Human-flood interactions in Rome over the past 150 years
Abstract. Throughout history, the socio-economic development of the city of Rome has been intertwined with the magnitude and frequency of flooding events from the Tiber, one of Italy's largest rivers. Ancient Rome mostly developed on the hills, while the Tiber's floodplain was mainly exploited for agricultural purposes. A few small communities did settle in the riparian areas of the Tiber, but they had a relatively peaceful relationship with the frequent occurrence of flooding events. Instead, numerous people live nowadays in modern districts in the Tiber's floodplain, unaware of their exposure to potentially catastrophic flooding. This research work aims to explore the dynamics of changing flood risk between these two opposite pictures of ancient and contemporary Rome. To this end, we carried out a socio-hydrological study by using long time series of hydrological (extreme flood events) and social (human population dynamics) processes, along with information about human interactions with the environment (flood defence structures). The historical analysis showed how human and water systems have been co-evolving over time, while being abruptly altered by the occurrence of an extreme flood event in 1870, just before Rome became the capital of a recently unified Italy. The outcomes of this study were then compared to the results of a socio-hydrological model simulating the dynamics emerging from the mutual shaping of floods and societies.