Building the Embankments of the Tiber
On December 29th, 1870, after days of exceptionally heavy rain, the river Tiber broke its banks. The floodwaters rushed into the centro storico, rising to a height of almost two metres. There are several small plaques on buildings near the Pantheon that record the event.
The flood took place only a few months after the annexation of Rome by the Kingdom of Italy, on September 20th, 1870. For a city that was to become a capital, such flooding could no longer be tolerated and so in 1876 work began on the building of the huge embankments, to a design by the engineer Raffaele Canevari (1828-1900).
Construction of the towering embankments, which stand about 12 m (40 ft) high and stretch for 8 km (5 miles), took half a century. Work was finally completed in 1926, an achievement that is recorded by a large wall monument near Ponte Sublicio.
The monument is inscribed with lines from Virgil's Aeneid (Book VIII, v. 62-65): EGO SVM PLENO QUEM FLVMINE CERNIS/STRINGENTEM RIPAS ET PINGVIA CVLTA SECANTEM/CAERVLEVS THYBRIS CAELO GRATISSIMVS AMNIS/HIC MIHI MAGNA DOMVS CELSIS CAPVT VRBIBVS EXIT. (I am the copious flood which thou beholdest chafing at yon shores and parting fruitful fields: cerulean stream of Tiber, favoured greatly of high Heaven. Here shall arise my house magnificent, a city of all cities chief and crown.)
Throughout its long history, Rome has been no stranger to floods: Flood Plaques of Rome.
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My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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