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The first reclamations

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The first attempt to make livable the area of the Pontine plain was made by Volsci who dug the canal of Rio Martino. Even one of the most brilliant minds in human history worked on reclamation: Leonardo Da Vinci In southern Lazio, the swamp covered a large area, separated from the immediate south of Cisterna to the gates of Terracina. Since the fall of Volsci, were tempted remedies against the swamp, but they had the defect of being partial, solving the problem in a limited territorial zone. In this way, the marsh always regained the areas that had been temporarily pulled. The water stagnated and rotted created ideal conditions for the establishment of a deadly mosquito carrier of malaria: the Anopheles.For many centuries the insect was the effective ruler of the Pontine plain. The first known attempt at reclamation is the Rio Martino one. This excavation was made to collect the water of the swamp, even if, today, we do not know the exact authorship of the work that would be wrought by the Romans or Volsci. The fact is that the work could be performed only by a people who could have huge resources. The questions remain, but it is not difficult to assume that Volsci started the work (after all, it is demonstrated that they did funnel surface and groundwater) and the Romans complemented and extended the work begun. It is certain, however, even if Rio Martino was a great effort, the channel could not guarantee the transfer of the large pool of stagnant water, even because of the absence of a branched channel. And Plinio il Vecchio had to renew the call, now written on the facade of the Palace of Government in Latina: “Siccentur pomptinae Paludes tantummove agri suburbanae reddatur Italiae”. Translated, it means: “The Pontine marshes must be drained to return to Italy the cultivable land.” Others partial reclamation works were made when, in 312 BC, the consul Appius Claudius Cieco made to a road that,for his name, was called Appia. The works were designed to allow the artery to cross the land. Approximately one hundred fifty years later, about 160 BC, a long channel was opened by the consul Cornelius Cethegus, perhaps the one that runs along the Via Appia, and that later was called Linea Pio, when Pio IV dig it again. The grave managed to achieve a partial result, ensuring a certain time and certain traits of the road by periodic flooding. With the passage of time digging lost value and effectiveness, and the swamp extended with arrogance. Other attempts at rehabilitation were also made by Theodoric, as evidenced by a plaque placed on the wall of the mail of Mesa, located at Km 85 of the Appia. But the post-Roman decay is recorded as one of the most critical phases in the history of the swamp, and the via Appia, which slowly began to sink into the ground peat soaked again with major flooding, so much so that in the eighth century AD the old console was impassable. The uselessness of the communication route enlisted the exclusion of the whole territory pontine by trade and therefore all stable way of life. Even the genius of Leonardo da Vinci had experimented in a reclamation project at the behest of Pope Leo X (1513-1521). The task of Leonardo was to reproduce the map of the areas in which to intervene with the work of reclamation. On that occasion, the direction of the work was entrusted by the Pope to his grandson Giuliano de’ Medici. The intervention had resulted in the excavation of the canal-bearer, who also took the channel name Giuliano.

 

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