Environmental Problems

There has been a variety of environmental problems in the Roman Empire, many of which were very serious. Fortunately, the Romans also found ingenious solutions that helped stop the further growth of these important environmental problems.

What are some environmental problems that the Romans dealt with?

  • Deforestation
  • Air Pollution
  • Lead Poisoning

What is deforestation and how did it affect the Roman Empire?

Deforestation: The intentional clearing of forests by logging and/or burning.

Causes of Deforestation in the Roman Empire

  • Fuel: Wood was a primary source of heating. Fires were used in the classical Roman bath that generated heat, the making of ceramics, and the process of smelting metal. Mining centers also used fire after mining various metals.
  • Housing: The majority of houses in the Roman period was made of wood. Wood was the most basic supply that was used. Wood was easy to get and was cheap. It did not take long to build a wood house as did  a brick house. As population increased, so did the number of houses. Thus, wood was consumed increasingly.
  • Agriculture: Due to the increasing number of people, the demand for crops and vegetables rapidly rose. Thus, farmland was needed. Forests were cleared away for farmland.
  • Military: The Roman army was ordered to cut down forests that could potentially hide an enemy which could result in a surprise attack. In addition, wood was used extensively in the Roman army for various tools and weapons (chariots, etc.).

How did the Roman Empire produce air pollution?

Air pollution was not a major concern of the Roman Empire. However, the air was filthy near urban areas due to various reasons. The air was also known as “heavy heaven” or “infamous air”.

Causes of Air Pollution

  • Garbage Disposal: The Romans had problems on where to dispose garbage that were produced by the empire.
  • Burning Wood: Fires that used wood would stink horribly. These fires were used either for heat or for craft workshops, such as smelting metal.
  • Sewage Problems: Rome was lucky to have a sewage system that drained polluted water away. However, sewage systems would frequently overflow, causing polluted water to contaminate pure water from the aqueducts.

Why was lead poisoning a problem in the Roman Empire?

Lead poisoning was a leading cause of unnatural deaths in the Roman period. Lead poisoning would be a problem in most people because of the contaminated water sources. The aqueducts were effective in cleaning and purifying water sources, but they were contaminated as water flowed out of lead pipes. Thus, even the most wealthy would suffer from lead poisoning.

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7 responses

29 10 2013
Melusa

good facts thanks !!!!

21 04 2015
garry chan

hi

24 01 2014
ryan

Interesting facts
🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

29 01 2014
Cambel

contains great information:0

14 03 2014
Fred

Le sigh, the water pipes were not the source of lead poisoning. Do some research please, old ideas still persist.

28 10 2014
Richard

When was this? Because I want to know if it also happened during emperor Augustus’ reign

3 02 2016
Rome Research TBC… – Rebecca Animates

[…] Environmental Problems […]

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