Posted in Kafevend Blog
We've touched on water a few times before on the Kafevend blog. Who can forget such interesting articles as what a lot of water and carbonated water? Today we are going to add another riveting piece regarding water to the blog, by going back a few thousand years and seeing how water played its part in ancient civilizations.
The earliest civilizations relied on water, or rather an ability to control water, in order to thrive; we still do to this day. In what is now southern Iraq, the ancient Sumerian city of Eridu, possibly the oldest city in the world, was founded almost 7,500 years ago next to the river Euphrates. The people living here moulded the landscape around the use of water, building ditches and levies to both create farmland but also to protect it from floods and the summer heat.
Water's life giving properties made areas such as springs- if not the subject of reverence and worship itself- then often the site of a god or goddess. Perhaps the one we are most familiar with here in Britain is the city of Bath. Before the arrival of the Romans, the hot springs found there were the site of worship of the ancient Brittonic goddess Sulis. When the Romans began to settle on the site around the middle of the 1st century CE, they identified Sulis with their goddess Minerva, thus creating Sulis Minerva. They named their new town Aquae Sulis, meaning the waters of Sulis and along with a temple slowly built up an elaborate bath house around the spring, parts of which we can still see today.
Whilst it's all terribly interesting hearing about the role of water in in the rise of civilizations and worship, what was it actually like drinking the stuff back then? We are aware these days of the necessity of clean drinking water, but it wasn't until comparatively recently that humans came up with and found evidence for the germ theory of disease which explained how water could harm us. Before then the Miasma theory had been predominant which said bad air was the cause- this idea can be traced as far back as ancient China and Rome.
Of course, people had always been aware that certain kinds of water were worth giving a miss, but settlement caused problems. Waste- human and eventually domesticated animal- had a way of making its way into water supplies, which isn't very good if you're getting drinking water from the same source. Many different civilizations came up with ways to get around this however. Obviously the Romans are particularly famous for their water management, with vast aqueducts bringing in spring water to towns and piped to houses. Preceding the Romans were the Minoans who lived on the island of Crete. They too were masters with water, creating a sewer system, flushing toilets and even showers!
Earlier civilizations such as the ancient Egyptians didn't have quite the same command over water as the Romans and Minoans, but were expert farmers through their use of irrigation. They also had several methods for making water cleaner for drinking: boiling was one, although this couldn't be done on a large enough scale for everyone due to the need for fuel; they discovered methods of filtration through sand, leaving water to stand in pots to kill off infestation and even firing off a quick prayer to the gods if all else failed! Perhaps their most ingenious way around it was the creation of another drink- beer. But let's leave that for another day...