Greek and Roman ideas about healthy drinking-water in theory and practice

Page 1

Greek and Roman ideas about healthy drinking-water in theory and practice

Cornelis van Tilburg


Leiden University Centre

Healthy drinking-water is one of the basic conditions to survive, in all times

for Artis in Society, The

and all places. So the presence of healthy drinking-water is a must to found a


city. Ancient medical writers such as the authors of the Hippocratic Corpus, Galen


and others have their ideas which qualities of drinking-water are the best.

There are different types of water: warm and cold, clear and unclear, light and heavy. Also the sources of water are important. There were, roughly, five origins of drinking-water: rain water, source water, well water, surface water (river water, lake water) and marsh water. Even the orientation of the water source was, according to some authors, a factor: to the west, to the east, etc. Did their opinions correspond with the opinions of non-medical ancient authors like Aristotle, Pliny the Elder and Frontinus? And did the opinions of ancient authors correspond with the situation in practice? Which type of drinkingwater did the city governments prefer to distribute to the citizens? In my paper, I hope to show and prove that opinions concerning drinkingwater in cities, stated by ancient medical authors are (amongst them) roughly the same, but they sometimes differ from non-medical authors, with different argumentations; in practice, the urban drinking-water supply was completely dependent to the local circumstances.

Received: Feb. 2013. Approved for publication: Jul. 2013.

Keywords Ancient medicine, drinking water, ancient literature, ancient archaeology.

e채 Journal, Vol. 5 N째 1 (Jun. 2013). ISSN 1852-4680.