Sextus Iulius Frontinus

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Sextus Iulius Frontinus (* around 35; † 103 ) was a Roman senator , soldier and writer.


In 70 Frontinus praetor urbanus and 73 was a suffect consul , before he succeeded Quintus Petilius Cerialis as governor of the province of Britain in 74/75 . He subjugated the Silurians and kept other British tribes under control until he was replaced by Gnaeus Iulius Agricola in 79/80 . At the beginning of Domitian's reign , probably from 81 to 83/84 AD, Frontinus was the legatus Augusti pro praetore in command of the Lower Germanic army and governor of the associated army district, which a few years later became the province of Germania inferior . In this role he probably took part in Domitian's chat war. Presumably 84/85 Frontinus was proconsul of the province of Asia .

In 97 he became supervisor of the aqueducts in Rome (curator aquarum) , a task that was only entrusted to people of very high standing, and consul for the second time the following year . He held his third consulate (as consul ordinarius , after whom the year was named) in the year 100, together with the Emperor Trajan , which was a high honor. He was also a member of the College of Augurs (his successor there was Pliny the Younger ).

Alongside Pliny, Frontinus was a contemporary of Tacitus and the poet Martial , who had dedicated personal, friendly verses to him.

“In Anxur, Frontinus, I lived in quiet seclusion by the sea, and closer to Rome, I lived in a villa in Baiae on the beach, where cancer is glowing. There was a forest that had no painful cicadas and a river-like pond. There we, you and I, found time to study the art of the muses. Now almighty Rome is grinding us to the ground, I can never call a day my own. I'm tossed back and forth in the ocean of the city and waste my life in pointless work. "

Frontinus did not want a memorial for his grave. Pliny the Younger quotes him as saying:

“The effort for a monument is superfluous; the memory of us will last when we have earned it through our lives. "


De aquaeductu urbis Romae

Frontinus' best-known work is De aquaeductu urbis Romae in two books, which contains a history and description of the Roman water supply and disposal , which he regards as a civilizing achievement of the Romans. The scriptures contain laws about their use and entertainment, as well as other subjects important to architectural history. He wrote the essay on the imperial commission when he became curator aquarum for six years in 97 AD , initially to familiarize himself with the subject matter of his new office. He later decided to have copies made for his successors. Because the writing can be seen as a "guideline for the administration" (section 2).

Frontinus had recognized through his office that the executives lacked the necessary specialist knowledge. This fact had the consequence that a competent technical supervision of the technicians with their special knowledge was hardly possible and thus a one-sided dependency existed, which endangered the political control of the water supply. The primary intention of the Frontinus was therefore to remove this dependency through a systematic and literary collection of the scattered specialist knowledge. The work should enable him and thus his successors to be able to conduct official business competently.

Frontinus himself remarked:

"This book may be useful to my successor, but I prepared it for my own teaching."

The work is divided into a total of 129 small sections. Frontinus describes the formation of the aqueducts and water pipes in the city and names the sources and pipes as well as the extent of the latter, whereby he goes into the standardization of pipe sizes. He enumerates precise measurements of the inflow and outflow performance, whereby the illegal extraction from public water pipes with the installation of unauthorized branches ( fraus aquariorum ) by technicians and private persons are revealed. a. tried to prevent it through ownership stamps. Further topics are the exact distribution of the water quantities to the city districts, a list of his predecessors as well as the improvement of the water quality by the Emperor Trajan and the senate resolutions on water law.

The Frontinus Society is named after Frontinus , a scientific association for research into the history of water supply .


A page of the French translation of the strategemata in a late 15th century manuscript by Jean de Rouvroy : Brussels, Bibliothèque royale, Ms. 10475, fol. 115r. The illumination shows Pompey with his officers Servilius and Glaucia.

The Strategematon libri IV are a collection of military lists from Greek and Roman history, intended for use by officers. This work, which has been lost for over 1,300 years, was rediscovered in the 15th century by Italian humanism .

Frontinus wrote his work on the stratagems during the reign of Emperor Domitian - he is mentioned there several times as living -, probably between 84 and 88. It is divided into four books:

1. Book: Measures before the fight,
2. Book: Measures in combat and after combat,
3rd book: Measures to storm and defend cities,
4th book: General virtues.

Whether Frontinus also wrote the 4th book, the layout and style of which is different from the rest (for example, more emphasis is placed on moral aspects of the war), was controversial. Bendz is certain, however, that Frontinus is also the author of the 4th book. He explains the stylistic shortcomings of this book by stating that it is a kind of supplement with unprocessed material that would have been added years later with similar and exact word duplicates from the previous books.

The individual books are divided into several chapters on specific topics, e.g. B. in the 2nd book:

  1. How to choose the timing of the fight
  2. How to choose the place of battle
  3. How to raise the troops, etc.

There are a number of exemplary anecdotes with lists of wars, which are arranged according to factual similarity, for the respective chapters . This makes the whole work look like a collection of anecdotes. There are 583 in all. Bendz believes that Frontinus could have put together the stratagems as an illustration of his lost work on warfare (De re militari) .

As sources, Frontinus mentions historians and the exemplar literature popular at the time, in which historical memorabilia, anecdotes and examples were reported. The stratagems also belong to a subspecies of this literary genre. The main source was probably older antique stratagem collections that have been lost. Similarities between the stratagems and the stratagem collection of the Greek Polyainus , the only other surviving one, suggest that both used the same sources. However, some sources were questionable, which leads to Frontinus confusing names and completely misrepresented events. On the other hand, Frontinus also reports on events that are not recorded anywhere else.

Bendz describes Frontinus' style as sober, matter-of-fact, simple, but sometimes also clumsy, ugly and bumpy. It reads very pleasantly and stays close to the colloquial language.

Further specialist literature

Frontinus also wrote a theoretical treatise on military affairs ( De re militari ), which has not survived.

A treatise on land surveying is also attributed to Frontinus (the oldest surviving work of this kind), which was passed down together with other writings on this subject, the works of the Agrimensors . The writing de arte mensoria does not convey the technique of measurement. According to Frontinus, the craft is learned through practical application through experience and without literature. Rather, the treatise defines the art of surveying as a suitable instrument that can be used for decision-making in administration, warfare and court proceedings to clarify property and property relationships in border disputes.


  • Cezary Kunderewicz (Ed.): De aquaeductu urbis Romae (De aquis urbis Romae). Teubner, Leipzig 1973.
  • Robert Howard Rodgers (Ed.): De aquaeductu urbis Romae. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge et al. 2004, ISBN 0-521-83251-9 .
  • Robert I. Ireland (Ed.): July Frontini Strategemata. Teubner, Leipzig 1990, ISBN 3-322-00746-4 .


  • Frontinus Society (ed.): Water supply in ancient Rome. Sextus Iulius Frontinus, curator aquarum. 4th, improved edition. Oldenbourg, Munich / Vienna 1989, ISBN 3-486-26118-5 .
  • Manfred Hainzmann (translator): Water for Rome. The water supply through aqueducts. Artemis, Zurich et al. 1979, ISBN 3-7608-4060-4 .
  • Gerhard Bendz (translator and publisher): war lists. Latin and German. Akademie Verlag, Berlin 1963 (further editions).


  • Philip Matyszak, Joanne Berry: 59. Frontinus. In: Who's Who in Ancient Rome. Emperors, citizens, gladiators. von Zabern, Mainz 2009, ISBN 978-3-8053-4078-6 , pp. 178-181.
  • Burkhard Meißner : The technological literature of antiquity. Structure, tradition and effect of technical knowledge in antiquity (approx. 400 BC - approx. 500 AD). Akademie Verlag, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-05-003194-8 , pp. 39–40, 44, 89, 97–98, 105, 191–193, 255–257, 283.
  • Deane R. Blackman et al. (Ed.): Frontinus' legacy. Essays on Frontinus' De aquis urbis Romae. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor 2001, ISBN 0-472-09793-8 .
  • Harry B. Evans: Water distribution in ancient Rome. The evidence of Frontinus. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor 1994, ISBN 0-472-10464-0 .
  • Daniel Groß: Frontinus (Sextus Iulius Frontinus). In: Christine Walde (Ed.): The reception of ancient literature. Kulturhistorisches Werklexikon (= Der Neue Pauly . Supplements. Volume 7). Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2010, ISBN 978-3-476-02034-5 , Sp. 289-294.
  • Michael Peachin: Frontinus and the curae of the curator aquarum. Steiner, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-515-08636-6 .
  • Andrew Turner: Frontinus and Domitian. Laus principis in the strategemata. In: Harvard Studies in Classical Philology. Volume 103, 2007, pp. 423-449.

Web links


  1. Tacitus, Historien 4, 39 (English translation)
  2. Werner Eck , Andreas Pangerl: Sex. Iulius Frontinus as a legate of the Lower Germanic army. To new military diplomas in the Germanic provinces . In: Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik , Volume 143, 2003, pp. 205–219, based on the military diploma AE 2003, 2054 . Frontinus' name as a legacy appears on the Xanten consecration CIL 13, 8624 .
  3. Martial, Epigrams 10, 58.
  4. Pliny, Epistulae 9,19,6, German translation quoted from Bendz, 2nd ed., P. 2.
  5. Burkhard Meißner: The technological specialist literature of antiquity: structure, tradition and effect of technical knowledge in antiquity; (approx. 400 BC - approx. 500 AD) , pp. 184-185.
  6. ^ Frontinus, De Aquis I, 2
  7. Burkhard Meißner: The technological specialist literature of antiquity: structure, tradition and effect of technical knowledge in antiquity; (approx. 400 BC - approx. 500 AD) , p. 80 cf. Gerhard Bendz (translator and publisher): War lists: Latin and German . Akademie-Verl, Berlin 1963. pp. 234f.
  8. Burkhard Meißner: The technological specialist literature of antiquity: structure, tradition and effect of technical knowledge in antiquity; (approx. 400 BC - approx. 500 AD) , p. 255.