The Romans were famous for their engineering prowess in building structures like bridges, aqueducts, amphitheaters, and even tunnels. Under the reign of Emperor Claudius, the Romans built the longest tunnels of the ancient world up until the Frejus Rail Tunnel in 1871.
Not far from the tunnels is Rome, and in Rome, one can see the original Roman catacombs where the Christians hid and buried their dead. The Romans have left marvels of engineering both above and below the ground. In Paris, the famous quarries under the city were started by the Romans and today around 6 million people are buried in them.
Background and History of the Tunnels of Claudius
The tunnels enabled the Romans to protect the human settlement along the lake from flooding and make former wetlands suitable for farming.
- Length: Nearly 6 KM (3.5 Miles)
- Listed: In 1902 The Tunnels and Hydraulic Work Was Included In The Italian National Monuments
The petitions for the imperial Roman authorities to do something about the flooding of the lake date back to the reign of Julius Caesar. The inhabitants suffered from poor sanitary problems from the flooding. A plan was drawn up to fix the problem and to connect the River Tiber with the Adriatic Sea, but with the assassination of Julius Caesar, that plan was stalled.
Years later another plan was created. This called for the digging of a canal so that the water could flow out through the Cesolino hill and then empty into the River Salto. But this too was scrapped for fears that it would increase the risk of flooding in the city of Rome downstream.
- Built By: Emperor Claudius
But third time's a charm and the solution was to divert the waters through a tunnel through Mount Salviano into the River Liri. This plan was much more difficult but posed no problem for Rome.
The project took 11 years to complete and involved around 30,000 men digging (some were slaves). Unsurprisingly the project ran into many problems including landslides but the Romans perseverated and persisted.
- Date Built: Between 41 and 52 AD
According to I, Claudius, in celebration of its completion, Emperor Claudius held a public festival with a staged naval battle on the lake. The locks were opened by Claudius for the very first time. In the crowd, that day was Claudius's young relative Nero (who would go on to become the infamous Emperor Nero).
- Drained: 6,000 Acres of Fucine Lake