1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Pomptine Marshes

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POMPTINE MARSHES, a low tract of land in the province of Rome, Italy, varying in breadth between the Volscian mountains and the sea from 10 to 16 m., and extending N.W. to S.E. from Velletri to Terracina (40 m.). In ancient days this low tract was fertile and well-cultivated, and contained several prosperous cities (Suessa Pometia, Ulubrae - perhaps the mod. Cisterna- &c.), but, owing to the dying out of the small proprietors, it had already become unhealthy at the end of the Republican period. Attempts to drain the marshes were made by Appius Claudius in 312 B.C., when he constructed the Via Appia through them (the road having previously followed a devious course at the foot of the Volscian mountains), and at various times during the Roman period. A canal ran through them parallel to the road, and for some reason that is not altogether clear it was used in preference to the road during the Augustan period. Trajan repaired the road, and Theodoric did the same some four hundred years later. But in the middle ages it had fallen into disrepair. Popes Boniface VIII., Martin V., Sixtus V., and Pius VI. all attempted to solve the problem, the last-named reconstructing the road admirably. The difficulty arises from the lack of fall in the soil, some parts no less than 10 m. from the coast being barely above sea-level, while they are separated from the sea by a series of sand-hills now covered with forest, which rise at some points over 100 ft. above sea-level. Springs also rise in the district, and the problem is further complicated by the flood-water and solid matter brought down by the mountain torrents, which choke up the channels made. By a law passed in 1899, the proprietors are bound to arrange for the safe outlet of the water from the mountains, keep the existing canals open, and reclaim the district exposed to inundation, within a period of twenty-four years. The sum of £280,000 has been granted towards the expense by the government.

See T. Berti, Paludi pontine (Rome, 1884); R. de la Blanchère, Un Chapitre d'histoire pontine (Paris, 1889). (T. As.)