Ancient hydraulic works

Phechae drainage

Use: Land Drainage
Construction era: Hellenistic
Types: Sewer Pipes
Operation era: Hellenistic
Location: Greece - Euboea
  • T.P. Tassios, Selected Topics of Water Technology in Ancient Greece, 1st IWA International Symposium on WATER AND WASTEWATER TECHNOLOGIES IN ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS, edited by A. N. Angelakis and D. Koutsoyiannis, Greece, 3-26, 2006.

The name of the lake ("Ptekhae") is not used in Eretria region today. Thus, the precise location of the land reclamation is not known. However, the two candidate locations are at about 6 to 8 km distance, east/south-east of the historic town of Eretria. Both are valleys at 100 m a.s.l., covered by clay formations with underlying inclined alternated layers of marbles and schists. The second candidate location coincides with the actual marshy area of Dystos, periodically flood, even in our days (another argument in favour of Dystos is its large dimensions: The conditions of the Ptekhae - contract insinuate a remarkably large and fertile area, matching the large costs and long schedules provided in the contract).The general conditions (Tassios, 1997). The contract contains rather detailed financial, taxation and legal provisions, as follows: (i) All expenses are paid by the contractor (lines 2, 20). (ii) Time schedule: 4 years (lines 6-9), extended in case of war (lines 13-15). (iii) Exemption of taxes is granded regarding imported materials (lines 3, 4). (iv) Expropriations were allowed, but as distantly as possible from cultivated fields. (v) Hairephanēs and his staff were granted immunity from the local law. (vi) Remuneration in kind was provided; the contractor was granted the exclusive right to cultivate and retain the products of the reclaimed land for 10 years; an extension period was also provided in the event of war (line 17). Nevertheless, a lamp sum of 30 talents was agreed to be paid to the city. (vii) In case of death of Hairephanēs, his collaborators and heirs were obligated to continue the works (line 28). (viii) The contractor was obliged to appoint six Eretria-citizens as guarantors; their names appear at the addendum of the contract (line 40), containing the final enactment voted by the Eretrian Parliament and the Assembly. (ix) In compensation, extreme sanctions were voted by the Eretrians to be applied against anyone attempting to cancel the execution of the contract (line 30). (x) Moreover, the contract was "signed" by as many as 230 citizens of Eretria; all of them (their names appear on the back side of the stele) had taken oath to respect the agreement. (c) The technical provisions Unfortunately, half of the contract is lost. However, an overview of the several clauses of the preserved text allow for the following technical description of the works (Karapa, 2002): (i) Drainage ditches and irrigation channels (ποταμοί) were described (line 22). (ii) Underground drains (φρεατίαι) were also mentioned (line 18). (iii) All drains were leading to a central drainage tunnel (υπόνομος), (lines 18, 23, 25, 27). (iv) For irrigation purposes, a reservoir (δεξαμενή) was provided – not larger than four hundred m (lines 22 to 27). (v) Appropriate sluices (δρύφακτοι) were provided (line 24) for the water distribution, to and from the reservoir. (vi) The maintenance (επισκευή) of all parts of the facility was clearly imposed (line 23) to the contractor, for 10 years. (vii) Environmental provision: Trenches and channels should be located outside cultivated lands (lines 20, 21).

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