlinson http://classics. mit. edu/Herodotus/history. html

[159] Ibid., VII, 23.

[160] Ibid., VII, 128-130.

[161] Aristotle, Physics, VIII, III, Translated by R. P. Hardie and R. K. Gaye http://classics. mit. edu/Aristotle/physics.8.viii. html.

[162] Ibid., IV, VIII

[163] See Dickinson (1994).

[164] From the Translation of Pascal Charvet, after Strabo, The journey to Egypt commented by Jean Yoyotte (1997).

[165] Our principal general sources concerning the Library and Museum of Alexandria are the works of Geoffrey Lloyd (1973), Luciano Canfora (1986) and the article of Anita Measson (1994).

[166] Sometimes acquisition by force: on transiting boats stories were told of books that were confiscated, only copies to be returned to the owners.

[167] But many fewer books: only the shortest of books could be contained in a single roll. This estimate is discussed in detail by Luciano Canfora (1986).

[168] We recall that Greek science had established that the earth was round in approximately the 6th centu­ry BC. The circumference obtained by Eratosthene was 250,000 stadia or 39,690 km, taking the stadi­um to be 157.5 m, compared to the modern accepted Figure of 40,009 km (Lloyd, 1973)

[169] Vitruvius, X, 7, 4.

[170] These hanging gardens are described by Strabo (Geography, XVI, 1, 5), but not by Herodotus who wrote during the period of the Achaemenid Persians. Thus it seems probable that they were not devel­oped until the Hellenistic period.

[171] A passage in the work of Philon may suggest hydraulic force to turn a lifting waterwheel (noria). But we know this work only through an Arabic transcription, and there is some doubt as to the authenticity of the passage (it could be an addition from the Islamic era, during which the use of hydraulic energy is widespread). We share this doubt. There is no evidence of the use of hydraulic force before the 1st cen­tury BC (see further on), and even during the era of Strabo’s voyage in Egypt (25 BC), there are no hydraulic machines on the Nile. His account is perfectly clear on this point (we cite an extract further on).

[172] Heron, “Pneumatics”, I, 16, cit. after Lloyd (1973).

[173] Note the dedication of Archimede’s treatise “The Method”: “Archimedes to Eratosthene, prosperi­ty! I earlier sent you certain theorems that I had discovered, giving you only the statements and invit­ing you to discover the proofs…” (Vol. III of Works of Archimedes, Edited in French by Les Belles Lettres, 1971, adapted).

[174] On Architecture, book X, 7, 1 – 3, adapted from the Translation of Louis Callebat.

[175] Of floating bodies, Translation of Charles Mugler.

[176] Here, in summary, is how this proposition is deduced from the initial postulate: if this were not the case for a liquid at rest, two points inside the liquid, situated on a sphere centered at the center of the earth would be compressed by different water heights above them, thus “the part that is the least compressed is displaced from its position by a more compressed part; it follows that the liquid cannot remain at rest.”

[177] The Roman engineer Vitruvius writes later, in book VIII of his treatise On Architecture (V, 3): “Perhaps those who have read the works of Archimedes will say that one cannot establish an exact level using water, since Archimedes teaches that a water surface is not a level plane, but a sphere having as its center the precise center of the terrestrial globe. But whether the water surface is planar or spheri­cal, if a horizontal straightedge is laid upon the surface of water in a gutter, then this straightedge, at its left and right extremities, necessarily is at the same distance above the water surface; if, on the other hand, the straightedge is laid on a slope, one end of it will be above the water while the other touches it.”

[178] Gunther Garbrecht (1983) gives an excellent overview. See also Trevor Hodge (1995).

[179] According to Gunther Garbrecht, many of these elements were secretly sold to collectors, but the three pipelines are quite visible at certain locations.

[180] 22 cm according to Gunther Garbrecht (1979), only 17.5 cm according to Trevor Hodge (1995). These dimensions are suppositional, no element of this conduit having been recovered. The exterior diameter of 30 cm is, on the other hand, well established on the basis of the diameter of holes in the blocks that supported the conduit.

[181] Several cities are given with the name of this queen, who was first married to Lysimachus, the king of Thrace.

[182] On a site that had perhaps already been used during the period of the Pharaohs: it is the site called “Head of Nekheb” in Figure 3.1.

[183] Citation from Fabienne Burkhalter (1992). See also Bonneau (1993).

[184] There were crocodiles in the region, and the ancient Egyptians venerated the sacred crocodiles there. This city is today called Medinet el-Fayoum.

[185] In effect, Claude Orrieux (1983) situated the “domain of the 10,000 aroures” between the altitudes +20 m and -10 m. Other studies have situated this elevation at -2 m (Garbrecht, 1996).

[186] One can consider that Apollonius served the king in an intermediate function, between that of a Finance Minister and Prime Minister, according to our references. He very closely followed the agri­cultural performance, this being the principal source of fiscal revenue.

[187] After Claude Orrieux, The papyrus of Zenon (1983), Chapter VI.

[188] Garbrecht (1996).

[189] Orrieux (1983), Chapter VI.

[190] Ibid., Chapter V.

[191] Strabo, The Geography of Strabo, William Heinemann Ltd., London, 1932, XVII, 1, 30, transl. Horace Leonaard Jones.

[192] Ibid., XVII, 1, 52.

[193] Amaseia is the native city of Strabo. The ancestors of Strabo participated in the dynastic unraveling of the kings of Pontus, and in the wars between the Mithridates and the Romans.

[194] Strabo, The Geography of Strabo, William Heinemann Ltd., London, 1932, XII, 3, 30, transl. Horace Leonard Jones.

[195] Greek Anthology, IX, 418 (Loeb ed. Vol. 3 p 233).

[196] Strabon, Geographic, XVI, 4, 21 (Translation of F. Lasserre), Les Belles Lettres, 1981, adapted

[197] Deletie and collaborators, 1995.

[198] After sources cited by Gilbert Argoux (1994).

[199] This type of pump is used as a fire pump, as well as a bilge pump, up until the beginning of the 20th century (Figure 5.6).

[200] Heron, Pneumatics, II, 11.

[201] Dioptra, cit. after Gunther Garbrecht (1987).

[202] Galien is born at Pergamon, studies at Smyrna, Corinth, and Alexandria, and then lives in Rome as a renowned doctor (Lloyd, 1973, Chapt. 9).

[203] In Egypt, due to the practice of embalming, human dissection is not taboo as it is in the Greek world. It is thus generally permitted at Alexandria, leading to numerous anatomical discoveries.

[204] Commentary on the Physics of Aristotle, 639, 30, adapted from the translation of Cohen and Drabkin, cit. after Lloyd (1973).

[205] Sartre (1991), p. 418.

[206] Archimedes, Philon of Byzantium and several others will be translated into Arabic. Certain of these works owe their survival to this translation.

[207] The reader can consult the work of Luciano Canfora (1986).

[208] See Goblot (1979), pp. 188-192.

[209] Keller (1976), p. 52-54, 274.

[210] Heurgon (1989), p. 170.

[211] Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, Book XXXVI, 24, Translation ed. John Bostock, M. D., F. R.S., H. T. Riley, Esq., B. A. http://www. perseus. tufts. edu/cgi-bin/ptext? lookup=Plin.+Nat.+toc

[212] Frontinus, Aqueducts of the city of Rome, IV-V, adapted from the translation of P. Grimal. We pres­ent this author further on.

[213] Frontinus, Aqueducts of the city of Rome, XXIII, adapted from the translation of P. Grimal.

[214] Vitruvius, On Architecture, VI, 1 and 2, translated by Joseph Gwilt, London: Priestley and Weale, 1826. http://penelope. uchicago. edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Vitruvius/8*.html (adapted)

[215] For water in Pompeii, see the two publications of Hans Eschebach (1983). Note that one does not find the distribution scheme described by Vitruvius in the castellum of Nimes, constructed in the mid­dle of the first century AD under the emperor Claudius (Figure 6.17).

[216] Frontinus, “The Aqueducts of Rome”, 16, Translation of Charles E. Bennett in the Loeb edition, 1925 http://penelope. uchicago. edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Frontinus/De_Aquis/text*.html

[217] Fabre, Fiches, Leveau, Paillet (1992).

[218] Leveau and Paillet (1983).

[219] Rakob (1979); Clamagiraud, Rais, Chahed, Guefrej, Smaoui (1990).

[220] Balty (1987).

[221] This is of course not the Hellenistic aqueduct of Mandradag (Chapter 5), but rather the Roman aque­duct of the Kaikos valley. It comes from the east; even though its elevation is high enough to supply only the lower quarters of the city, it transports a much larger quantity of water than the Hellenistic aque­duct.

[222] This indication is somewhat uncertain (5 cm/km?) It does not correspond to actual slopes in the aqueducts.

[223] Vitruvius, On Architecture, VIII, VI, 1 and 3, translated by Joseph Gwilt, London: Priestley and Weale, 1826. http://penelope. uchicago. edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Vitruvius/8*.html

[224] See for example Leveau (1979), Fabre, Fiche, Leveau, Paillet (1992).

[225] Vitruvius, On Architecture, VIII, VI, 5 and 6, translated by Joseph Gwilt, London: Priestley and Weale, 1826. http://penelope. uchicago. edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Vitruvius/8*.html

[226] See Fahlbusch, 1979, 1987.

[227] Frontinus, “The Aqueducts of Rome”, 18, Translation of Charles E. Bennett in the Loeb edition, 1925 http://penelope. uchicago. edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Frontinus/De_Aquis/text*.html

[228] Some authors mention that after the fire of Rome, Nero, to his credit, took a certain number of pos­itive measures making it possible to use the water in the aqueducts for fire fighting.

[229] Fahlbusch, 1987).

[230] From Frontinus and the commentaries of P. Grimal.

[231] Frontinus, “The Aqueducts of Rome”, 74-75, Translation of Charles E. Bennett in the Loeb edition, 1925 http://penelope. uchicago. edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Frontinus/De_Aquis/text*.html

[232] Pelletier (1983).

[233] The reader can consult the article of Marcel Bailhache (1979).

[234] Sources: Grenier (1960), Bailhache (1979), Burdy (1979, 1996), Jeancolas (1983), Pelletier (1983), Fabre et al (1992), Andrieu (1997), Andrieu and Cazal (1997), Ardhuin (1997), Jaccotey (1997), Lefebvre (1997), Provist and Lepretre (1997), Rigal (1997).

[235] One reference study, unfortunately disappeared, is that of Germain de Montauzan (1909). Here we have based our discussions primarily on the study of Louis Jeancolas (1977, published in 1983), on the synthesis of Jean Burdy (1979), and on the monograph of Jean Burdy on the Gier aqueduct.

[236] This is the “traditional” dating estimated by Germain de Montauzan; Jeancolas, based on the remains of a tomb that is said to have preceded the aqueduct, estimated that the aqueduct could date from the second part of the 2nd century AD. In this case, the aqueduct would be the most recent of the four.

[237] the water velocity is greater than that of the wavespeed. For more detail, see Chanson (2000).

[238] This is the hypothesis of Louis Jeancolas, from his observation of a piling of the Craponne aqueduct that is particularly reinforced, suggesting that it could have supported the structure at the junction of two aqueducts.

[239] ”Chagnon Stone”, discovered in 1887, visible under the playground of the Chagnon school. A sec­ond inscription, apparently identical, was discovered in 1996 along the main path of the aqueduct, but further downstream (Burdy, 1996).

[240] Difference in water level between the head tank and exit basin.

[241] These data have an unexplained anomaly. An elementary hydraulic calculation shows that the ratio of the head losses must be equal to the ratio of the lengths of the two parts of the double siphon, if the pipes are identical and of the same number.

[242] Our principal sources here are the article of Victor Lassalle (1979), conservator of the museum of Nimes, and the work of Guilhem Fabre, Jean-Luc Fiches, Philippe Leveau, and Jean-Louis Paillet (1992) who coordinated, from 1984 to 1990, a program of research on the aqueduct of Nimes and the Pont du Gard.

[243] This new date is that established by Fabre, Fiches, Leveau and Paillet (1992). Earlier, the aqueduct had been attributed to Agrippa, the son in law of Augustus, also presumed father of the first aqueduct of Lyon (around 19 BC). The Brevenne aqueduct is also attributed to the era of Claudius.

[244] The ancient writings refer to an elevation of 76 m for the tapping of the Eure fountain. We have adopted here the more recent estimate of Fabre et al. (1992), namely 72 m.

[245] It is probably to reduce the height of the Pont du Gard that the aqueduct’s slope is steeper upstream than downstream of it.

[246] It is about 150 km long; see Figure 6.32 below (Balty, 1987).

[247] Rakob (1979); Clamagirand, Rais, Chahed, Guefrej, Smaoui (1990).

[248] The bridge has disappeared, but the alignment of the arches of wadi Milliane is still well preserved

[249] Al-Idrissi (12th century), III, 2 Translation of Jaubert.

[250] Vitruvius, On Architecture, X, 5, 1 and 2, translated by Joseph Gwilt, London: Priestley and Weale, 1826. http://penelope. uchicago. edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Vitruvius/8*.html

[251] Although Vitruvius does not cite Archimedes in this context, he does very explicitly refer to Ctesibios, as shown by the extract that we cited in Chapter 5.

[252] See the notes of Louis Callebat in his edition of Vitruvius’ book X.

[253] See, for example, Jacques Bonnin (1984). See Viollet (2005) for more detail.

[254] Vitruvius, On Architecture, X, 9, 5 and 7, translated by Joseph Gwilt, London: Priestley and Weale, 1826. http://penelope. uchicago. edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Vitruvius/8*.html

[255] Pliny was born in the summer of 23 or 24 AD, and was, around 70 AD, in the Orient with Titus, to whom he dedicated his book, The Natural History, in 77 AD. He died in 79 AD during the eruption of Vesuvius, attempting to awaken the inhabitants of Pompei.

[256] Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, Book XVIII, 23, Translation ed. John Bostock, M. D., F. R.S., H. T. Riley, Esq., B. A. http://www. perseus. tufts. edu/cgi-bin/ptext? lookup=Plin.+Nat.+toc

[257] See the census of remains established by J.-P. Brun, in Brun and Borreani (1989), p. 308-309, or the census of Wilson (2002), Wikander (2000), or Viollet (2005).

[258] Scare (1995), p. 128; Wikander (2000).

[259] Hodge (1995).

[260] The first description comes from the discoverer of the site, Fernand Benoit, in 1935. We have used here the results of the more recent study of Sellin (1979) for the flour mill itself, and of Leveau (1995) for its water supply.

[261] The first studies of the site supposed that this distribution system was a triangular reservoir. Sellin showed that it was more likely two canals, laid out in the form of a “V”, supported on walls that are still visible today, conveying water into the headraces. We have adopted this hypothesis in Figure 6.24.

[262] Leveau (1995).

[263] Schnitter (1994), p. 59.

[264] Augusta-Boularot and Paillet (1997).

[265] Ibid., p. 60.

[266] Smith (1992); Schnitter (1994); Fernandez Ordonez (1984).

[267] Strabo, Geography, book III, 2, 10, Translation of H. C. Hamilton, Esq., W. Falconer, M. A. http://www. perseus. tufts. edu/cgibin/ptext? doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0239&query=head%3D %2319.

[268] Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, Book XXXIII, 21, Translation ed. John Bostock, M. D., F. R.S., H. T. Riley, Esq., B. A. http://www. perseus. tufts. edu/cgi-bin/ptext? lookup=Plin.+Nat.+toc

[269] Domergue (1986).

[270] Schnitter, 1994, p. 70.

[271] Goblot (1979), pp. 117-125.

[272] Inscription found at Timgad: opus aquae paludensis conquiriendae concludenaeque, citation after Goblot (1979).

[273] Sartre (1991), Chapter 5.

[274] Ibid., chap. 10; Bonneau (1993).

[275] Goblot (1979), p. 114.

[276] C. Scarre (1995), p. 77.

[277] Garbrecht (1991). See also Schnitter (1994), p. 74.

[278] Our sources for this dam of Homs are especially Calvet and Geyer (1992), Chapter 3, as well as Schnitter (1994), p. 76.

[279] This is the length indicated by Calvet and Geyer (1992), who thought the length of 2,000 m indicat­ed by other authors to be excessive.

[280] Strabon, Geography, XVI, 2, 19 (Translation of F. Lasserre), Les Belles Lettres, 1981, adapted.

[281] Goblot (1979), p. 130.

[282] Here again, our sources are essentially Calvet and Geyer (1992), Chapter 7, as well as Schnitter (1994).

[283] Sartre (1991), p. 55.

[284] Rome has a monopoly on the importation of Egyptian wheat, prior to the creation of Constantinople.

[285] Strabo, Geography, book V, 3, 5, Translation of H. C. Hamilton, Esq., W. Falconer, M. A. http ://www. perseus. tufts. edu/cgi-bin/ptext? doc=Perseus%3Atext%3 A1999.01.023 9&layout =&loc=5.3.1

[286] Le Gall (1981).

[287] Suetone, Claude, XX, 3 (cited after Redde, 1983).

[288] Santa Maria Scrinari (1983).

[289] Redde (1983).

[290] Le Gall (1981).

[291] It was the construction of the Rome airport that led to the discovery of the remnants of the port of Claudius (Santa Maria Scrinari, 1983). Traces of the concrete used to fill Caligula’s ship were found in the shell of the hull. The west breakwater is visible. The hexagonal basin of the port of Trajan, which was used as an irrigation storage basin in the 19th century, has been restored.

[292] Mayerson (1996).

[293] Sartre (1991), p. 230, after Suetone and Pausanias.

[294] This was a frequent argument in Antiquity. It was used at the time of the Pharaoh Necho in the con­text of the canal of two seas.

[295] For example, in the aqueduct of Nimes with a discharge of 66,000 m3/day, if one takes as a simpli­fication a constant slope of 0.38 m/km upstream of the Pont du Gard, and a smaller slope of 0.18 m/km between the bridge and the city of Nimes, one finds that the water depth should be approximately 0.96 m along the first segment and 1.3 m along the second one, these values representing the useful depth of the canal (calculations done with a wall roughness of 5 mm and a canal width of 1.22 m).

[296] After Viollet, Chabard, Laurence, and Esposito (1998); the calculated velocities and discharges cor­respond to a slope of 1.3 m/km and a wall roughness of mean height 3 mm.

[297] Frontinus, “The Aqueducts of Rome”, 35, 36, Translation of Charles E. Bennett in the Loeb edition, 1925 http://penelope. uchicago. edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Frontinus/De_Aquis/text*.html

[298] Ibid., 73.

[299] From Sanskrit texts translated by Louis Renou, The civilization of ancient India, (1950), pp. 148-151

[300] Needham and Ling, Science and Civilization in China, IV, II (1965), p. 361

[301] Schnitter (1994), p. 34.

[302] Schnitter (1994), p. 98.

[303] Basham (1954).

[304] Porter (1992).

[305] Ibn BattUta, 1995, adapted.

[306] Polybius, Histories, X, 25, Translation of W. R. Paton, http://penelope. uchicago. edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Polybius/home. html

[307] Goblot (1979); Landry (1990).

[308] The Parthian period marks the beginning of the concentration of habitation at Marw, associated, according to Bader et al (1996) with the construction of a dam. Hiebert (1992) places the origin of this dam in the time of the Seljuks.

[309] Marco Polo, Le devisement du monde, XXXVIII, adapted.

[310] Citation from Goblot (1979)

[311] Beaumont (1989)

[312] Schnitter (1994), p. 87.

[313] Al-Muqaddasi, Arab geographer, citation after Hill (1997) in History of Arab science, p. 21, adapted.

[314] Ibn Batthta, 1995, adapted.

[315] Hiebert (1992).

[316] Schnitter (1994), pp. 89-92.

[317] Ducellier, Kaplan, Martin (1990), p. 132; see Sadler (1990) for a detailed study of such a fertile com­plex in Syria.

[318] Citation from Schnitter (1994), p. 80.

[319] Strabo had already described the difficulty of maintaining the hydraulic system of this region; the reader can refer to the extract cited in Chapter 2.

[320] Al-Baladhori, in “Arab Historians” (Sauvaget, 1988).

[321] Ibn Jubayr (beginning of the 12th century), Relations de Voyage, adapted from the translation of Paule Charles-Dominique.

[322] Ibid.

[323] Al-Baladhori, in Arab Historians (Sauvaget, 1988).

[324] Al-Qalqashandi, Arab author of the 15th century. Citation after Micheau, in History of the Arab Sciences, III.

[325] Berthier (1990).

[326] Zakri (1990).

[327] Safadi (1990).

[328] Ibn Jubayr, Accounts of a Voyage, adapted from the translation of Paule Charles-Dominique.

[329] Ibid.

[330] Zaqzouk (1990).

[331] Haj Ibrahim (1990).

[332] Saliby (1990), Calvet and Geyer (1992).

[333] The dating of the nahr Said and the nature of its use are documented thanks to the investigations of Berthier and d’Ont (1994). The first canal, from at least the 10th century, is the one whose use is described here. A second canal along the same alignment but more recent, may have supported gravity irrigation.

[334] After Kassem Toueir (1990).

[335] Bianquis (1986).

[336] Hill (1997), in History of Arab Science, III, pp. 14 and 47.

[337] Schnitter (1994), p. 82.

[338] Ibn Jubayr, Accounts of a voyage, adapted from the translation of Paule Charles-Dominique.

[339] Ozis (1999).

[340] Smith (1992).

[341] Al-Idrissi (12th century), IV, 1, Translation of Jaubert.

[342] Zakri (1990).

[343] Fernandez Ordonez (1984).

[344] Fernandez Ordonez (1984), Smith (1970).

[345] Al-Idrissi, IV, 1, Translation of Jaubert.

[346] Lagardere (1991 and 1993).

[347] Goblot (1979).

[348] Al-Idrissi (12th century), 31, Translation of Hadj Sadok; a revised translation and analysis of this cita­tion is given in El Fai’z (2005).

[349] Joffe (1989); see also El Faiz (2005).

[350] Brignon, Amine, Boutaleb, Martinet, Rosenberger (12967), p. 187.

[351] Al-Idrissi, 49, Translation of Hadj Sadok.

[352] Brignon, Amine, Boutaleb, Martinet, Rosenberger (1967), pp. 90 and 202; Madani (1999) for the hydraulic network of Fez.

[353] Al-Muqaddasi (10th century); citation from Brignon et al. (1967).

[354] Al-Idrissi, 22, Translation of Hadj Sadok.

[355] Messier (1997).

[356] Lambton (1989).

[357] Goblot (1979), pp. 163-164; Bisson (1989).

[358] Kitab inbat al-miyah al-hafiyya (The art of extracting hidden water), citation from Landry (1990).

[359] Ibid.

[360] Hill (1997), p. 45.

[361] Al-Jahiz, in Arab Historians (Sauvaget, 1988).

[362] Delpech, Girard, Robine, Roumi (1997).

[363] Hill (1997), p. 46.

[364] After a text dated from 1691 (Chhih Pei Ou Than of Wang Shih-Chen, cited by Needham and Ling (1965), p. 560 (adapted).

[365] In Antiquity, China is known, in the West, by two principle names: Seres, derived from the Chinese Si signifying silk, and Sina, that is thought to have come from the name of the Qin Dynasty. The first name arrived in the Occident through the intermediary of the Greek world; the second seems to have come by the route of the Indies (Needham, 1978).

[366] These are the excavations of Kjoumboulak Koum, where the remains of a vast irrigation network have been found in an ancient delta of the Kenya river, in the region of Khotan, after Corinne Debaine – Francfort (personal communication).

[367] According to the Chinese historian Sima Qian, who lived around 100 AD, Historical Memoires (Shi Ji), 123.

[368] Sima Qian, Shi Ji, 116.

[369] For example, Robert (1997).

[370] see Blunden & Elvin (1983).

[371] There are two important rivers called Luo; one in Shaanxi, the other in Henan. To avoid confusion, we call the first Luo and the second Lo.

[372] This does not mean there was nothing further to the south. Archaeology has indeed shown the exis­tence of a culture of rice in the basin of the Yangtze (the Blue river) from 6000 BC. But it is clearly in the north that organized civilization, destined to spread, was established (see for example Debaine – Francfort, 1998).

[373] Mencius, citation from Granet (1929), p. 89 in the edition of 1994.

[374] The reader can find deeper analyses of the evolution of Chinese philosophy and science in, for exam­ple, Needham (1978), and Gernet (1990).

[375] Extract of a work entitled Lhshi chunqiu, 239 BC. Citation from Needham (1978), p. 117.

[376] Needham (1978).

[377] Joseph Needham is an indispensable reference for those who are interested in the history of science and technology in China. He is the author of a monumental work, Science and Technology in China, to which we will often refer in this Chapter (Volume IV in particular for matters concerning hydraulics).

[378] Extract of Book of Documents (Shujing). Citation after Needham.

[379] The differences between these theories and the dates make it very unlikely that there was any con­nection between them.

[380] Granet (1929), p. 151.

[381] Gernet (1990).

[382] Herein we use the official modern transcriptions of Chinese into the Roman alphabet.

[383] Sima Qian, Shi Ji 29, English translation of Burton Watson.

[384] The slope of the Yellow River is about 1.1 m/km along its upper course (3,472 km); 0.74 m/km on its middle course (1,200 km); and only 0.11 m/km along the 786 km of its lower course – after Lian Ruiju, Zheng Zhaojin, Hu Jialin (1987).

[385] The main bed of the river, the narrow channel in which the river flows during low-water periods, is formed in the bed’s sediment, and therefore is not significantly super-elevated compared to the plain. The overflow bed, on the other hand, is much wider and is occupied during periods of high water; and can be more than ten meters above the level of the surrounding plain.

[386] After Liang Ruiju, Zheng Zhaojin, Hu Jialin (1987).

[387] Granet (1929).

[388] Needham, Ling, Gwei-Djen (1971), p. 232, according to a tradition that comes from the Han era.

[389] The hypothesis that Ye is near Handan is taken from the work of Henri Maspero (p. 145) and Jacques Gernet (p. 65). This localization is consistent with the fact that Ye was irrigated by Ximen Bao, using water taken from the Jian, which is precisely what Sima Qian said. It is curious, however, that this city, still active as the center of the cult of the river around 400 BC, was not located on the course of the river itself in this period, since the course had changed in 602 BC. Marcel Granet (Dances and legends, p. 474) situates Ye more to the south, near the place where the ancient course of the Yellow River arrives on the plain and turns toward the north.

[390] After Marcel Granet (1926).

[391] Historical memoires (Shi Ji) of Sima Qian, 126, adapted from the translation of E. Chavannes (cita­tion from Granet, 1926, p. 474).

[392] Sima Qian, Shi Ji, 29. See also Needham, Ling, Gwei-Djen (1971), p. 271, and Zheng (1991).

[393] Needham, Lian, Gwei-Djen (1971), p. 271; Zhang (1991); Schnitter (1994), p. 41.

[394] Sima Qian, Shi Ji 29, transl Burton Watson.

[395] After Joseph Needham, Wang Ling, Lu Gwei-Djen (1971); p. 270 in the edition of 1987.

[396] Granet, 1926.

[397] Sima Qian, Shi Ji, 29, Transl. Burton Watson

[398] Needham, Ling, Gwei-Djen (1971), p. 289; Li and Du (2003)

[399] Sima Qian, Shi Ji, 29, transl Burton Watson.

[400] Granet (1929), p. 119. Marcel Granet attributes the construction of the Hong canal to Zheng. We prefer the hypotheses of Joseph Needham who believes this canal is older.

[401] Sima Qian, Shi Ji, 112, transl B. Watson.

[402] Needham, Lin, Gwei-Djen (1971), p. 300 and following in the 1987 edition. See also Granet (1929), p. 140, Zheng (1991), and Schnitter (1994), p. 45.

[403] According to Needham, Li mentions the idea of separation. It is therefore possible that the name of the river – the Li – comes from the structure mentioned here, separating the discharge from the Xiang. One could say the same of the Li escarpment, at Dujiangyan: it is separated from the hill by the notch through which the canal passes.

[404] Extract from a treatise of 1178 called Ling Wai Tai Taby Chou Chhh Fei. Adapted from the citation of Needham, Ling, Gwei-Djen (1971), p 304.

[405] Citation after Blunden and Elvin (1983), p. 81.

[406] See for example Debaine-Francfort (1998), p. 93.

[407] Sima Qian, Historical memoires (Shiji). Citation from Debaine-Francfort (1998). This account is corroborated by the discovery of traces of mercury in the soil of the tomb.

[408] Blunden and Elvin (1983), p. 30.

[409] Sima Qian, Shi Ji, 29. transl B Watson.

[410] Ibid.

[411] Granet (1929), p. 142. See also Sima Qian, Shi Ji, 29.

[412] Sima Qian, Shi Ji, 110.

[413] Needham, Ling, Gwei-Djen (1971), p. 281 and following in the edition of 1987; Zheng (1991); Schnitter (1994), p. 41.

[414] Sima Qian, Shi Ji, 29.

[415] Ibid.

[416] Gernet (1990), p. 112.

[417] Siman Qian, Shi Ji, 29, transl B Watson.

[418] Liang Ruiju, Zheng Zhaojin, Hu Jialin (1987).

[419] Needham, Ling, Gwei-Djen (1971), p 234.

[420] Adapted from Needham, Ling, Gwei-Djen (1971), p. 346.

[421] Needham (1978), p. 58; Dars (1992).

[422] Gernet (1990), p. 128.

[423] Needham and Ling (1965), p. 369.

[424] Ibid., pp. 344-345.

[425] Steens (1989), p. 422.

[426] Needham, Ling, Gwei-Djen (1971), p. 345, adapted.

[427] Ibid., p. 348.

[428] The Hongze lake is shown on our maps; but is it possible that it did not exist prior to the develop­ment works of the 15th century (see the end of this chapter)?

[429] For the work done under the Song, see the work of Jacques Dars (1992), pp. 149-150.

[430] Adapted from Needham, Ling, Gwei-Djen (1971), p. 350.

[431] Account of a traveller named Kuang Lu from 1585, adapted from Needham, Ling, Gwei-Djen(1971), p 306.

[432] 1194 according to Joseph Needham, Wang Ling, Lu Gwei-Djen (1971); 1187 according to Liang Ruiju, Zheng Zhaojin, Hu Jialin (1987).

[433] Marco Polo, Le devisement du monde, 149, adapted

[434] Ibid., 136.

[435] Gernet (1990), p. 340.

[436] Schnitter (1994), p. 105.

[437] Adapted from History of the Christian expedition to the kingdom of China, IV, 2.

[438] Ibid.

[439] After Pierre-Etienne Will, in Dictionary of Chinese Civilization, p. 344.

[440] The Book of Wonders, 153

[441] By the traveller and poet Chu Mi, in 1280 – transl by R Strassberg

[442] Needham, Ling (1965), pp. 320-323.

[443] Will (1998), p. 344.

[444] Needham and Ling (1965), p. 323.

[445] Ibid., p. 344.

[446] Ibid., p. 345.

[447] Belidor (1737) describes it under the name of “rosary mill”, as a machine in widespread use.

[448] These dates and facts are taken from Needham and Ling (1965), pp. 356-362. These authors hypoth­esize that the noria could have been introduced in China as early as the 2nd century, but we do not see strong evidence of this.

[449] Ibn Battuta, Voyages, Translation of C. Defremey and B. R. Sanguinetti, IV, p. 255, adapted.

[450] Needham and Ling (1965), p. 356.

[451] Ibid.

[452] Extract of a work called San Kuo Chih, Needham and Ling (1965), p. 370.

[453] Needham and Ling (1965), p. 400.

[454] Needham, 1978.

[455] From a text dating from the end of the Songs or from the Yuan Empire (Lao Hsueh Tshung Than by Sheng Jo-Tzu), citation from Needham and Ling (1965), p. 560.

[456] Needham (1978), p. 20.

[457] Dars (1992), Gernet (1990), p. 273.

[458] Ibn BattUta, 1995, adapted.

[459] Dars (1992), p. 62 and following.

[460] Guillerme (1979).

[461] Coates-Stephens, 1998.

[462] Champion (1996).

[463] Citation from Zettler (1996).

[464] Zettler (1996), Hoffmann (1996).

[465] After Sylvie Caucanas (1995).

[466] The rapid growth of references to mills in deeds from Picardy in the 11th and 12th centuries may not be significant, for the number of deeds being rediscovered and archived is, in itself, growing rapidly (see Gies and Gies, 1994; Derville, 1994).

[467] Hills (1994); Benoit and Berthier (1998).

[468] Hoffman (1996).

[469] Guillerme (1983).

[470] Such installations on the Charente (France) are mentioned by Jean Chapelot and Eric Rieth (1995).

[471] Gies and Gies (1994), p. 117; according to Belidor (1737), the Garonne mills of the 18th century have horizontal wheels; such is evidently the case for this dam, following the Arab tradition that inspired it.

[472] Gies and Gies (1994).

[473] Boithias and de la Verne (1989).

[474] Al-Idrissi, IV, 2, Translation of Jaubert.

[475] Hills (1994), p. 35.

[476] Ibid, p. 36.

[477] Hills (1994).

[478] Azema (1995).

20 After Bernadette Barriere (1996).

[479] From Karine Berthier (1996).

[480] These projects have been studied by Adriaan Verhulst (1990).

[481] Derville (1994).

[482] Charter relative to draining of the swamp of the Aa; citation from Trenard (1972), p. 99.

[483] Verhulst (1990).

[484] See the article by Jean-Luc Sarrazin (1996).

[485] See the work of Roger Dion (1961) and the article by k«lle Burnouf and Nathalie Carcaud (1999).

[486] Our source for the canals of Roussillon is the work of Sylvie Caucanas (1995).

[487] Fichou, Le Henaff, Mevel (1999), pp. 17-19. According to these authors, the Romans had also built beacons at Dover and at Coruna on the Atlantic coast. We have already described, in Chapter 6, sever­al Roman ports developed on the Mediterranean.

[488] Guillerme (1983); Heers (1990), pp. 300-325.

[489] Lacordaire (1979), pp. 66-81.

Dates History and Civilizations Hydraulic Science and Technology

9500 BC

Beginnings of agriculture in the Near-East

6500 BC

First evidence of irrigation (Choga Mami) Earliest evidence of drainage in houses.

6000 BC

Copper metallurgy

Beginnings of agriculture in China

First wells in Mesopotamia

4000 BC

Development of irrigation in lower Mesopotamia

First cities in the land of Sumer (Uruk)

Development of navigation on the Euphrates. First appearance of the sail (Eridu)

3500 BC

Beginning of the Bronze Age Appearance of writing (Uruk, Suse, then Egypt)

Sewers perfected at Habuba Kebira, Sumerian Trading post on the Euphrates Irrigation at Geoksyr in Margiana (Turkmenistan)

Invention of the wheel

Oldest known dams (Jawa)

Earliest water-lifting machine in Mesopotamia (the shaduf)

First evidence of sailboats on the Nile

3000 BC

Unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, Founding of Memphis Beginning of the Indus civilization Founding of Mari

Irrigation in Margiana and Bactria Dams and reservoirs at Khirbet el-Umbashi Irrigated oases in Oman Irrigation system of Mari, navigation canal Dam of Sadd el-Kafara (Egypt)

2500 BC

Maritime civilization of the Cylades

Irrigation at Shorughai in eastern Bactria

Beginning of the Minoan civilization in Crete

Legend of Yu the Great on the Yellow River Sargon of Akkad unifies Mesopotamia

First water supplies in Crete

(Yu was said to have “dug the river”) Irrigation at Marw(Merv) in Margiana

2000 BC

1st intermediate period (2180-2040) and beginning of the Middle Empire in Egypt Reign of Hammurabi in Babylon (1792­1750)

Hydaulic developmens of Fayoum by Amenemhat III (Moeris)

Destruction of Mari (1760)

End of the Indus civilization

Beginning of the Mycenaean civilization in


Bronze metallurgy appears in China; begin-

ning of the Shang Dynasty, in the basin of

the Yellow River

Hittite Empire in Anatolia

1500 BC

2nd intermediate period (1730-1560) and beginning of the New Empire in Egypt End of the Minoan civilization Reign of Ramses II

Irrigation of the western Bactrian oases Irrigation in the ghouta of Damascus Artificial port of Pylos; drainage of lake Copais

Hebrews arrive in Palestine

1200 BC

The Trojan War

The “Sea People” plunder the Levantine; destruction of Ugarit. End of the Hittites

Catastrophic inundation at Tiryns; construction of a dam and canal

1100 BC

End of the Mycenaean civilization Beginning of the Iron Age

1000 BC

Reign of David in Palestine

900 BC

Appearance of the Phoenician alphabet

Beginning of the Assyrian Empire

800 BC

Founding of Carthage Arrival of the Etruscans in Italy

Canal of Menua in Urartu (Armenia) Appearance of the qanat

Development of irrigation in Arabia Felix (Yemen)

700 BC

Reign of Sennacherib in Assyria (704-681) Reign of Karib’ll Watar in the land of Sheba

Water supplied to Nineveh; bridge-aqueduct of Jerwan

Dams of lake Rusa in Urartu

600 BC

End of the Assyrian Empire (606); reign of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylonia; Saite renais­sance in Egypt

The Phoenicians found Marseilles

Necho II, pharaoh of the Saite Dynasty, con­structs the first canal between the Nile and the Red Sea

Thales of Milet establishes that the earth is round

Tarquin the Elder constructs the cloaca maxima at Rome

Dam-reservoir Anfengtang, in the Huai basin (China)

550 BC

Birth of Buddha Birth of Confucius

Cyrus the Great enters Babylon (539) and founds the Achaemenid Persian Empire

Hong Canal, first great navigation canal in China Polycrate constructs the “tunnel of Samos”

500 BC

Median wars in Greece (490-480 Beginning of the Republic of Rome (509) Voyages of Herodotus in Egypt and Babylon (460)

Peloponnesian war

Arrival of the Nabatians in Palestine?

Maryab dam in the land of Sheba (Yemen)

Irrigation at Djouboulak Koum (Taklamakan desert)

400 BC

Expedition of the Xenophon’s “Ten Thousand” in Babylon (401)

Plato adopts the theory of the “four elements”, later taken up by Aristotle

350 BC

Founding of Alexandria (331). The same year, Alexander the Great enters into Babylon

Laozi (Lao-Tse) founds Taoism (unknown date)

The Qin, coming from the valley of the Wei, occupy Sechuan (316)

Aristotle creates the Lyceum at Athens

Irrigation system of Sechuan, with its intake works at Dujiangyan

TheAquaAppia, first Roman aqueduct (312)

300 BC Ptolemy I founds the Museum and Library of Alexandria

Euclid founds modern geometry

Straton of Lampasaque defines a “vacuum”

Ctesibios invents the fire pump

First reservoir-dams in Ceylon

Zou Yan constructs the Chinese theory of “five


250 BC

First lifting wheels (Philon of Byzantium?) Irrigation works in the Fayoum; dam of Mala’a The Archimedes screw or lima£on Zhengguo irrigation canal in China

Maurya Dynasty in India (313-180)

The Parthians evict the Seleucides from Mesopotamia

Shi Huangdi, first Emperor of China (221)

Beginning of the Han Dynasty in China (206)

Fall of Carthage (202)

Archimedes founds hydrostatics

Eratosthene of Cyrene measures the radius of the earth

“Magic Canal”, communication route to south­ern China

200 BC Apogee of the Greek kingdom of Bactria

First water supplies using the inverse siphon, in the Orient then at Rome (Aqua Marcia) Completion of the great siphon of Pergamon

150 BC Wudi of the Han, Emperor of China (141-87)

Irrigation and transport canals in China

In 109, the Yellow River is restored to the course

Rome inherits the Pergamon kingdom (133)

it had abandoned in 132

100 BC

Appearance of the water mill (first evidence in the lands of Mithridate, king of Pontus)

Death of Cleopatra and annexation of Egypt byAugustus (31)

Strabo writes Geography, Vitruvius writes

On Architecture

Augustus refounds Carthage

Hydraulic developments of the Nabatians (Petra, Negev desert)

Vitruvius describes the water mill and the noria

The first known arch dam near Glanum in Provence (date uncertain)

Kouchan Empire in central Asia

Earth dam at Nanyang (China)

1 AD Jesus Christ in Palestine

Pontius Pilate constructs the “pools of Solomon”

and the Jerusalem aqueduct

The Yellow River breaks through its dikes and

changes course (11)

First mention of the water wheel in China, to power pestles (21), then forge bellows at Nanyang (31)

50 AD

Claudius is Roman Emperor (41-54)

Roman Emperors Nero (54), Vespasian (70), Titus (79)

Domitian is assassinated (96); Nerva is elect­ed emperor at Rome

Numerous aqueducts at Rome, Lyon, Nimes… The “port of Claudius” at the mouth of the Tiber Development of the water mill in Italy (Pliny) Heron ofAlexandria: the aeolipile, discharge calculation in a canal (continuity principle) Frontinus studies the 9 Roman aqueducts and reforms the water distribution system The axial rudder and the modern sail appear in China

100 AD

Trajan is Roman Emperor (98-117)

The “port of Trajan” at the mouth of the Tiber. Numerous aqueducts in the Roman provinces:

End of the Han Dynasty (185).

Apamea, Carthage.

Fragmentation of China

Invention of the square-pallet chain pump in China

Roman dams in Spain and the Orient Roman flour mill at Barbegal (in Provence)

200 AD

Valerius is captured by the Sassanide Shapur

Dams and Roman qanats in Tunisia, in Cyrenaica (Libya) and in the Orient


Mills at Rome (Janicule, Thermes of Caracalla)

400 AD

The Bishop Theophilos destroys the Serapeion atAlexandria (391)

Fall of the Occidental Roman Empire (410)

450 AD

Proof of the existence of norias on the Oronte (Apamea mosaic, 469)

500 AD

Repeated dike ruptures on the Tigris. Definitive rupture of the Maryab dam (Sheba) Dara arch dam in Anatolia

600 AD

Yang Jian reunifies China and founds the Sui

Dynasty (604)

Tang Dynasty (618)

The Grand Canal of the Sui and the Tang

The hegira of Mohammed in Arabia (622)

Jean Philopon of Alexandria explores resistance

Taking of Alexandria by the Arabs (640)

and motion through the air

650 AD

Beginning of the Umeyyade Dynasty (661)

The “Persian” windmill at Seistan

700 AD

The Arabs in Spain (711)

750 AD

End of the Umeyyades. Beginning of the Abbasids (750)

Founding of Baghdad (762)

The Chinese armies are beaten by the Arabs

Chinese prisoners introduce the paper industry to

at Talas (Ferghana)

Samarcand (pestle mills)

800 AD

Harun al-Rashid founds the great library of

The Book of Ingenious Mechanisms of the Banu


Founding of Fez

Musa brothers in Baghdad Construction of qanats at Madrid

900 AD Song Dynasty in China (960)

The Ghaznavid Turks (977), then Seljuk Turks (1040) in central Asia

Invention of the chamber lock in China

Tidal mill at Bassora

Major irrigation works in Andalusia

1000 AD End of the caliphate of Cordoue (1031) The Almoravides in Morocco Founding of Marrakesh

Beginnings of demographic expansion in western Europe

First qanats (khettaras) at Marrakesh Al-Karagi explains the flow of groundwater Drainage, drying of polders in Flanders

1100 AD Beginning of the Crusades

Voyage of the Andalusian Ibn Jubayr in the Orient

The Song are chased out of northern China by the Jurchen (1126), they destroy the dikes

Al-Khazini picks up the work of Archimedes on hydrostatics

Invention of the post windmill (Flanders or England); development of the tidal mill on the Atlantic coast

First public fountains in the West since the Roman Empire

First levees on the Loire (1169)

Course of the Yellow River shifts to the south of Shandong (1194)

1200 AD The Mongols raze Samarcand (1219), then Baghdad (1258)

The Mongols occupy Kaifeng (1233), Hangzhou (1276), and in China take the name of the Yuan Dynasty (1271)

Sojourn in China of the Venetian Marco Polo

Destruction of hydraulic infrastructures in Mesopotamia, Bactria, and Khorassan Drainage of the poitevin marsh (1190-1283)


The Andalusians lose Cordova (1236), Valencia (1238), Sevilla (1248)

The Grand Canal of the Yuan

Invention of the double-action piston bellows in China

The Yellow River shifts completely to the south (1288)

1300 AD Voyages of the Tangerian Ibn Battuta (1330­1350)

Beginning of the Hundred Years’ War (1337) The great plague in the West (1348-1349) The Mongols are chased out of China; begin-

Dike ruptures on the Yellow River (1327; 1344)

ning of the Ming Dynasty (1368)

Arch dam of Almansa (1384)

1400 AD The Mongols of Tamerlan pillage Delhi (1398) then Baghdad (1401 Great maritime expeditions of the Ming (1405-1433)

Taking of Constantinople by the Turks (1453)

Dam-reservoir for the upper portions of the Grand Canal (1411)

Louis XI reinforces and extends the levees of the

End of the Reconquest of Spain (1492) The Occidental Renaissance

Loire (1482)

The course of the Yellow River stabilizes (1495) Turk-Mongol dams in Persian and in Afghanistan; arch dams Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) rediscovers the principle of continuity

Technology for eternity

How many achievements called “eternal” survive the civilization, or even the regime, under which they were created? Perhaps not many, but certain of the hydraulic works of Antiquity have survived their origins. The canal connecting the Nile River and the Red Sea – built by the Pharaoh Necho, finished by the Persian Darius, perfected by Ptolemy, the successor of Alexander, and renovated by the Emperor Trajan, then by the Umeyyade caliphs – functioned, though surely with a few interruptions, for an “eterni­ty” of thirteen centuries. We will have to come back a thousand years from now to see if our Suez Canal, descendent of the Necho canal, is still there………………………………………………………………………………………

The great irrigation systems and several water allocation plans of ancient China, as well as dams in the Armenian kingdom of Urartu, in Roman Spain, and in Arab Andalusia, are still in operation today. Others have disappeared even before seeing prac­tical use – like the Sadd el-Kafara dam project attempted by the Pharaohs of the Ancient Empire south of Memphis, reflecting missed opportunities for innovation and effective­ly stalling technical progress in Egyptian dams for several centuries. Other such dam projects were useful for a period, then fell into ruin, like the large Maryab dam in the land of the queen of Sheba, today reconstructed to be almost identical to the original by the modern state of Yemen. Other such dams that could have endured were abandoned, like the one built six thousand years ago by anonymous refugees, likely townspeople fleeing some unknown menace in the black basalt desert of Jordan. To survive in this desolate land they built, at Jawa, the first known dam in the history of humanity, before abandoning it to flee to some unknown destination.

Civilizations die. Often their works die with them. But their technologies survive. We are the inheritors of the hydraulic innovations of the millennia, whether they came to us through the work of some scholar who described them in writing that was subse­quently recopied and translated, or whether they came to us slowly through the random process of migration and commercial exchanges. Yes, these innovations have come down to us, who are depleting our groundwater resources, who are setting the stage for future water wars. The ancient water technologies are part of the patrimony that our children will so urgently need.

City and countryside

The historical record shows how important it was for hydraulic engineering to have social utility in Antiquity. Its effects must be recognized by the beneficiaries – but often these beneficiaries are far from the hydraulic projects themselves. If they are in the countryside, they may easily recognize the utility of large irrigation canals, such as the thirty-kilometer long ones on the Euphrates and the Oxus from the IIIrd millennium BC. In these pages we have not often come across the “paradise lost”, the dream of a small community to be able to manage its own technological development at the local level. Such situations probably existed in the very early development of agriculture, and we find it again in the Syrian and Anatolian countryside during the Byzantine Empire. In order to try to survive, to struggle against floods that threatened houses and crops, and to avoid death when the river on which they depended for their livelihood overflowed its banks, civilizations had to assemble and organize significant manpower. This in itself was surely a potent element in the creation of civilizations, as has been proposed by numerous theories and as we have tried to point out in this book.

The cities need raw material and food. The early Sumerian cities had to import wood, rocks, and metals. The Pharaohs import beautiful stone for their Nubian monu­ments, and wood from the mountains of Lebanon. Rome imports its wheat from Sicily, Tunisia, and Egypt. The successive capitals of the imperial Chinese dynasties import their grains from the alluvial plain of the Yellow River and, later, their rice from the Yangtze basin. Watercourses, their ports and canals, provide the primary support for all these exchanges. The Nahr Daourin, parallel to the Euphrates, flows along an impres­sive 120 km, likely from the very beginning of the Bronze Age. And in China during the Middle Ages, the Grand Canal stretches from the south to the north of the middle empire, over hundreds of kilometers.

Cities need water. The “so numerous and necessary aqueducts” that the Romans extended over all their empire are works of “great transport”, crisscrossing the country­side to meet the urban water needs of Rome, Lyon, Nimes, Toledo, Carthage, Antioch,

Apamea, Jerusalem………. The Roman lifestyle required these aqueducts. And when the

barbarian invasions in the West put an end to this lifestyle, they also put an end to the need for these aqueducts, causing their demise just as if the barbarians had destroyed them, though generally they did not do so. But fortunately this destruction did not gen­erally occur. Still, few aqueducts survive the closed mindedness that characterized the Middle Ages in the West. But in the Orient the Arabs perpetuated the Romano – Hellinistic patrician lifestyle to some degree. The pleasures of the city are first and fore­most the pleasures of water – baths, ablutions, strolls in gardens or along the banks of rivers. It is water that makes of Damascus, Samarcand and Nishapur the very images of paradise for the Arabs.

Of course there is also a prosaic dimension to water in the city. Wastewater dispos­al requires its own hydraulic techniques. From the first gutters used to drain wastewater from houses in the Neolithic village of El-Kowm in Syria, this concern for wastewater – that one might think to be only a modern preoccupation – is continuous in the Bronze Age in the cities of the Indus, in the new cities like Habuba Kebira and Mari on the Euphrates, and in Crete where the refinement of urban hydraulics reaches its pinnacle. We also find attention given to wastewater in Roman cities and in many Arab settle­ments. But during the Middle Ages in the West, and even in our recent Age of Enlightenment, this preoccupation too often falls by the wayside.

To design, and then to maintain

Planning for the maintenance of an engineering structure as an integral part of its design has become routine in modern practice. Yet, by necessity, this preoccupation was also present in numerous ancient projects. For example planning of the irrigation system of Sechuan, with its intake at Dujiangyang, obviously took into account the need to clean the intakes and to maintain the dikes and the intake control mechanisms. The designers also anticipate the need for a procedure to dewater the works for maintenance during low-flow periods. Canal cleaning was a continuous activity in the old land of Sumer. From the archives of Mari, we know that these maintenance efforts were tedious and

Table 10.1 The oldest known dams














Djebel el-



3000 BC or earlier



Fill between stone walls (Fig 2.5)

Derivation canal from the wadi Rajil

Floodwater storage (Fig 2.7). The oldest known dam.

Khirbet el – Umbashi

Djebel el – Arab (Syria)

3000 BC



Earth dam

Wadi el – Umbashi

Reservoir in the bed of the wadi itself (Fig 2.8)

Sadd el – Kafara

Egypt(near Memphis)

2650 BC



Fill between two rock faces



Protection against floods of the wadi Garawi. The first known large dam (Fig 3.3, 3.3a)

Weir of Khanouqa




1800 BC?

Rocks (uncut basalt blocks)


Weir on the Euphrates, headworks of the “Semiramis canal” (Fig 2.13)




1300 BC



Fill between two walls


Reservoir (Fig 4.6). See other dams, table 4.1




1200 BC



Fill between two rock walls


Rerouting of a river, flood protection (Fig 4.12, 4.13)

Lake Rusa (north)



720 BC




Lake Rusa

Reservoir: lake Rusa (Fig 2.18). In service until 1861 AD, then rebuilt in 1952.

Lake Rusa (south)



720 BC




Lake Rusa

Reservoir; lake Rusa (Fig 2.18)

Weir of Ajileh



694 BC



Large blocks of cut stone


Weir on the Khosr, headworks of a deri­vation canal of the Khosr to Nineveh




690 BC




Weir on the Gomel, headworks of the Sennacherib canal

Shaobei, or Anfengtang



585 BC


Earth, straw and wooden stakes

Tributaries of the Huai

Reservoir; still in service today



510 BC



Earthen dike, rock protection



Intake works for two canals conveying flood waters of the wadi (Fig 3.12). Breached in the 7th century AD.


Sri Lanka (Ceylon)

370 BC



Earthen dike

Seasonal reservoir



Sri Lanka (Ceylon)

300 BC




Earthen dikes

Reservoirs (Fig 7.3)


Sri Lanka (Ceylon)

300 BC



Earthen dike

Seasonal reservoir






250 BC






Reservoir (lake Moeris) fed by flood – waters of the Nile (Fig 3.6). In use until the 18th century AD.

N. B. Two other dams, whose conditions were known in the Roman period, are candidates for being even older: the dam of the wadi el-Souab, a possible headworks on an irrigation canal of the ancient Mari (Fig 2.11), and the dam of the lake of Homs (Fig 6.33).

sometimes difficult. The ports of Pylos in the IIIrd millennium BC, and the port of Rome built by Trajan, are examples of projects designed from the beginning to use the flow of the river to keep the entrances open. Of course any project subject to sediment deposition or erosion can quickly be rendered useless due to lack of maintenance. This is why the reclaimed land of Mesopotamia lapsed back into desert so quickly after the Mongol invasions of the 13th century. Another example is that marshes quickly reap­pear as soon as the Etruscan know-how in lowland drainage is lost in Italy.

The early technologies

One may be skeptical of the overall contribution of Hellenistic science – its relative dis­connection with practical application, or its failure to document the significant revolu­tion represented by hydraulic energy. But the incontestable fact remains that in the study of the science and techniques of Antiquity preceding the Middle Ages, one cannot avoid marking pre – and post-Alexandria. The Hellenistic period represents a watershed, or divide, that is reflected in the two distinct parts of this book.

The earliest technology appeared before the turmoil that followed the epic reign of Alexander the Great. The elements of this technology can be briefly listed in the order of their appearance as follows:

– dams, made of rocks or earth, whose earliest traces are found on the Syro – Mesopotamian steppes at the end of the IVth millennium BC (Jawa, Khirbet el – Umbashi); the characteristics of the oldest of these dams are summarized in Table 10.1.

– derivation canals, sometimes created through cut-and-fill on the floodplain, with gates and guide vanes of stone; the oldest of the major works of this kind are proba­bly those in the ancient land of Sumer, in the IVth millennium BC, but the genesis of this technology really belongs to all of the fertile crescent.

– drainage facilities, sewer systems of stone, bricks, or clay; we have seen them in the ancient cities of the Indus, in Sumerian settlements; they are particularly prominent in Crete.

– navigation canals, necessary adjuncts of the cities of lower Mesopotamia, for each Sumerian city has its own port; on the middle Euphrates, the Semiramis canal and the nahr Daourin are surely the oldest; in China, from the 5th century BC, the Hong canal connects the basins of the Yellow River to those of the Yangtze;

– the sailing vessel, first appearing in the Persian gulf, then in Egypt and the Aegean Sea;

– water supply systems, whose technology seems to first appear in Minoan Crete;

– and, somewhat of a special case since it is really an evolutionary technique that is conceived during the iron age: the qanats.

From the great cauldron of ideas that was Alexandria emerged the principles of hydrostatics, and the fundamental understanding of the effects of pressure. The inverse siphon and the pressure conduit are used in water supply systems. And hydraulic ener­gy makes its appearance in the form of the watermill and the noria, two systems destined to see considerable development in the Middle Ages – the noria in the East and Far East, the water mill everywhere. The blossoming of hydraulic technology in the Middle Ages is seen in the mills dotting the landscape from the Atlantic to the Sea of Japan. Later, we can credit the Persians with the idea of the windmill, and the Chinese with the axial rudder and modern sail, as well as the navigation lock.


The legacy of Alexander is somewhat mixed insofar as innovation is concerned. To his credit there is the city of Alexandria, with its cultural diversity and intellectual fertility. Of course there is also Archimedes, founder of hydrostatics and supposed inventor of the “Archimedes screw”. There is also Ctesibios, inventor of the fire pump. But other inno­vations never really emerged from their cocoons to find practical application. These include the aeolipile (wind ball) of Heron, a device whose further development could easily have led to the steam engine. There were many other such inventions, and seem­ingly useless gadgets, that were destined to be investigated or rediscovered by Arab sci­entists or, even later, by Leonardo da Vinci and other great thinkers of the Renaissance. Even during the shining period of Alexandria, the greatest innovations seem to have risen from obscurity, from the shadows, from anonymous inventors. The paddle wheel, the water mill, the noria are all born somewhere in the Orient and then progress through history silently, leaving traces of their passage only by chance, here in a description by Strabo, there in a Greek poem…. The windmill is not conceived in the great library of Baghdad but in the Persian countryside. Also in China, nursery of innovation from the 3rd century through the end of the Middle Ages, inventions come from a few obscure civil servants such as Tu Shih, who “loved the common people and wanted to lighten their work”, and to this end brought hydraulic energy to the forges. Or Chiao Wei Ho who invented the lock to avoid damaging boats that had to be dragged from one section of a channel to another. Or such as the anonymous inventor who developed the axial rudder for ships. These innovations did not come from the minds of scholars working in imperial courts.

From the above observation, one has to ask: of what use are teams of scientists and research institutes? Where these existed in ancient times, they were instrumental in the spread and standardization of useful inventions, fostering the rapid refinement and opti­mization of new devices, ensuring that optimal configurations and designs were adopt­ed in practice. The dimensions of the Chinese “dragon backbone machine” were stan­dardized from the 9th century on. Without manuals and other technical documentation, the dissemination of technical innovation is an extremely slow process – errors are repeated, and the “optimal” design develops very slowly. The Roman aqueducts are characterized by surprising conceptual flaws given the experience that could and should have been accumulated. Similarly Roman dams are sometimes well conceived, but just as often are very badly designed. The arch dam seems to have been “re-invented” many times over.

Innovations transcend the boundaries of civilizations. But lacking written traditions, their dissemination and spread is extremely slow. Perhaps the most significant example of this is the spread of the qanat, the device for tapping groundwater that is so simple in principle, if not in application. Conceived in Armenia or in Persia between the 10th and 8th century BC, it is spread into the Orient by the Persians, and is further developed by the Romans who take it to Lybia and Tunisia. But Morocco does not see the qanat until it has made at least two other journeys: one with the westward migration toward the Saharan oases, and another that comes from Muslim Spain to Morocco following the Reconquest.

In the absence of written descriptions, such technical devices tend to be developed differently from one locality to another, reflecting the vicissitudes of oral transmission of know-how rather than the best adaptation of the technology to the local situation. The water mill has a horizontal wheel in the China and the Arab world, but a vertical wheel in the Occident, and the same is true of the windmill at a much later period. The sail rigs on Chinese junks, so perfectly adapted to the needs of coastal commerce in China, do not spread into the West where oarsmen perish in the galleys.


From our earliest ancestors who created irrigation canals by scratching the ground to channel the water of a stream, to the appearance of the first technology, from the great engineering projects of Mesopotamia and China to the blossoming of the first great cities – civilization and hydraulics have always advanced hand-in-hand.

Technique, power and society

In numerous ancient civilizations, the legitimacy of those who govern – both in their own eyes and in those of the governed – rests on the social utility of their hydraulic projects. Technique and society are indissolubly linked.

Hammurabi of Babylon, conqueror of all of Mesopotamia, proclaims himself “lord of the city of Uruk” and immediately adds, as if to ensure the legitimacy of this domina­tion, that it was he who “allocated to these people the water of prosperity”. He nonethe­less owed his power to his weaponry – and to diplomacy. Yahdun Lim at Mari made the same kind of claim, as did many other leaders of the land of Sumer, all of whom associ­ated the legitimacy of their power and the glory of their reign with the hydraulic projects that they had effected.

A thousand years later, when Cyrus the Great entered Babylon, he legitimized his power in “raising the brick banks lining the city’s ditches”. Alexander, another great his­torical figure, acts no differently after having occupied Mesopotamia when he ensures that the canals are maintained and tears down the dams the Persians had constructed to block navigation. These technical acts are tantamount to acts of coronation. Was not the legend that grew up around Yu the Great, the pacifier of the Yellow River, the very legit­imization of central power in China? We have seen so clearly that in this land it was often hydraulic catastrophes that caused the fall of dynasties. In ancient Egypt, whose cultural and political stability make it somewhat of a special case, the sovereign is, even here, identified with the river from which all blessings come.

The dawn of the 14th century, from the era of abbeys to the era of cities, and the rebirth of central power

We have seen that the role of the abbeys, and in particular the Cistercians, was quite important in the conquest of new agricultural lands in the 12th and 13th centuries. However an assessment of the social success of these monk-hydraulicians is not as clear as it might be. Unless supported by a powerful lord or by royal authority, the villagers and peasants are not in a position of strength vis-a-vis the abbeys, especially since the

abbeys are themselves favored by the local lords. Often the villagers are chased off by monks who want to develop their land; yet these lands, once developed and intended to serve a single order, almost always engender numerous conflicts with other occupants, whether they be lay or monastic.

The turn of the 13th to the 14th century sees a strengthening role of central power. We have seen how the kings intervened in major projects such as the “King’s channel” in Poitou, and the “royal canal of Thuir” in Roussillon. We also saw this on the shores of the North Sea, and in the actions of the count of Flanders (and rich townspeople) in appropriating land on the seashore, developing ports, marking them and constructing beacons.

The middle of the 14th century was a period of catastrophes in the West – from a grave economic and monetary crisis, to the beginning of the Hundred Years’ War (1337­1453), to the great plague of 1348-1349. In this period there was also a recurrence of the great famines that had not been seen since the 10th century. There is a general decline in population, the abbeys are decimated by the plague, and the grand era of land conquest is more or less finished. A new power emerged: that of the cities, concentrat­ed and enclosed within walls and behind moats in response to the general insecurity, and through which water no longer flowed freely, but became stagnant and unhealthy.

Over time an awareness of the need for the flow of wastewater and for the manage­ment of water supply developed. Wells used by townspeople who were located some distance from the rivers were terribly contaminated by the infiltration of stagnant water polluted by all sorts of wastes. These cities begin to develop sewer networks and to organize freshwater delivery to public hydrants and fountains, although hesitantly at first. This movement had slowly begun in the 12th century in Italy but did not reach the cities of western and northern Europe until the 14th and 15th centuries.[488] Public water fountains, essentially unknown since the end of Roman civilization, timidly reappear. Some are found around 1100 in the port city of Genoa; three are built at Sienna between 1220 and 1227; and large ones appear in Viterbo and Perugia around 1251 and 1277, respectively. But Florence and Milan must wait until the 15th century before seeing seri­ous development of public fountains, and Bordeaux must wait until 1520.

Portions of Roman aqueducts are restored to service, and sometimes new delivery canals are built, as we have seen for Perpignan, under the influence of the king of Majorca. In the cities of northern Europe the movement toward public fountains begins, again very slowly, with the use of water supplies originally developed for religious establishments. Philippe Auguste is credited with establishment of the first public foun­tain in Paris in 1182 at the grand Halle, through derivation of some of the water of a monastic groundwater supply from Pre-Saint-Gervais. This first fountain is soon fol­lowed by others, so that there are ten in Paris by the end of the 14th century, and seven­teen a century later.[489] But it is still not until the 20th century that the quantity of water per inhabitant becomes comparable to the abundance seen during the Roman period.

Ships and maritime ports

Initially, the typical vessel in service on the Atlantic coast was the “long boat”, the Viking knorr whose appearance seems to have sown terror in the 9th century, and enabled the Normands to colonize Iceland and Greenland. This is a light boat, easily pulled onto the beach. In the 11th century quite a different type of boat appeared, one of much greater capacity: the cog. The expansion of commerce and the development of more protected harbors led to this evolution in boats. The newer, heavier vessel cannot be hauled up onto the dry beach. Therefore it is not necessary for it to have a flat bot­tom, and consequently its hull evolves toward a round form with a keel. This keel also gives the ship much better nautical performance, since it drifts less in a crosswind. The boat is equipped with an axial rudder. This device was known in China since the 1st cen­tury AD, but it was possibly invented independently on the Atlantic coast of Europe, where the greater freeboard makes it difficult to use the ancient rudder-oar. As was the case for the earlier boats, the cog has a single and very large sail rigged on a yard. The sail area could be increased in light weather by the addition of small sails attached to the edge of the mainsail or reduced in heavy weather using reefing straps sewn into the sail.

These new boats could attain capacities of 200 tons, even 300 tons in the 13th centu-


ry. On the Mediterranean Sea, ships having two or three masts and lateen rigging are

used by Italian mercantile cities.

Sheltered embayments progressively become ports with wooden quays, especially starting in the middle of the 13th century. Notable among these are Caen and Rouen in Normandy, developed by William the Conqueror; Genoa, Pisa, Venice, Amalfi,

29 Gies and Gies (1994), pp. 154-158.

Barcelona in the Mediterranean; La Rochelle, Boulogne, Dunkirk, and the cities of Flanders and of northern Germany, linked to the sea by channelized rivers often with outer harbors such as Nieuport for Ypres. In 1169 navigation is made much safer by the widespread adoption of the magnetic compass from China, and by the advent of naviga­tion buoys and markers, and even beacons – fires burning on towers. But for the most part navigation does not continue through the winter months between December and March, as had been the practice since ancient times.

Navigation markers are set on shoals to warn of danger or mark an access channel. Often made of wood, they proliferate around the ports of the English Channel and the North Sea, as well as in the Mediterranean. For example the turret of Meloria was built of cut stone in 1157 in the mouth of the Arno River at the port of Pisa. Lighted beacons had already existed during the time of the Roman Empire, and were not entirely forgot­ten in the Middle Ages. Indeed in 810 Charlemagne had the Tower of Order of Boulogne, originally constructed in 40 AD by the Romans, rebuilt and illuminated.[487] But this development of aids to nighttime navigation accelerates in the 13th and 14th centuries, as shown in table 9.1. However not all of these beacons are permanently illu­minated, for wood is an expensive commodity.

Table 9.1 Lighted beacons between the 12th and 16th centuries (after Fichou, Le Henaff, Mevel, 1999)

Place or Port


Place or Port




Cordouan (entry to the Gironde)








Aigues-Mortes (tower of Constance)




Marseille (Ile du Planier)


St. Catherine (Isle of Wight)


La Ciotat


Abbey of point St. Mathieu


Livorno (tower of Meloria)


(extremity of Brittany)


Porto Pi (Majorca)


Les Sables-d’Olonne

La Rochelle (tower of the Lantern)


Land development and management

The minor lay lords of the middle ages were all too often uninterested in the manage­ment of the land, or sometimes were simply incapable of applying techniques that went beyond their competence. So it was the monks, and in particular the Benedictines and Cistercians, who became the custodians of land development during the demographic expansion of the 12th and 13th centuries. We have already seen that these monks were quite competent in such matters.

The biggest hydraulic project for reclaiming land from the sea and swamps was in coastal Flanders. Actually there were several distinct operations, but all of them were rather similar and conducted until about the year 1300. These projects were driven by recently founded abbeys, under the authority of the powerful Count of Flanders, with increasing involvement of the rich bourgeois toward the end of the period. The region was undergoing rapid economic and demographic growth during this period; in the 13th century Gand (with 64,000 inhabitants), Bruges (42,000) and Ypres (35,000) were, after Paris, the largest cities to the north of the Alps.

This story begins with the two major incursions of the North Sea in 1014 and 1042.

Land development and management

Figure 9.13 Coastal Flanders: shoreline in about the year 1000 (after Parisee, 1994) and after the channelization of rivers and compartmentalization of estuaries, which gave the coast its form from the end of the 13th century up to the present. The cities whose names are underlined are ports founded on reclaimed land in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Sheepraising was widely practiced on the floodable portions of the lowlands. These lowlands were protected by a line of dunes, but this line was broken by the sea incur­sions. The result was the formation of two large bays, one on the lower course of the Yser, the other to the northeast of Bruges in the region that is today called the Zwin. To protect the adjoining land from these new embayments, the inhabitants built long dikes more or less perpendicular to the coast in the middle of the 11th century. Examples are the 18-km long Oude Zeedijk (the “old sea dike”), that protects the area of Fumes from the Yser bay; and the Blankenberke Dijk to the northwest of Bruges. During this same period dike construction along the Yser River began downstream of its confluence with the Iepere, the river that flows to Ypres. This resulted in the founding of Dixmunde in 1089 as the seaport for the fast-growing city of Ypres.

Another major event occurred a half-century later, in 1134. This was a new incur­sion of the sea along all the coast of the North Sea, from Calais as far as the Frise islands to the north of the present-day Holland. This event seems to have marked the beginning of much more aggressive policies to combat the sea, first and foremost by the riparian abbeys. Dikes were progressively extended out from the land in large arcs, capturing the first polders (the term first appeared at this time) on the Yser and Zwin gulfs. Ultimately, these gulfs were completely dewatered in the 13th century.[480] The course of the lower Yser River resulted from these projects. The channelization of the river was completed in 1163, at which time the Count of Flanders, Thierry d’Alsace, founded Nieuport at the mouth of the river as the new seaport for the land of Ypres. In this same year he founded Gravelines, at the mouth of the Aa further to the west, and this in turn led to efforts to drain the marshlands of Saint-Omer and channelize the Aa, conducted from 1165 to 1215.[481] All of these projects were extremely difficult, as illustrated by the

text of a charter promulgated in 1169 by Philippe d’Alsace, the new Count of Flanders: “Between Watten and Bourbourg, a swampland had deposited silt over a vast expanse making it inaccessible and refusing of any human use. At my expense, I drained this muddy sea, at the cost of significant fatigue, and almost violently extracting from it a more favorable natu­ral behavior, I transformed it into fertile land.’,z, H

In 1180 Philippe founds Dunkirk and Damme, the latter as a port on the Zwim River now conquered and channelized. The south bank of the Escaut River, to the west of Anvers, is similarly diked with the creation of polders. These projects began in the 12th century and without doubt were accelerated after a major flood of the Escaut in 1214; they were completed around 1300. The work was led by the neighboring abbeys, but surely also benefited from initiatives of the rich bourgeoisie of Gand and Anvers.[482] [483]

Public civil institutions called wateringues managed the hydraulic systems of Flanders, overseeing maintenance of the canals and gates and regulation of the channel­ized rivers and polders.

Another remarkable achievement is the development of the Poitevin marsh to the north of La Rochelle.[484] This vast zone of stagnant water surrounded by the waters of the Sevre, Vendee and Autize rivers, as well as by the bay of Aiguillon, had been the focus of modest developments up until the 12th century. The work included drainage and reclamation of lands bordering higher ground, and salt works. A few fishermen lived in the swamp itself. Villages and abbeys (Benedictine, Clunisian, Augustinian and Templar) are located on buttes that overlook the swamps, or on the edges of plateaus that border the swamp to the north.

In the middle of the 12th century the Cistercians settle on land that was ceded to them, further downstream and thus closer to the ocean than the land developed by their predecessors. These lands were far enough from the coast to be sheltered from danger­ously high tides and storm surges. In ten years of work that ends at the turn of the cen­tury (around 1200), they manage to drain their marshlands using the technique of the “drying basin”. Aparcel of land is surrounded by a levee, called the “bot”, and then dou­bly bordered – outside of the levee by a canal connected to a system of “achenaux”, or channels, that convey the water toward the sea or into the Sevre; and on the interior by another canal right up against the levee, and fed by drainage ditches. The system can be controlled by gates in the levee, opened to evacuate the drained water into the hydro­graphic system, or closed to protect the basin from the inflow of high water. The peas­ant-fishermen living in the marshland are forced to leave. The principal players in this theater are: south of the Sevres, the Cistercians of Charron and other monasteries of the region, allies of the Templars of Bernay; and north of the Sevre, the energetic and dom­inant figure Ostensius, abbot of Moreilles until 1208.

But this reclamation of the Poitevin marsh has a negative aspect, namely its inter­ference with the flow of water from the upstream Benedictine abbeys and villages to the sea. The first occupants of the threatened area are obliged to undertake additional work
to facilitate the seaward flow of floodwaters, while conserving the productive use of their own reclaimed land. From 1217 the “channel of five abbots” (l’achenal des cinq abbes”), a canal some 15 km in length, is constructed thanks to the coordinated efforts of the five large abbeys that occupied the land before the Cistercians arrived (Figure 9.14). Even later, in 1283, another long canal is constructed to connect the Lu$on canal to the “channel of the five abbots”. This canal makes it possible to drain the edge of the plateau upstream of the land reclaimed for Moreilles by the abbot Ostensius. For a change, this last canal, the “channel of the King” (l’achenal du Roi), does not owe its existence to the monasteries. Since the campaigns of Philippe Auguste and the Treaty of Paris, signed by Saint Louis in 1259, the south of the Poitou is royal land. This canal is thus built under the authority of the King with the financial participation of twelve lay

watercourse or canal assumed to be from before the 12th century


canal (achenal)

towns and villages

abbeys: "dry land"


Cistercian (above


Benedictine the marsh)



Land development and management
communities on the plateau.

The energy and hydraulic know-how of the Cistercian monks is seen in many other projects. To the north of Brives the Obazines achieve drainage of the land in the 13th century. They also developed the saltworks of Oleron. The Cistercians of Buzay play an important role in reclamation of marshlands in the Loire River delta.

Again in the Loire valley downstream of Tours, settlements had for ages been built on sandy fluvial deposits, and subsequently kept above the water by the inhabitants through accumulated fragile defenses of earth and turf. In the years 1160 – 1170, undoubtedly at the initiative of the English King Henry II Plantagenet, the first levee on
the Loire is built in the valley of Authion on the north bank of the river, extending some fifty kilometers between Langeais and Saumur. This is a turcie, a structure made of driv­en stakes, branches, sticks, and earth. Henry II settles inhabitants on the structure itself and charges them with the maintenance of the turcie; for this service, they are exonerat­ed from military duty. All of this is laid out in a charter dated in 1169. In the 14th cen­tury this levee is extended downstream until it is continuous along all the valley of Authion. Large settlements like Tours and Orleans are in their turn protected by similar turcies. This leads to a period of calm along the Loire until the middle of the 15th cen­tury, perhaps explaining the neglect in maintenance of these levees. But important and repeated floods cause inundations in 1456, 1482, 1494, and again in 1519, 1525, and 1527. Starting in 1482 King Louis XI undertakes to raise the existing turcies, to gener­alize the flood defense system, and even to set standards for the height and the method of construction of the levees. This effort is continued until the reign of Henry IV.[485]

Land development and management

Another enterprise of grand amplitude is the development of the plain of Roussillon – but in a completely different context.[486] Roussillon is in effect part of the Catalan ter­ritory. In the 10th and 11th centuries it is part of the county of Barcelona, then a posses­sion of the King of Majorca from 1262 to 1344, and finally it is integrated into the king­dom of Aragon. The land needs irrigation much more than drainage, and it seems logi­cal that the influence of Andalusian techniques is found there. Irrigation networks devel­op in the basin of the Tet, east of Perpignan, from the 9th century; they particularly flour­ish between the 12th and 13th centuries (Figure 9.15). The influence of certain abbeys such as those of Lagrass and of Saint-Michel de Cuxa would appear to be decisive inso­far as these irrigation works are concerned. As is the case in so many of the fertile regions of Europe, one finds ample evidence of donations of canals and mills from local lords to these abbeys.

Figure 9.15 The canals in the Roussillon plain: irrigation from the 11th to the 13th century; the “royal Thuir canal” and its wanderings of the 15th century, after Caucanas, 1995.

At the beginning of the 14th century the development of the cities of Perpignan and Thuir led to a major project to supply water necessary for cultivation, mills, and domes­tic use. The “royal canal of Thuir” was built by the king of Majorca at the very begin­ning of this century. The canal is 35 km long, rising in the foothills near Vinfa and cross­ing a hilly countryside. The terrain required that the canal be laid on a slope in some areas, necessitating numerous civil engineering works, and in particular several bridge – canals. The canal supplies six mills at Thuir, and seven at Perpignan where in addition it powers a noria that lifts water to the chateau. But the Mediterranean climate, with its violent floods, is a constant threat to this canal. In 1403 flood damages require that the canal be temporarily closed. It was necessary to rebuild the intake, which was accom­plished by 1416, but then the canal is again destroyed by the major inundations of 1421. At this point the actions of the Arragon sovereigns are decisive. In 1425 a new canal, the “royal rech of Perpignan”, rejoins the trace of the earlier canal downstream of Thuir. The sole purpose of this canal, issuing from an intake at Ille further downstream, is to provide water for the city of Perpignan. As for the city of Thuir, the “royal rech of Thuir” is built two years later with an intake on the Tet River at an intermediate location between Vinfa and Ille (Figure 9.15). Later still, the lord of Corbere has the ancient royal canal of Thuir rebuilt to supply water to his city.