Technology and machines

The significant financial outlays required for building a villa or fitting out an estate were justified by a large-scale project, but also by the bringing together of high-level technical talents. Building the residence required multiple skills, from the masonry shell to the plastering and beams, not forgetting the plumbing, heating and the decorating finishing work.

Hydraulic skills were required to supply the house with pressurised water, carried by an aqueduct from a distant river or spring. In addition to supplying the daily needs of both men and animals, and adding charm to the owner's residence, water was also used to power mills. Increasingly frequent discoveries reveal that water-driven mills for grinding grain may have competed with animal-powered mills. Water was raised using piston pumps and water wheels.

Pumps were used to extract the huge volumes of wine from dolia. Specialised woodworking skills were needed to ensure that lever- or screw-operated wine presses could withstand the pressure. The vallus, or reaping machine, that was used on the great estates in northern Gaul meant the harvest could be brought in faster with less manpower.

Medias

Water-powered mills in the Mediterranean basin


© Jean-Pierre Brun
Interactive document - A wine press from the Rians Villa (Var)

A wine press from the Rians Villa (Var)

Despite the levelling of this structure, we can locate the wine-pressing area in the rectangular room, as the counterweights were preserve in the section where the press's arms were manipulated.
Photo: Jean-Pierre Brun
Interactive document - Reconstruction of a lever press, Beaucaire (Gard), Mas des Tourelles

Reconstruction of a lever press, Beaucaire (Gard), Mas des Tourelles

Torcularium designed by André Tchernia and Jean-Pierre Brun based on an interpretation of a passage from Cato the Elder's De Re Rustica (18), 1st half of the 2nd century BCE.
© H. Durand, Mas des Tourelles
Interactive document - Using a reconstructed lever press, Beaucaire (Gard), Mas des Tourelles

Using a reconstructed lever press, Beaucaire (Gard), Mas des Tourelles

Torcularium designed by André Tchernia and Jean-Pierre Brun based on an interpretation of a passage from Cato the Elder's De Re Rustica (18), 1st half of the 2nd century BCE.
© H. Durand, Mas des Tourelles
Interactive document - Reaping machine of the Treviri

Reaping machine of the Treviri

Bas-relief from a funerary monument discovered at Montauban-sous-Buzenol (Belgium). It depicts the vallus (reaping machine or 'header') that both Pliny the Elder and Palladius mentioned was used on the large estates of southern Gaul.
Collection Musée Gaumais (Belgium), B.Virton / Photo: Collot
Interactive document - Reaping machine of the Remi

Reaping machine of the Remi

Reconstruction of the reaping machine of the Remi tribe, which was pushed by a donkey or a mule. A depiction of this device on the Porte Mars in Reims testifies to its regional use.
Created by J.-R. Chatillon. Collection: Musée Saint-Rémi, Reims