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.
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.
Search Walks in Rome: