There is no time, weather or becoming without water: “everything flows”, as Heraclitus said. Water is life… this has been a clear idea for mankind since Thales of Miletus. In the writings of ancient authors, you will find rivers of information and recommendations, water games of wonder, pools of questions and cascades of classifications that these few letters “WATER” do contain. Seneca and Pliny each devoted an entire book to it! 

Water is one of the 4 primordial elements. Water is a natural power. Water conditions fertility. Water heals:

The city of Tongres, in the Gauls, has a famous fountain (Spa) whose water has a ferruginous taste that is only noticeable when you finish drinking. This water is purgative, cures third-grade fevers and dispels calculous affections. The same water, put on the fire, becomes cloudy and eventually turns red (Pliny the Elder, HN, XXXI, 8). 

Water is not only good and fertile: it also has a harmful and destructive power: the Gallo-Roman protected himself from the flood with his ‘cuculus‘ and the Roman was also aware of this and knew that he had to put water in his wine. The Gauls drank mead (water and honey) or Cervoise bear (water and barley).

The Romans distinguished between celestial waters and territorial waters, still waters and flowing waters, fresh waters and saline waters, thermal waters (sulphurous, aluminous, bituminous or nitrous) and mineral waters, poisonous waters and waters laden with matter. They know about water that turns to stone and dyeing waters. They know how to separate salt from water and how to preserve food in brine. They looked for and came up with a few hypotheses about the gushing or drying up or periodicity of springs, about the reason for the water that will never be lacking on Earth. They also came up with the analogy that the earth, like the human body, has veins and arteries through which water and air circulate. In short, ancient literature introduces us to water. 

Author: Julien Bohet

The cold pool at the Malagne thermal baths © Malagne, Archéoparc de Rochefort (Axell Communication)

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