Rome, founded in 754 BC e., were built from clay, later from wood and already at the time of its heyday - from brick and marble. The streets in Rome were narrow due to dense buildings, so fires were a real disaster for the townspeople. Everyone tried to arrange housing just outside the defensive walls of the city - no one wanted to live outside the fortress. As a result, in 213 BC. NS. another fire became catastrophic and destroyed the city to the ground. The fire spread from building to building along wooden balconies, annexes and roofs. The Romans in those days did not build stoves in their homes, but warmed themselves on winter evenings from huge braziers, the smoke from which went into the ceiling openings. Only the homes of the wealthy townspeople had hot air pipelines. The risk of uncontrolled fires was added by kitchens with open hearths, as well as a lighting system on oil bowls and torches.
Fire in Rome
According to the Roman lawyer and historian Ulpian, several fires of varying intensity broke out in the capital in one day. In the 1st century. BC NS. the wealthy of Rome defended their buildings with the help of teams of firefighters recruited from slaves. Interestingly, in order to gain popularity and vote of citizens in the elections, wealthy homeowners with their teams took part in the suppression of fires in the city. Historians mention the local Roman oligarch Marcus Licinius Crassus, who organized his own team of firefighters from the captured Gauls. These firefighters even had special exercises for practicing fire extinguishing skills. Crassus went down in history by the fact that, before extinguishing the fire, he bought up burning and neighboring houses for a pittance. After the fire was extinguished, the property was repaired and sold at great profit. The fire brigades of Crassus were armed with buckets, ladders, ropes and bedspreads soaked in vinegar. The fire could hardly cover the flames of the fabric with such acid that it was effectively used long before the Roman firefighters in ancient Greece. The first fire-fighters of Rome had their own name - "Sparteoli", or hemp soldiers, since both the costumes and the ropes of the captured Gauls were made of hemp.
The official fire brigade of Rome was organized by Emperor Augustus in 21 BC. The structure included state slaves of the capital of the empire - their number at different times could exceed six hundred. It is noteworthy that such an important office should have been headed by an official who, in addition, was also responsible for organizing food, law and order, building repairs and even entertainment for the townspeople. Naturally, an official could not effectively command firefighters with such an extensive functional load. The entire organization of slave firefighters was divided into units of 20-30 people in each, which were stationed in different parts of Rome. In service, in addition to various hooks, ladders and buckets, there were huge woolen blankets, which were used to cover the houses adjacent to the fire, having previously wet them. Such wet "shields" were made in special artels in Rome.
Given the sometimes catastrophic consequences of fires, the authorities very closely monitored discipline in the fire brigade. Carelessness while patrolling was punishable by fines. One of the commanders of the detachments (the master) was charged a significant fine for putting out the jeweler's shop at the wrong time.
However, even such measures did not lead to significant results - Rome regularly burned, rebuilt and burned again. By the second millennium, Rome was the most populous city in Europe and an extremely important administrative center of the empire. Therefore, the losses from the fire could knock down the entire state. In 6 BC. NS. flames once again engulfed the capital, and the emperor Augustus gathered to eliminate the entire personnel of slave firefighters, as well as many residents. The results of the extinguishing made it clear to the lord of the empire that 600 people were not enough to fully guard the city, and the slaves were not entirely motivated to fight the fire. This is how the corps of freed firefighters appeared, consisting of seven cohorts of 7 thousand people. Over time, it was expanded to 16 thousand, but the functions of the police were added - the fight against burglars, as well as the control of street lighting. In this generation, the fire service of Ancient Rome was already a militarized structure in a barracks position. The ages of those employed ranged from 18 to 47, and both freedmen and slaves who were freed within the empire were taken. The cohorts were commanded by tribunes who had military experience, but did not belong to the aristocracy. They were beaten in this service, and for some offenses they could be sent from the capital to the periphery of the country. However, there were also bonuses - after six years of service, a firefighter could count on Roman citizenship, and later this period was reduced to three years. At the head of the corps was the "prefect of the awake" - one of the most noble people of Rome from the class of equestrians, occupying the fourth place in the hierarchy of managers.
Rome in those days was divided into fourteen districts - two for one cohort of firefighters. In the event of a large fire, neighboring cohorts provided assistance in extinguishing. Protection of the city from fire was organized by foot and horse patrols, as well as stationary posts on the towers. In addition, the Roman leadership took care of water supplies, for which seven hundred reservoirs (wells) were dug within the city at once. The typical firefighters' barracks in Rome consisted of spacious halls, lined with marble and lavishly decorated with pillared statues. The firefighters themselves slept in rooms that opened onto the halls. It was in the fire department of Rome that the first specialization of firefighting units appeared. There were people involved in the repair and maintenance of hand water pumps (siphonaries), as well as navigating urban areas and able to quickly find water for extinguishing (aquaria). Part of the fire brigade was responsible for dismantling the burning structures and dragging away hot logs (kryuchniks and sickles). The Roman fire-fighters also had centonaries with cloth and felt bedspreads wet with vinegar, thrown over the fires. A separate unit was a hundred (century) rescuers who were responsible for removing people from the burning zone. And during a fire, ballistaria were engaged in throwing stones from their ballistas at flaming buildings in order to bring down the flames.
A distinctive feature of the Roman fire brigade was a steel helmet, not much different from a similar headdress of the military in Rome. In the future, it is this "style" of the helmet that will become an object for imitation of all fire services in the world.
Ancient Rome firefighters helmets
What was the sequence of actions of the fire brigades during the work at the facility? The commander, that is, the tribune, lined up the personnel of the detachments in a chain from the reservoir, which was indicated by the "navigator" of the aquarium. With buckets, the fighters passed the water to each other to the place of fire. Hand pumps operated, pumping water from nearby wells or reservoirs. The centonaries worked directly with the fire, throwing rags with vinegar over the flames, and the hooks with sickles destroyed the burning building. Sometimes it was necessary to destroy nearby buildings so that the fire could not spread over large areas - for this, stone throwers with ballistarians' calculations were used. In general, the most common method of fighting a large fire was not even extinguishing, but clearing the space around the burning building.
The problem of responsibility for fire hazardous behavior was highlighted in the middle of the 5th century. BC NS. in the monument of ancient Roman law "The Law of the Twelve Tables". The arsonist, according to this document, should have "been shackled and, after scourging, put to death the one who set fire to buildings or stacks of bread piled near the house, if he did it deliberately." The prefects inspected kitchens, monitored the condition of stoves, checked the availability of water for extinguishing fires, and could also be prosecuted, including criminal charges. As usual, especially dull homeowners were beaten. Thus, in one of the instructions of the Emperor of the North to the prefect of the night guards, it was said: “The tenants of houses and those who carelessly handle their fire can be punished with rods or whips at your order. If it is proved that they deliberately caused the fire, then hand them over to Fabius Iilon, the prefect of the city and our friend. " What Fabius Iilon could have done with the arsonists is anyone's guess.
To be continued….