014 Infrastructure and Prosperity

It has been hotter than normal through all of June and July so far. Our apartment has two split-unit air conditioners, one in each of the bedrooms. It would be nice to have another unit in the living room since it gets the afternoon sun from noon until about 18:30. We leave the windows open for air circulation and close the shutters outside the windows so there is no direct sunlight in our living room. The stone face of the building gains a lot of heat.

We have not asked about getting another air conditioner installed in the living room. Two things prohibit it. Any change to this historic building requires scrutiny by Roman housing and antiquities authorities. The infrastructure in this building and in our apartment is too weak to carry another appliance. The main circuit breaker for our apartment is located downstairs in the building’s entrance hall. It has tripped four times in the past three weeks. We can run the two air conditioners. But the dishwasher, clothes washing machine, and one air conditioner is probably pushing the limit.

It is an old building and its infrastructure has not kept up with the introduction of more and more appliances. Our electric meter and main circuit breaker looks the same as for all the other apartments in this building. We have not experienced any brown-outs in Rome but that is what happens when the electrical grid serving a city experiences demand greater than capacity.

It would be really comfortable to have an air conditioner installed in our living room this summer. But the red tape would take several months to get through. Perhaps the landlord would consider installing it for the tenants next year. Most likely he would not be able to afford it if the electrical infrastructure of the building would need upgrading and replacing. However, if he did, perhaps everyone would choose to install an additional air conditioner, leading to more strain on the power grid and power plants. Perhaps Rome could not afford another power plant at this time.

Infrastructure is really important. Rome was very successful as a city, state, and empire. They developed excellent infrastructure for water supply and roads and bridges throughout the empire. See our earlier blog post, “004 Early Roman History”. I think that good infrastructure had a lot to do with their success.

A lot of the infrastructure was destroyed by the invading Visigoths (411 AD), Vandals (455 AD), Ostrogoths (532 AD), Lombards (568 AD), Saracens (846 AD), and Normans (1085 AD). From 568 AD to 1587 AD, Rome had no working aqueducts or fountains. People got water from wells or from the Tiber River. Progress of society seems comparatively limited during this time of inadequate infrastructure. Seeing all the damage to their infrastructure and churches must have been demoralizing for the remaining residents of Rome.

Remains of the Nero Aqueduct (Acquedotto di Nerone)

Comparing three historical museums and other sights around Rome, we find the period 300 BC to 400 AD to be a very prosperous time. The museums were the Etruscan Museum (7th to 2nd centuries BC), the Museum of Roman Civilization (6th century BC to 6th century AD), and the Museum of the Early Middle Ages (4th to 14th centuries). During the seven hundred years in the middle, there was the rise and fall of prosperity, good governance, and high standard of living for everyone. We reach this conclusion based primarily on the art, culture, monuments and buildings, and everyday objects left behind and on view at the museums and around Rome. From the Etruscan period (before 300 BC), not much remains other than funerary artifacts and burial mounds. From the later period, not much remains at all except for churches, sacred art, and a few artifacts of lesser quality than during Roman times. During the later period, sometimes called the Dark Ages, secular society seemed ruthless and corrupt. If an emperor wanted a piece of property, the easiest way for him to get it is to execute the family based on trumped up charges, then appropriate the estate. After the fire of 64 AD, Nero appropriated a very large fraction of the residential land in Rome for his personal estate and palace. The majority of Rome was destroyed during that fire. Power, possessions, and pleasure for some to the exclusion of others leads to the decay of society. It seems that it is only when a society is in harmony with God that it progresses. This means that nearly everyone is working for the good of all as well as for his own good. If a large fraction of people disregard the good of all and work solely for their own benefit, there is no harmony with God or within society. It begins to disintegrate.

Today, there are fountains throughout Rome. Many are beautiful piazza centerpieces. Throughout the city, we also see drinking fountains supplied by the same mountain spring water that served ancient Rome. Most of them are continually running. To drink, partially plug the spout to make a stream of water come out a small hole drilled in the top of the spout.


About rockinos

Recently retired and moved to Rome, Italy. It's a fantastic place, so we have started this blog to keep family and friends updated with a few details about our adventures.
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