Water Engineering in Ancient Civilizations: 5,000 Years of History, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Water Engineering in Ancient Civilizations

5,000 Years of History, 1st Edition

By Pierre-Louis Viollet

CRC Press

334 pages | 150 B/W Illus.

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This new book offers an engineer's perspective on the history of water technology and its impact on the development of civilisation.

A Second Edition and translation into English of the French book "L'Hydraulique dans les Civilisations Anciennes".

Water professionals, engineers, scientists, and students will find this book fascinating and invaluable to their understanding of the fundamental role of water engineering in the development of civilization. The book abounds with descriptions of hydraulic techniques in the civilizations of the classical era and the Middle Ages, including illustrations and translated descriptions of ancient observers and authors. The work is unique in offering an engineer's perspective not only on the history of water technology, but also demonstration of the genesis of ideas and the transmissions of ideas and technology from one age and civilization to the next. The book is especially noteworthy for its efforts to situate hydraulic developments in their historical and intellectual context.


"One of the greatest challenges for society in the 21st century is, without doubt, the sustainable management of water. This is true both for developed and especially, as the millenium goals clearly state, for developing countries. A goal which can only be achieved, as history has proven, by adapting solutions to existing conditions.

This constitutes in itself a powerful reason to devote the time to read this book, for it will allow the reader to learn how men and women have done, in every age, what the circumstances required at time. This is a lesson that, unfortunately, we need to learn again nowadays. This is a lesson taught masterfully by Pierre-Louis Viollet, an engineer in love with history, and particularly with those times in which mankind's creativity was most evident. Creativity which, in so many cases, is driven by need. Creativity which is closely related to water. After all, water is essential for human life."

—Prof. Enrique Cabrera

Professor of Fluid Mechanics

Universidad Politecnica de Valencia, Spain

Table of Contents


Part I

4,000 years of hydraulic development in the East

From the era of the early cultivators to the conquests of Alexander the Great

Chapter 1. Hydraulics and the birth of civilization

Chapter 2. From Mesopotamia to the Syrian shore: the land of water pioneers

Chapter 3. Ancient Egypt and the Arabia Felix (in modern Yemen), the rhythm of the flood seasons

Chapter 4. The maritime civilizations of the Aegean Sea: urban and agricultural hydraulics

Part II

The Empires of the Builders

Chapter 5. Mathematicians and inventors of Alexandria and the Hellenistic world

Chapter 6. Hydraulics in the Roman Empire: driving force of development and symbol of civilization

Chapter 7. Beyond Bibliographic References Rome, the East and the Arab world

Chapter 8. Rivers, canals, and hydraulic technology in China

Chapter 9. The mills of the Middle Ages


Chronological Table

About the Author

Pierre-Louis Viollet graduated from Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées (Paris) in 1974, PhD at Paris 6 University (1977). He has been working with EDF R&D as a research engineer and head of the R&D Laboratory of EDF on Hydraulics and Fluid Mechanics in Chatou. In1994 he moved to a managerial position as deputy director of the Generation Plants Department of EDF R&D, then as Director of the Power Systems Department. In 2001 he was nominated Vice-President for R&D Laboratories, and since 2006 has been acting as VicePresident for R&D Coordination and Partnership of EDF R&D. He has supervised the creation of 11 common laboratories involving EDF R&D and French academic partners, as well as a common institute with the University of Karslruhe (Germany): the European Institute for Energy Research. P.-L. Viollet has been for many years Professor of Applied Fluid Mechanics as Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées (Paris), where he has been nominated Honorary Professor in 2008, and Scientific Committee Member. He wrote two tutorial books in fluid mechanics as well as two books on the history of water and fluid technologies. P.-L. Viollet is chairman of the scientific committee of "Société Hydrotechnique de France", and of the scientific committee for the "Baie du Mont Saint Michel" hydro-sediment management. He has been for three years member of the Technical Committee of the Energy Technologies Institute (UK). He is a member of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (UK), and of the Energy Committee of the "Agence Nationale de la Recherche" (France).

About the Series

IAHR Monographs

IAHR Book Series Discount
Taylor & Francis and Routledge Books are pleased to offer all IAHR members 20% discount on all books published in the IAHR Series (Monographs and Design Manuals) and 10% discount on all other books published by Taylor and Francis. If you are member of IAHR please contact [email protected] to receive the discount code.

Aims & Scope
An important function of any large international organisation representing the research, educational and practical components of its wide and varied membership is to disseminate the best elements of its discipline through learned works, specialised research publications and timely reviews. IAHR is particularly well-served in this regard by its flagship journals and the extensive and wide body of substantive historical and reflective books that have been published through its auspices over the years. The IAHR Book Series is an initiative of IAHR, in partnership with CRC Press/Balkema-Taylor & Francis Group, aimed at presenting the state-of-the-art in themes relating to all areas of hydro-environment engineering and research.
The Book Series will assist researchers and professionals working in research and practice by bridging the knowledge gap and by improving knowledge transfer among groups involved in research, education and development. This Book Series includes Design Manuals and Monographs. The Design Manuals contain practical works, theory applied to practice based on multi-authors' work; the Monographs cover reference works, theoretical and state of the art works.

Peter A. Davies, Series Editor

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Civil / Dams & Reservoirs
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Environmental / Water Supply