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Trying to Drain the Fucine Lake

Contributed by David Verne

The Fucine Lake is the third largest lake in Italy and has no natural outlet. The Romans have wanted to drain the lake for years to gain the fertile soil underneath to farm and to eliminate a source of malaria outbreaks. For the past 11 years, 30,000 workers have been digging a 3.5 mile tunnel to drain the lake. To celebrate the completion of this ambitious project, Claudius stages an enormous naval battle on the lake using almost a hundred ships and 19,000 criminals as gladiators. A banquet was laid out for the hundreds of spectators near the new outflow, and after the pomp and ceremony that accompanies grand openings, the tunnel was opened. It was quickly discovered that the tunnel had too tight of a bend, and the water washed out the area while the spectators fled for safety. This wasn't one of Claudius' proudest moments, and Narcissus was blamed by Agrippina for the failure. To the Romans credit, the Fucine Lake will not be drained until 1877 by a Swiss engineer. [1] [2]

My Take by David Verne
The plain that used to be the Fucine Lake is now one of Italy's most productive agricultural regions. This draining project served a purpose, but Italy has to be careful not to screw the area up. The biggest example of draining a lake going horribly wrong is the Aral Sea. In the 1960s, Soviet infrastructure projects diverted the rivers flowing into the sea for irrigation. Now what used to be the world's 4th largest lake (if you include salt lakes) is 90% gone, and the Aralkum desert occupies most of the former lake bed. A fishing industry that supported 40,000 fishermen and produced 1/6 of the Soviet Union's fish supply has completely disappeared. The soil in the area is so salted that crops are flushed with water 4 times a day, and the dust storms created by the exposed land have caused respiratory illnesses and other diseases to skyrocket. I live in Michigan, surrounded by massive bodies of freshwater, and I can't imagine living here without them.

Tiridates I of Armenia forms the Arsacid dynasty

Contributed by Southpaw Ben

This year Armenia is invaded by King Vologases I of Parthia, who was able to take the capital city of Artashat. After doing so, he proclaimed his younger brother Tiridates as king, thereby violating a treaty that had been signed during the reign of Phraates IV (reigned 37-2 BC) that gave Rome exclusive right to appoint and crown kings of Armenia, as it had been made a Roman dependency. Tiridates will rule for two years before his reign is breifly interupted in 54 AD by the overthrown king Rhadamistus returning when Tiridates has to withdraw due to a winter epidemic.

My Take by Southpaw Ben
This period in Armenian history is almost as bad as the Roman soap opera, so we'll return to this story a few times as times of intrigue breifly flair up. In 51 there had been a mess in Armenia caused by a Roman procurator invading and ravaging the country, and recognizing Rhadamistus as King illegally, after he had murdered his uncle to take power. This nearly prompted the governor of Syria to send Legions to repair the damages, but recalled them to avoid provoking a war with Parthia. This turns out to merely delay this war, not prevent it. Apparently there is nothing straightforward when Rome is involved during this era.

See Also


  1. Tacitus, Cornelius. The Annals. 
  2. Duncan, Mike (July 26, 2009). A Farewell to Claudius.

External Links

Aral Sea [1]

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