Frontinus

Frontinus

Life

Sextus Iulius Frontinus was a Roman engineer and author of a work on aqueducts. He was likely born around 30 CE, but his early life and family are unknown. In contrast, his public service is better documented. He was appointed the praefectus urbanus in 70 and fought under Q. Petillius Cerialis to put down the Batavian revolt, for which he was well rewarded. He was next appointed consul in 72 or 73 and thereafter governor of Britain until 77 where he continued his military success. His stature in running a province at this point must have been held high by the emperors, for he was appointed governor of Germany in the early 80s and Asia Minor in the mid 80s. He was consul twice more in 98 and 100 for which he was appointed by Trajan, who held him in high favor. He even became an augur toward the end of his life. He died in 103 or 104.

Writings

Besides success in governance and the battlefield, Frontinus was also knowledgeable in a variety of technical fields. He was appointed by Nerva in 97 as the curator aquarum―essentially―the director of public water services in Rome and superintendent of aqueducts, a post he held for life. From this experience he wrote a technical treatise, De Aquis Urbis Romae (“On the Water Supply of the City of Rome”), sometimes given the alternative title De Aquaeductu (“On the Aqueduct”), though the latter title is not as accurate, since the work covers a myriad of topics relating to the management of aqueducts and plumbing. De Aquis stands as the most complete ancient treatment of Rome’s water supply.

His other major surviving work is the Strategemata, a guide in four books on military strategies and deception. The treatise is often thought to be a short textbook for military commanders, and it draws on examples of military success both ancient and recent. He also mentions a general treatise on warfare in the Strategemata, but that work is lost.

It is possible that some writings on land-surveying exist in a collection of works on the topic surviving in a manuscript that dates to the fifth or sixth century.

Texts Online

Latin: Phi Latin Texts