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61
Italian Journal of Engineering Geology and Environment, 1 (2015)
© Sapienza Università Editrice
www.ijege.uniroma1.it
DOI: 10.4408/IJEGE.2015-01.O-05
U
GO
CHIOCCHINI
(*)
& C
ELESTINO
GRASSI
(**)
(*)
Università della Tuscia - Viterbo, Italy - E - mail: luca_chiocco@libero.it
(**)
Via Ugo De Carolis, 73 - 00136 Roma, Italy - E-mail: celegrassi@libero.it
THE ROMAN HYDRAULIC SYSTEM OF FRIGENTO (CAMPANIA, SOUTHERN ITALY)
EXTENDED ABSTRACT
La necessità di fornire l’acqua all’insediamento di Frequentum (attuale Frigento in Campania) e alla strada che collegava Beneventum
(attuale Benevento) a Compsa (attuale Conza della Campania), situata circa 35 km a SE di Frigento nella valle del Fiume Ofanto, era
dettata in larga misura dalla necessità di rifornire le legioni dell’esercito romano che, per motivi strategici e politici, dovevano transitare
spesso su tale strada. Essa coincideva probabilmente con il tracciato della Via Appia antica tra Aeclanum e Venusia (attuali Mirabella
Eclano e Venosa). Le cisterne del sistema idraulico, di età tardo-repubblicana (circa 86-27 a. C.), suggeriscono che Frequentum era un
importante centro romano.
L’area di Frigento è ubicata su un rilievo a quota 910 m s.l.m., compreso in una dorsale orientata NW-SE che forma lo spartiacque tra il
bacino idrografi co del Fiume Ufi ta a NE e quello del Fiume Calore a SW, ed è costituita dal Flysch galestrino del Cretacico, caratteriz-
zato da un grado di permeabilità relativa molto basso. Una coltre di suolo di colore grigio scuro con spessore fi no a 5 m è presente nella
zona sommitale dell’area urbana e in parte su versanti. L’analisi granulometrica di un campione di suolo ed una prova di permeabilità
in situ indicano che si tratta di un suolo sabbioso limoso il cui coeffi ciente di permeabilità è E-05 m/sec.
I dati climatici, rilevati presso la vicina stazione di S. Angelo dei Lombardi alla stessa quota di Frigento e disponibili solo per il 2005,
2006 e 2008, forniscono i seguenti valori medi: temperatura 11,6°C, precipitazioni totali 796 mm, evapotraspirazione 517 mm, precipi-
tazioni effi caci 279 mm. L’infi ltrazione totale effi cace interna è compresa tra 0,223x10
-3
e 0,251x10
-3
m
3
/anno.
La parte attualmente osservabile del sistema idraulico è costituita da 4 gallerie, di cui tre visitabili, perchè la quarta è interrata. Le gal-
lerie sono parallele ed adiacenti con asse orientato NW-SE, hanno forma rettangolare e sono lunghe 21 m, larghe circa 2 m. L’altezza
misurata perpendicolarmente all’asse della calotta è 3,90 m, i piedritti sono alti 2,57 m con spessore di 0,60-0,70 m e il pavimento è
protetto da una griglia metallica. Per la costruzione delle gallerie è stato necessario procedere prima alla escavazione del suolo e del
Flysch galestrino su una zona rettangolare. Successivamente sono stati costruiti i piedritti e le calotte e infi ne è stato depositato il livello
di suolo permeabile sopra le calotte. Queste ultime sono state sottoposte ad un trattamento tale da consentire che l’acqua accumulata nel
suolo sovrastante potesse fi ltrare attraverso di esse. Il materiale calcareo di risulta è stato utilizzato per le strutture murarie, le calotte e
il rivestimento. Infatti tutta l’opera idraulica è edifi cata con opus caementitium rivestito con paramento esterno in opus incertum. I due
tipi di opus comprendono conci di calcari marnosi di colore grigio e calcari silicei di colore marrone o giallastro di varie dimensioni.
Sono presenti anche alcuni conci di travertino, prelevato dalle cave circa 6 km a sud di Frigento, che è il materiale utilizzato nei piedritti
e nell’arco delle aperture che collegano le tre gallerie. La malta idraulica è costituita da inerti calcarei con granulometria della sabbia
grossolana immersi in una matrice di colore grigio e grigio scuro composta dal suolo che affi ora nella zona e da calce.
Le gallerie intercomunicanti rappresentano un articolato sistema idraulico costruito con materiali impermeabili per immagazzinare,
durante l’intero anno, l’acqua delle precipitazioni e quella derivante dalla fusione della neve raccolte su una superfi cie pressoché pi-
aneggiante di circa 26.000 m
2
a 900 m s.l.m., dove esiste un livello di suolo permeabile suffi cientemente spesso sovrapposto al Flysch
galestrino praticamente impermeabile. Si evitava in tal modo la raccolta di acqua in cisterne a cielo aperto, ottenendo una potabilità di
gran lunga migliore. L’ordine di grandezza del volume di acqua che il suolo avrebbe potuto assorbire in un anno sulla superfi cie di circa
26.000 m
2
è compreso tra 5.798 e 6.256 m
3
. Questi valori sono considerati minimi perché si dovrebbe aggiungere la quantità di acqua
derivante dalla fusione della neve, non valutabile per la mancanza di dati sulle precipitazioni nevose.
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U. CHIOCCHINI & C. GRASSI
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Italian Journal of Engineering Geology and Environment, 1 (2015)
© Sapienza Università Editrice
www.ijege.uniroma1.it
ABSTRACT
The Romans solved the problem of supplying water to the
settlement corresponding to modern Frigento (910 m a.s.l.) and
to the road connecting modern Mirabella Eclano to modern
Conza della Campania by constructing a storage system con-
sisting of a series of cisterns. The latter were excavated in Cre-
taceous Flysch galestrino with the least degree of relative per-
meability, lying -below a surface level of pyroclastic sandy soil
up to 5 m thick with a medium degree of relative permeability.
The volume of water that the soil could have absorbed in one
year over the 26,000 m
2
- surface enclosed in the contour line
900 m a.s.l. ranges between 5,616 and 6,256 m
3
. This should be
considered as a conservative estimate, since it does not include
the quantity derived from melted snow, which cannot currently
be computed due to lack of specifi c statistical data. The wa-
ter thus accumulated in the cisterns formed a reserve available
throughout the year.
K
EY
WORDS
: cistern, hydraulic system, Frigento, permeable soil,
hydric reserve
INTRODUCTION
The Romans made considerable technical advances in hy-
draulics, expanding the knowledge they inherited from the Hel-
lenistic civilization. The Greeks had already given a great impe-
tus to the science through the contributions of eminent scholars
such as Thales, Euclid, Pythagoras and Ctesibius. The latter, in
particular, performed fundamental research on the design and
construction of hydraulic devices (pumps and hydraulic organs)
and instruments of measurement (water-clock). Water played
a central role in Roman civilization and culture, for drinking,
cleaning, bathing, socialising and relaxation. An abundant sup-
ply was needed for bath complexes, ornamental nymphaea and
monumental fountains. The provision of a water supply, togeth-
er with Roman law and the might of the army, thus became both
an instrument of political power and a justifi cation for dominion
over other populations.
During the fi rst few centuries after the city’s foundation, the
Romans used the waters of the River Tiber. Later, this was sup-
plemented by water derived from springs and wells, together with
rain water stored in cisterns built in the urban territory of Rome.
By the end of the 4
th
century BC this was no longer suffi cient
and the fi rst of a series of aqueducts was built to canalize water
derived from springs located up to 80 kilometres from the city.
Our main sources today of information about the Romans’
technical ability to construct hydraulic works are two treatises
by Roman authors. The fi rst, De Architectura, is a treatise by
Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (c. 80-15 BC), dedicated to emperor
Augustus, illustrating research systems, methods used to evalu-
ate water quality, aqueduct construction criteria and water stor-
age methods. The second, De Aquaeductu Urbis Romae, is a
treatise by Sextus Julius Frontinus (40-103/104 BC) which de-
scribes in detail nine of the eleven aqueducts that fed the city of
Rome (the Aqua Traiana and Aqua Alexandrina aqueducts were
constructed after Frontinus died).
Rain water storage systems are a very ancient technology,
in widespread use all over the world. The Romans adopted this
type of system in particular where water resources were very
limited or lacking, as in the entire territory of the town known
today as Frigento, located in the Campania region and charac-
terized by unfavourable hydrogeological conditions. Thus in
this challenging context the Romans faced the problem of sup-
plying water to the Frequentum settlement (modern Frigento)
and to the road that connected Beneventum (modern Beneven-
to), to Compsa (modern Conza della Campania), about 35 km
SE of Frigento in the valley of the River Ofanto (Fig. 1). This
road was very important because it passed close to the temple of
the Goddess Mefi tis, whose worship was connected with emis-
sions from the ground of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide.
Compsa itself became a very relevant strategic centre during the
period of the three Punic wars of Rome against Carthage (fought
respectively in 264-241 BC, 218-202 BC and 149-146 BC); in-
deed, Hannibal camped there in 216 BC after winning the bat-
tle of Cannae. The origins of Frequentum date back to the fi fth
century BC when the Samnitic League, of which the Irpini were
part, tried to resist Rome during three wars (fought respectively
in 343-341 BC, 326-304 BC and 298-290 BC). At the end of the
Samnite wars Frequentum was conquered with other cities and
became a Roman centre.
The Romans’ main purpose in creating a supply of wa-
ter was to provide for the Roman army who frequently used
the road from Beneventum to Compsa for strategic and politi-
cal reasons. Indeed, it is believed that the hydraulic system of
Frequentum was constructed in function of supplying the road
and that it coincided with the route of the old Appian Way (Fig.
1) between Aeclanum and Venusia (modern Mirabella Eclano
and Venosa). The old Appian Way, begun in 312 BC by cen-
sor Appius Claudius Caecus, was a thoroughfare of vital impor-
tance because it crossed the regions of Campania, Lucania and
Apulia, connecting Rome to the port of Brundisium (modern
Brindisi) and thus to the Orient.
The present study is part of the project entitled “Investiga-
tion into the route of the old Appian Way between Mirabella
Eclano and Venosa” of the National Association for the Interests
of Southern Italy (A.N.I.M.I.) and the Institute for the Archaeo-
logical and Monumental Heritage (I.B.A.M.) of the National
Research Council (C.N.R.). It aims to illustrate the criteria gov-
erning the construction and functioning of the hydraulic system
that supplied water to an important Roman settlement and to the
road connecting Beneventum to Compsa.
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THE ROMAN HYDRAULIC SYSTEM OF FRIGENTO (CAMPANIA, SOUTHERN ITALY)
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Italian Journal of Engineering Geology and Environment, 1 (2015)
© Sapienza Università Editrice
www.ijege.uniroma1.it
GEOGRAPHIC AREA AND GEOLOGICAL SET-
TING
Modern Frigento is a small hill town (910 m a.s.l) lying on
a ridge lying NW - SE that forms the watershed between the
hydrographic basin of the River Ufi ta to the north-east and that
of River Calore to the south-west (Fig. 1). This area is located in
the southern Apennine chain, between the Tyrrhenian Sea to the
south-west and the Adriatic-Apulian foreland to the north-east
(Fig. 2). This chain underwent its last compressive buckling be-
tween the late Pliocene (3.60 Myr) and early Pleistocene (1.81
Myr) (M
OSTARDINI
& M
ERLINI
, 1986; P
ATACCA
et alii, 1989;
1990; 1993; S
CROCCA
et alii, 2003). Extensional tectonics, on
the other hand, affected the Tyrrhenian area and the western part
of the chain from the late Tortonian (about 7.30 Myr) and result-
ed in the development of piggy-back basins during the Pliocene,
and of basins between the mountains and the alluvial plain areas
in the Pleistocene. Furthermore, the Campania region is charac-
terized by the volcanic centres (Fig. 2) of Somma-Vesuvio (0.4
Myr - 0), Campi Flegrei (0.06 Myr - 0) and the Island of Ischia
(about 0.15 Myr - 0) that were active during the middle to late
Pleistocene (S
CROCCA
et alii, 2003).
The southern Apennine chain is the result of buckling of fi ve
sectors of a palaeogeographic model including, from west to east,
the following belts (M
OSTARDINI
& M
ERLINI
, 1986): the Ligurids
and the Tyrrhenian basin, the Apennine carbonate platform, the
Lagonegro - Molise basin, the Apulia inner carbonate platform,
the Apulia basin and the Apulia outer carbonate platform. Several
tectonic units have been identifi ed in the southern Apennine chain.
In the study area of the Campania region they consist mainly of
the Fortore Unit (P
ESCATORE
et alii, 2000; 2008) thrust on the Lag-
onegro Unit (S
CANDONE
, 1967; 1972: 1975; Fig. 3). The former
includes the Cretaceous - early Miocene Varicoloured Claystone
Formation and the early Miocene Numidian Flysch. The latter unit
is made up of the middle Triassic Formation of Mt. Facito, the late
Triassic Formation of limestones with chert, the Jurassic Siliceous
schists and the Cretaceous Flysch galestrino (Fig. 3).
MATERIALS AND METHODS
For this study on the Roman hydraulic system of Frigento,
an historical investigation, a geological survey of both the Fri-
gento zone in scale 1: 25,000 and of the urban centre in scale 1:
1,000 and a hydraulic survey of the water storage structure were
performed. Climatic data were also evaluated (yearly rainfall and
mean temperatures), using data from the St. Angelo dei Lombardi
Fig. 1 - Dig
ital Terrain Model showing the location of Frigento and the possible route of the old Appian Way followed between Mirabella Eclano and Venosa
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Italian Journal of Engineering Geology and Environment, 1 (2015)
© Sapienza Università Editrice
www.ijege.uniroma1.it
station (875 m a.s.l.) about 15 km SE of Frigento, since Frigento
has no station recording. These data are available for 2005, 2006
and 2008 only, whilst no snow precipitation data are available.
Furthermore, a grain size analysis and a permeability test in situ
were performed on soil in accordance with the Recommendations
of AGI (1977) and the volume of water that the soil could store in
one year was estimated.
RESULTS
Historical information
The fi rst direct historical information reported here on the
hydraulic system of Frigento derives essentially from works writ-
ten by local two scholars: Fabio C
IAMPO
(1798; 1837) and Pietro
Gaetano F
LAMMIA
(1845). According to C
IAMPO
(1798), the old
people of the town informed him there were eleven underground
chambers, only four of which were visible, interconnected through
small arch-shaped openings. Ciampo reported their height as four-
teen and a half spans (1 span = 26.45 cm; fourteen and half spans
= 3.83 m); their width as seven and a half spans (1.98 m), while
their length was undefi ned in that period. These chambers running
towards the east and south, are sloped and narrowed from place
to place so that reserves of water are retained. One of these pools
is visible and ends in a narrow channel about 2 spans in diameter,
that can be seen in one point where there is a channel with a 2 span
diameter (about 53 cm). They are known as ‘wells’ and are used to
provide the city with rain water.
Furthermore, the author noted that when the tunnels were
cleared, “the base of a Tuscan order pillar with a diameter of 4
spans less one inch
[Author’s note: c. 103 cm] and an inscrip-
tion naming the architect as C. Antistius Isocrysus
”. In a later
work C
IAMPO
(1837) added that the four tunnels were connected
to “other similar chambers” present “throughout City” and that
they consist of two more parts: that is to say, square cisterns
where the arches of the wells end, whence more narrow chan-
nels start like nerves to form ganglions and further on start again
to form other ganglions… above the chamber we see some nar-
row channels with a diameter of two and half spans [66 cm]
lined with bricks.
F
LAMMIA
(1845) claimed, instead, that there were fi ve wells “in
part untouched, symmetrically positioned in the form of corridors,
about 200 spans long [c. 53 m] and fourteen spans high [3.7 m]
recognizable among crumbling ruins
”.
Fig. 2 -
Schematic tectonic map of Italy. From S
CROCCA
et alii (2003)
modifi ed. 1, foreland areas; 2, fore-deep sediments; 3, Apen-
nine areas characterised by a compressional tectonics; 4,
thrust belts of the Alps and Corsica connected to the Alpine
orogenesis; 5, areas with extensional tectonics of the Apen-
nines and Tyrrhenian Sea; 6, volcanic centre; 7, main thrusts;
8, faults
Fig. 3 - Stratigraphic-structural scheme of the relationships between
the Fortore Unit and the Lagonegro Unit.
Fortore Unit: 1, Numidian Flysch (early Miocene); 2, Varicolou-
red Claystone Formation (Cretaceous - early Miocene); 7, thrust.
Lagonegro Unit: 3, Flysch galestrino (Cretaceous) 4, Siliceous
schists (Jurassic); 5, Formation of limestones with chert (late
Triassic); 6, Mt. Facito Formation (middle Triassic)
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THE ROMAN HYDRAULIC SYSTEM OF FRIGENTO (CAMPANIA, SOUTHERN ITALY)
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Italian Journal of Engineering Geology and Environment, 1 (2015)
© Sapienza Università Editrice
www.ijege.uniroma1.it
Then archaeological excavations carried out in 1958 by the
Antiquity Service of Campania (O
NORATO
, 1960) to investi-
gate the hydraulic system also known as the “Roman cisterns”,
brought to light an inscription of the era of Lucius Cornelius Sulla
Felix found in a pillar of the church of S. Maria Assunta (D
E
-
GRASSI
, 1972; C
OLUCCI
P
ESCATORI
, 1975). This inscription records
the fact that “a wall, some doors, a forum, a portico, a curia and
a cistern were constructed by Caius Quinctius Valgus
” (C
OLUCCI
P
ESCATORI
, 1975). Quinctius Valgus was a duumvir, i.e., a magis-
trate employed on delicate political and administrative tasks with
a one year term of offi ce, and a supporter of Sulla; he also served
as plebeian tribune in 63 BC (E
BANISTA
, 2009). Later, on occasion
of works in Frigento connected with the 1980 Campania-Luca-
nia earthquake, the remains of the suspensurae of a Roman bath
house dating between 1
st
and 2
nd
century AD were found in Via S.
Pietro, while in Via S. Giovanni a water duct with a double slop-
ing cover consisting of bipedal bricks was discovered (C
OLUCCI
P
ESCATORI
, 1991; R
OMITO
, 1995; G
IOVANNIELLO
& F
ORGIONE
, 1999;
C
OLUCCI
P
ESCATORI
, 2000). A further segment of water duct was
unearthed in 1998 in Via S. Giovanni during road works in con-
nection with the gas supply (M
AURIELLO
, 2005).
The late republican age cisterns dating about 56-27 BC (O
N
-
ORATO
, 1960; R
OMITO
, 1975; G
IOVANNIELLO
& F
ORGIONE
, 1999;
C
OLUCCI
P
ESCATORI
, 2000; F
ORGIONE
& G
IOVANNIELLO
, 2002), the
water duct consisting of bipedal bricks in Via S. Giovanni and
the 1
st
to 3
rd
century BC wall structures found below the church
of S. Pietro suggest that Frequentum was an important Roman
centre, referred to as a vicus and/or an oppidum, or as a colony
and/or a duoviral municipium (C
OLUCCI
P
ESCATORI
, 2000).
The geological setting of Frigento
The geological survey (Fig. 4) of the Frigento area con-
fi rmed that the calcareous-marly member of the Varicoloured
Claystone Formation overlies the Flysch galestrino. The former
includes medium and thick beds of turbidite calcarenites and
calcirudites with intercalations of thin beds of red and green
marls. The latter consists of medium, thick and very thick beds
of grey and yellowish marly limestones with calcite veins,
siliceous limestones with a brown colour due to fi lms of iron
oxides, and grey and brown marls and claystones. The Flysch
galestrino is buckled in a succession of asymmetrical closed
folds, whose axis is oriented in a NW-SE direction (Fig. 4) and
Fig. 4 -
Geological map of the Frigento area.
b2, soil (Holocene); a, debris (Holocene); Fortore Unit: AVR, calcareous - marly member of the Varicoloured Claystone Formation (Cretaceous
- early Miocene); Lagonegro Unit: FGA, Flysch galestrino (Cretaceous); 1, bed attitude; 2, probable normal fault; 3, thrust; 4, spring; 5, aban-
doned quarry
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Italian Journal of Engineering Geology and Environment, 1 (2015)
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it is characterized by the least degree of relative permeability.
A typical dark grey soil with a thickness of up to 5 m (Fig. 4)
rests partly on the Flysch galestrino in the upper zone of the
urban area and partly on the slopes. A grain size analysis of soil
sampled in the excavation for the in situ permeability test (Fig.
5) shows that the soil consists of silty sand (Fig. 6). This deposit
was produced by weathering of the pyroclastic deposits result-
ing from the Somma-Vesuvio volcanic eruptions.
Climatic elements
As regards climatic conditions, it should be borne in mind
that past environmental conditions, in particular precipitation
levels, were similar to the current conditions for long periods,
favouring anthropogenic activities and socio-economic develop-
ment, as occurred between 350 and 150 BC, taking into account
also the Small Ice Age between 520 BC and 357 AD (O
RTOLANI
& P
AGLIUCA
, 2007). Climatic data (yearly rainfall and mean tem-
peratures) are available for 2005, 2006 and 2008 only.
The mean recorded temperature (Tm) is 11.6°C and the
monthly means range between a minimum of 2.9°C in Febru-
ary and 5.5 °C in January and a maximum of 21.6°C in July
and 20.8 °C in August (Tab. 1). The total rainfall (Ptot) shows
a mean annual value of 796 mm (Tab. 1) which is concentrated
in the period from November to April, during which period val-
ues of 620 mm (c. 85% of the annual total), 413 mm (c. 61%)
and 732 mm (c. 75%) were recorded in 2005, 2006 and 2008
respectively. The real evapotranspiration (Er) was calculated by
means of T
URC
’s formula (1954):
where P is the yearly precipitation and L is a parameter function
of the yearly mean temperature T in °C:
L = 300 + 25T + 0.05T
3
The mean value of Er (Tab. 1) is 517 mm, with a maximum
value of 485 mm in 2006 and a minimum value of 564 mm in 2008.
The effective rainfall (PE) represents the renewable potential
natural total water resources and was calculated yearly by sub-
Fig. 5 -
Map of the upper part of Frigento showing the distribution of soil and the location of cisterns, permeability test and sampling of soil
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Italian Journal of Engineering Geology and Environment, 1 (2015)
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tracting the evapotranspiration from the total rainfall:
PE = Ptot – Er
The mean value of effective rainfall PE (Tab. 2) is 279 mm
with a maximum value of 413 mm calculated for 2008 and a min-
imum value of 200 mm for 2006.
The internal effective total infi ltration (Iti) was calculated
on the basis of the rainfall, temperature, real evapotranspira-
tion and effective rainfall data, obtained using the potential in-
fi ltration coeffi cients (p.i.c.) proposed by C
ELICO
(1986; 1988;
Tab. 3), which allow to evaluate the yearly infi ltration as a part
of the effective rainfall. The Iti value varies according to the
lithology of the feeding area depending on its degree of rela-
tive permeability. Since the urban area of Frigento is covered
by sandy soil, the 80-90 percent coeffi cient typical of sands is
suitable. Based on this coeffi cient, the Iti value ranges between
0.223 x10
-3
and 0.251x10
-3
m
3
/year.
The permeability test in situ
This test was carried out under constant head conditions in
the north-eastern zone of Frigento (Fig. 5) close to the crossroad
between Via Limiti and Via S. Giovanni (42° 00.797’ N; 15°
06.074’ E) in order to defi ne the hydraulic conductivity of the
soil. A steel ring with a height and diameter of 25 cm was in-
serted into a 60 x 60 x 60 cm hole excavated for the purpose and
the soil was completely saturated before starting the test. Figure
7 shows a graph of the hydraulic conductivity coeffi cient value,
K. It can be seen that the initial value of K was of the order of
E-06 m/s, which increased rapidly to a value of E-05 m/s, which
is in good agreement with the grain size composition of soil
defi ned as silty sand.
The hydraulic water storage system
The hydraulic system was constructed in the area of maxi-
mum elevation of the route of the road connecting Beneventum to
Compsa, after exceeding a gradient of about 400 m between Ae-
clanum
, at 400 m a.s.l., and the area of Frequentum at 800 m a.s.l.
The part of the hydraulic system which is visible today con-
sists of four tunnels, of which only three can be visited, be-
Fig. 6 -
Cumulative curve showing the grain size composition of the soil sampled in the excavation for the permeability test in situ
Tab. 3 - Values of the potential infi ltration coeffi cients (p.i.c.) of some
hydrogeological complexes according to C
ELICO
(1986; 1988)
Tab. 1 -
Calculation of the real evapotranspiration by means of Turc’s
formula (1954) for 2005, 2006 and 2008
Tab. 2 -
Calculation of the variations of effective rainfall in 2005, 2006
and 2008.
Ptot, total rainfall; Tm, mean temperature; L, 300 +
25T + 0.05T
3
; Er, real evapotranspiration in mm/year; PE, ef-
fective rains; N, number of observations; MA, arithmetic mean;
MAX, MIN, respectively maximum value and minimum value
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Italian Journal of Engineering Geology and Environment, 1 (2015)
© Sapienza Università Editrice
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cause the fourth has been fi lled in (Fig. 8). According to C
IAMPO
(1798) there should be eleven tunnels in the village, although
the location to which the tunnels lead is unknown. The entrance
of the four known tunnels, are currently located in a small
square at 908 m a.s.l. (Fig. 5) below a building and its garden
(41° 00.776’ N; 15° 0.41’ E). They can be reached by means
of a staircase consisting of fi fteen steps, so that the fl oor of the
three tunnels lies about 3 m below ground level at 904.7 m a.s.l.
(Figs. 8 and 9).
The three tunnels that can be visited are in surprisingly good
condition. They lie parallel and adjacent to a NW-SE axis and
are rectangular in shape, 21 m long and about 2 m wide. The
height measured perpendicularly to the axis of the crown is 3.90
m (Fig. 8), the piers are 2.57 m high and 0.60-0.70 m wide and
the fl oor is protected by a metallic grid. The measurements of the
tunnels’ dimensions are slight different from those reported by
C
IAMPO
(1738). The fl oor is inclined on a 1% slope allowing wa-
ter to fl ow towards the entrance. The three tunnels are connected
through two perfectly aligned arch-shaped openings 0.60 m wide
and 1.15-1.50 m high. The arch-shaped opening of tunnel n. 1 is
8.40 m away from its entrance (Fig. 10).
There is a fourth opening for access to tunnels 2 and 3
which has three buttresses 0.90 m wide and the same height as
the piers, constructed to balance the pressure of the soil, and
a wall that reduces the length of the tunnel. There are some
holes in the piers close to the fl oor, these probably served ei-
ther to facilitate ventilation in the lower part of tunnels, where
the circulation of air is poor, or to solve problems of statics
due to variations of pressure during the phases of emptying and
fi lling of the cisterns. Furthermore in the middle part of the
crown there is a circular cavity with a diameter of 0.70 m for
drawing up water which is currently fi lled in. A second circular
cavity rises perpendicularly upward as far as ground level of
the garden overlying the three tunnels. This opening, which is
protected by a metallic grid, was clearly intended to be used as
a well to draw water from the tunnels. The crowns have been
subjected to repairs in concrete carried out in modern times
which have changed their original structure, through which the
water derived from the overlying soil should fi lter down into
the tunnels. The soil and Flysch galestrino over a rectangular
zone would have had to be excavated in order to construct the
tunnels. Later the crown and the piers would have been con-
structed and lastly a level of permeable soil would have been
deposited above the crown. The crowns would have undergone
a procedure to allow the water which had accumulated in the
overlying soil to fi lter through them. The resulting calcareous
material would have been used for the wall structures and the
covering. In fact the whole hydraulic system was constructed
using opus caementitium (Roman concrete) covered by an out-
er surface consisting of opus incertum (irregular masterwork).
This types of opus includes ashlars of gray marly limestones
and brown or yellowish siliceous limestones (Fig. 11) of vari-
ous dimensions. Travertine, derived from quarries about 6 km
south of Frigento, was used for the piers and arches of the open-
ings connecting the three tunnels and a few ashlars of travertine
are also present in the covering (Fig. 10). The hydraulic mortar
consists of calcareous sandy grain-sized inerts and a grey to
dark grey matrix including the pyroclastic soil outcropping in
the zone and the lime (Fig. 11).
The interconnected tunnels are an articulated hydraulic sys-
tem constructed with impermeable materials to store the rain
water and the water derived from melted snow, which are par-
ticularly abundant during the November to April period. Thus
the collecting of water in open cisterns was avoided, resulting
in a much better quality of drinking water.
Fig. 7 - Graphs showing the trend of values of the hydraulic conductivity coeffi cient K during the permeability test in situ under constant head conditions
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Fig. 8 - Planimetry and sections of the tunnels. a, wallings consisting of opus caementitium; b, substratum; c, soil; 1, 2, 3, visible tunnels; 4, tunnel fi lled in
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U. CHIOCCHINI & C. GRASSI
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Estimation of the volume of water stored in the soil
The Romans solved the problem of supplying water to the
Frequentum settlement and the road running below the town
connecting Aeclanum to Compsa by constructing an hydraulic
system which allowed rainfall and melted snow to be stored
at the highest elevation of the Frequentum relief, 900 m a.s.l.,
where a suffi ciently thick layer of permeable soil caps the litho-
types of the Flysch galestrino having the least degree of perme-
ability. When the Romans built the Frequentum settlement, the
surface area of about 26,000 m
2
enclosed in the contour line
900 m a.s.l. was not as intensely built up as it is today and con-
sequently the surface area must have been available for collect-
ing and fi ltering precipitation. The solution which takes into ac-
count only the surface enclosed in the contour line 900 m a.s.l.
was chosen in order to exclude the adjoining surfaces, which
slope downwards rapidly in all directions, and would therefore
favour the washing away of rain water and snowmelt along the
slopes. The surface area considered was arranged with gentle
slopes to favour the fl ow of all precipitation towards the rec-
tangular area where the cisterns are situated (Fig. 12). Thus
the Romans could rely on a quantity of rainfall that, minus the
evapotraspiration, would almost completely infi ltrate the per-
meable soil. Taking into account that the value of internal total
infi ltration in the soil ranges between 0.223x10
-3
and 0.251x10
-3
m
3
/year, it is possible to estimate that the volume of the water
that could have infi ltrated through the soil over a surface of
about 26,000 m
2
during one year ranged between 5,798 and
6,526 m
3
. These quantities should be considered as minimum
values to which the water derived from melted snow should
be added, but this quantity cannot be estimated due to the lack
of information about this type of precipitation. Thus the water
fi ltered through as much as 5 m of soil and would come straight
into contact with the crown of the tunnels and accumulate at the
bottom of the tunnels, forming a reserve available during the
whole year (Fig. 13).
Fig. 9 - Tunnel n. 1 with the fl oor protected by a metallic grid and the
staircase of access
Fig. 10 - The opening in tunnel n. 1 consists of ashlars of travertine
Fig. 11 - Ashlars of marly limestone and siliceous limestone cemented
by gray hydraulic mortar with white calcareous inerts of the
face of tunnel n. 1
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Fig. 12 - Arrangement of the surface enclosed in contour line 900 m a.s.l favouring fl ow of precipitation towards the rectangular zone of cisterns
Fig. 13 - Scheme showing the storage of rain water and snowmelt
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U. CHIOCCHINI & C. GRASSI
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Italian Journal of Engineering Geology and Environment, 1 (2015)
© Sapienza Università Editrice
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the technical properties of geological formations, utilized either
as materials for civil engineering, or for constructing hydraulic
systems, but also to what extent they were able to exploit these
hydrogeological characteristics.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The authors are grateful to Nicola Polzone of Geoconsult-
Lab for performing the grain size analysis and permeability test
in situ on soil; to Adele Campanelli and Ida Gennarelli of the
Archaeological Heritage Service of Salerno, Avellino, Beneven-
to and Caserta for allowing the authors to consult investigation
material on the cisterns of Frigento; to Andrea Famiglietti for
his courtesy in supplying historical and cartographic documen-
tation; to Giovanni Savarese and Renato Ventura who prepared
the fi gures.
CONCLUSIONS
The water derived from precipitation and melted snow and
stored in the cisterns was a reserve guaranteed by the favourable
climatic conditions of the Frequentum area, which was available
the whole year round and depurated as a result of the fi ltering
which took place as it passed through a suffi cient thickness of
soil. The water resource was distributed to the whole settlement
by pipelines and carried down as far the road connecting Aecla-
num
to Compsa at 800 m a.s.l., utilizing a system of minor basins,
some of which are still to be found in the town centre of Frigento
today, which also served to reduce the water pressure resulting
from the sudden change in altitude. The present study points out
once more the notable talent of the Romans as planners operating
in very varied, and often very diffi cult environmental and climat-
ic conditions. It shows not only that they were very well aware of
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