period. As a matter of fact, in about 660, the emperor of the east, Constantine II, visited
Rome with a sizable army and an assembly of nobles.
That must have caused a stir.
It did. All of the leading citizens of Rome marched out to meet him and escorted him and
his followers back to Rome in a grand procession, and then held a great banquet. He
stayed in Rome almost a week.
Well, actually, he was robbing what treasury they had, which wasn't much, and his men
were gathering up all of the lead and bronze they could find.
What in the world for?
The bronze was to make fittings for shields, armor, horse rigging, that sort of thing, and
the lead was to make pellets as ammunition for the slingers in the Byzantine army.
So the Romans lost a few statues.
They lost more than that. Most of the stonework of Rome -- the columns, walls, and even
the great sheets of marble that protected the embankment of the Tiber River -- were held
together with bronze clamps. Without the clamps, everything began -- actually -- to fall
What about the lead?
The roofs of buildings, including the old temples and public buildings from the early
days of the empire, were built of wood, but were protected with sheets of lead, the
gutters and downspouts were made of lead, and the pipes that distributed water to and
through the city were made of lead.
Well, the slabs on the embankment slid into the Tiber and, during the next flood, the
bank collapsed into the river and the nearby merchant district and warehouses were
simply swept away. Unprotected wooden roofs began to rot and cave in. Without water
coming into the city, the sewers quickly became clogged. You know the Forum, the center
of the city?
Oh, yeah. The place with all the ancient buildings. I saw pictures of it in the National
Well, the main sewer of the entire city, the "Cloaca Maxima" ran beneath the forum.