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The aqueduct ( Latin: aquaeductus "water pipe") is a structure for the transport of water . The term is used in a broader sense for water supply systems in ancient Roman cities that are predominantly designed as gravity lines. In the narrower sense, it is used for water-bearing bridges.

The Roman aqueduct bridge Pont du Gard in southern France

Water pipes in the ancient civilizations and in Greece

Even before the emergence of the Roman Empire, the old civilizations built structures for irrigation . The oldest aqueducts in historical lore are attributed to Ramses the Great , Semiramis and King Solomon .

The remains of the Aqueducts of Palmyra and Samos ( Tunnel of Eupalinos , built in the 6th century BC by Eupalinos of Megara) are examples of underground canals that carried water from springs more or less distant into the cities.

For the water supply of the growing residence Nineveh , the Assyrian king Sennacherib ordered 691 BC. Build a 48 kilometer long canal with a 280 meter long and nine meter high bridge with five pointed arches made of corbels over a river valley. Four of the pillars are already laid out as pillars with curves.
Just two years after his accession to the throne, the king commissioned a system of four canals, some with tunnels and aqueducts approx. 150 km in length, which took fifteen years to complete. The greatest challenge was crossing a 280 m long valley, which is why the Jerwan Aqueduct (which is regarded as the oldest aqueduct) was built as part of one of these canals near the present-day village of Jerwan in northern Iraq. The artificial waterway has an even gradient of one meter by one kilometer, which allowed the water to flow steadily. The building was 21 m wide and consisted of more than two million hewn stone blocks made of limestone and served as a model for later Roman systems.
Sennacherib was very proud of this building and left his building inscription in cuneiform at the point where the canal spans a valley by means of this bridge.
His measures made it possible to grow grain in the south of Nineveh, and the facilities to supply the city, the lush palace gardens, plantations and fields were also used.
As early as the early 1990s, the Assyriologist and cuneiform writing expert Stephanie Dalley from the University of Oxford put forward arguments for the interpretation that the Hanging Gardens were the palace garden of the Assyrian King Sennacherib, who lived around 100 years before the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II . This palace garden in Nineveh on the Tigris was said to have been built for Sennacherib's wife Tāšmetun-Šarrat . This would make the Jerwan Aqueduct a part of this wonder of the world , albeit a distant one .

The Greeks also mastered the construction of aqueducts. In Athens the water was derived from the Hymettos and Pentelikon . Further aqueducts were found in Greece at Thebes , Megara , Samos , Pharsalos , Stymphalos and other places.

Water pipes in the Roman Empire


The aqueducts of the Romans are best known, as they were often led on arched arches and are among the most important structures of antiquity . The pipes of the Romans were made of wood, lead or leather, but mostly stone canals. As excavations in Pompeii have shown, the pipes leading into the individual houses were usually made of lead. Some aqueducts were multi-story and each had water from a different source. Since the water had to flow steadily, the aqueducts were built in such a way that they had a steady, gentle gradient. This was measured very carefully by previous architects . According to Vitruvius , the gradient was at least 0.5%.

Castellum of Nîmes

The beginning of the aqueduct is the source house . The end of the run is the so-called ' moated castle' ( castellum ), in which the water was cleaned of stones and coarse dirt and from where it was channeled into the houses, baths and gardens. Special officials were responsible for regulating the water distribution, who guaranteed the protection of the facilities through strict laws. In contrast to the larger stone overhead lines with a gravity gradient , pressure lines were often used in the city and "water towers" were interposed when necessary. The pressure lines consisted of lead or clay pipes. The lead pipes were manufactured industrially from cast lead plates standardized in width. By bending and soldering the pipes were given an approximately pear-shaped cross-section. Other building materials such as wood, stone and even concrete were also used for pipe production.

Aqueducts in Rome

Aqua Claudia

The most imposing aqueducts were built in Rome . They carried the spring water from the mountains up to 150 kilometers over valleys, gorges and abysses or through caves. Large stretches of the Roman aqueducts ran either on the ground or underground. The impressive bridge structures were built because pressure lines were avoided at great distances. The distribution within the cities, however, already took place in the ancient Roman Empire, as with today's water supply networks, via pressure pipes .

Section of the Aqua Claudia

The first aqueduct, the Aqua Appia , was built in 312 BC. BC by Appius Claudius Caecus , began on Via Praenestina, was led underground for almost four leagues, entered the city at Porta Capena and ended on Campus Martius.

In the further course of the republic and during the imperial era, more water pipes were built, so that Rome was finally supplied from a total of eleven aqueducts, the total length of which was more than 400 kilometers, of which 64 kilometers were arc aqueducts and 2.5 kilometers of tunnels . With the aqueducts water was brought into the metropolis from springs many kilometers away - the source in Subiaco was about 100 kilometers away - in such an amount that one could also afford the huge bathhouses, the thermal baths. Never before had a city had such a mass of water. The nine water pipes that existed at the time of Sextus Iulius Frontinus already supplied the city with 992,200 cubic meters of water every day. With an assumed population of one million inhabitants, this corresponds to almost exactly 1000 liters per inhabitant. In 1968 there were only 475.

The earliest Roman aqueducts ran in subterranean shafts made of tuff blocks. The first elevated aqueduct was built in 144 BC. Started. The water pipes in the aqueducts could be installed on several floors one above the other. The city of Perge on the south coast of Asia Minor is a specialty . There a water pipe ran in a canal on an elevated level on a median of the street.

The aqueducts flowed into a distributor (castellum) at the highest point of the city , which is comparable to a modern water tower. From there three main branches went off, the first for the public drinking water wells, the second for the supply of the public baths, the third for private houses. Of these, the first was the lowest, so that when there was a shortage, it was given priority for water.

  • Fontana di Trevi ( Aqua Virgo ), by M. Agrippa 22 BC. Created, restored by Pope Pius IV ;
  • Aqua Felice or di Termini ( Aqua Claudia ), started by Caligula, finished by Claudius in AD 50, restored by Pope Sixtus V , and
  • Algentina, which forms the magnificent waterfalls in Villa Aldobrandini. In 1882 the Bitilenus aqueduct near Alatri was discovered.

According to Frontinus, who left the most precise description of them ( De aquis urbis Romae ), the canals of the Roman aqueducts were entirely bricked, both below and above the ground, and here on substructures or archways in stone or brick and upwards either with them Vaults or stone beams covered. Instead of sand plaster, the inner walls and floors of the canals were given a watertight plaster made of lime and broken pieces of brick, which was also found in the tunnels driven through solid rocky mountains.

Ruins of the Aspendos Aqueduct , Turkey
The Eifel aqueduct supplied the Roman Cologne

Aqueducts in Italy and the Roman provinces

All aqueducts in the Roman provinces date from the early and high imperial periods (i.e. from the 1st to the 3rd centuries); only remnants of them are left in Germany - such as the " Roman stones " in Zahlbach near Mainz , the so-called " Roman Canal " from the Eifel to Cologne and the water pipe to Colonia Ulpia Traiana near Xanten . Others are (in parts) better preserved - e.g. B. the Pont du Gard near Nîmes or the largely unknown aqueduct of Ansignan . The Spanish aqueducts in Segovia as well as in Tarraco and Mérida are also worth mentioning; likewise the buildings of Asia Minor at Pergamon and Phaselis in today's Turkey . The so-called 'aqueduct' of Aspendos was very likely a pressure pipe ( culvert ).

The philhellenic emperor Hadrian had an aqueduct built in the Peloponnese from Lake Stymphalia to Acrocorinth in 125 . It was in operation until around 1800; the first five kilometers have been used again since a restoration in 1885.

Aqueducts in the Eastern Roman Empire

Soon after the Gothic Wars , the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian had the now dilapidated water pipes from Constantine times renewed. However, the urban water supply of Constantinople was mainly provided by large cisterns (e.g. Yerebatan Seraglio ).

Medieval aqueducts

In the Middle Ages hardly any aqueducts or other water pipes were built; some inner-city water lines ( Pipen or Deicheln ) from the drilled and plugged into one another or lined up tree trunks, however, are known. The urban population supplied themselves from wells and cisterns or fetched water from the nearby river; in many larger cities there was the profession of water carrier , which existed in North African countries well into the 20th century.

Ponte delle Torri near Spoleto

A probably in the 13th / 14th The aqueduct ( Ponte delle Torri ) built near Spoleto in the south of Umbria is the only known example of medieval aqueduct construction alongside the Spanish Acueducto de Morella . Otherwise, only a few water pipes from Roman times are known to be used in the Middle Ages.

The Arabs and Berbers ( Moors ) have been leaders in hydraulic engineering since ancient times, and they conducted water from springs via underground ( qanats ) or above-ground stone pipes to their oasis fields and the royal palaces. So has z. For example, the Alhambra in Granada , built in the 14th and 15th centuries, has an extensive irrigation system that also supplies the water features in the Generalife gardens . The Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos in Cordoba , probably built by Moorish craftsmen on the site of an older palace, also has important water features.

Aqueducts were widespread in the Middle Ages in the Orient. The one from Fustat ( Cairo ) is still partially preserved today.

The Inca city ​​of Machu Picchu , which was inhabited in the 15th and 16th centuries, was supplied with water via an irrigation canal about three kilometers long and about 20 centimeters wide.

Aqueducts from the 16th to 19th centuries

Elvas Aqueduct , Portugal
Aqueduct of Padre Tembleque , Zempoala, Mexico
Kavala Aqueduct

During and after the Renaissance , the ancient aquatic life was also honored again. Aqueducts from the 16th to 19th centuries can be found in Portugal (such as the Acueducto de Amoreira in Elvas , which began in 1537 but was not completed until 1620 , the aqueduct of Salvador (Serpa) , which was completed in 1690 and which was completed in From 1730 to 1748 Aqueduto das Águas Livres in Lisbon and the Aqueduto de São Sebastião in Coimbra , a Roman viaduct rebuilt and put into operation in 1583 ), in Spain ( Acueducto de Bejís ), Italy ( Caserta near Naples ), and some in England and Scotland .

In France, the Aqueduc Médicis (built 1613-1624, inter alia for the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris ) and the aqueduct of Louveciennes , the aqueduct of Buc and the aqueduct of Maintenon to supply the Palace of Versailles . The latter, begun under Louis XIV according to the drafts and under the direction of Vauban , was supposed to lead the water of the Eure to the basins and water arts in the castle park on a triple, 17 km long, 70 meter high arcade row of 242 arches , but only the Bottom row of arches really completed at a cost of 22 million livres.

In Mexico , the Spanish built several aqueducts in the 16th century, including the Padre Tembleque aqueduct , and the El Saucillo aqueduct in the 18th century . In Morelia , in the Mexican state of Michoacán , there is an aqueduct in its current state from the 18th century. It goes back to a building from the 16th century. The aqueduct has a length of 1700 m, the 253 arches reach a maximum height of 9.23 m. It was in operation until 1910 and was restored in 1998. The Arcos del Sitio are the largest and longest aqueduct bridge in Latin America . It is near the city of Tepotzotlán in the state of Mexico ; the structure is a maximum of 61 meters high and about one and a half kilometers long.

The aqueduct in Larnaka on Cyprus, built in the Turkish period (from 1746 to 1750), was in operation until 1963.

The Croton Aqueduct was New York City's first water supply, built in 1842 and operating until 1965. The 66-kilometer gravity tunnel led water from a tributary of the Hudson River to a reservoir in Central Park . The line crossed the East River on the High Bridge .

In Italy, the Aquedotto pugliese ( Acquedotto Pugliese , dt. The "Apulian Aqueduct") supplies large parts of the Italian province of Apulia and small areas of Campania with drinking water. The Apulian aqueduct is the largest aqueduct in Europe.

In addition, the aqueducts of the first Viennese high spring water pipeline (1870–1873) near Baden and Mödling , the aqueduct of the Leina Canal near Gotha and the aqueduct in Rostokino in northeast Moscow should be mentioned.

Nowadays aqueducts are mostly replaced by penstocks ( culverts ). To transport water for agricultural irrigation, however, until well into the 20th century (e.g. in Spain), irrigation canals were routed over shorter bridge structures.

See also


Web links

Commons : Aqueducts  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Aqueduct  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. View of the building: [1]
  2. ^ T. Jacobsen, H. Frankfort: Sennacherib's Aqueduct at Jerwan, Publications of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, Volume 24, 1935
  3. Detlef Wienecke-Janz: The great chronicle of world history / Greece and classical antiquity, 2008, Wissenmedia ISBN 3-577-09064-2
  4. Michael P Streck: The Old Orient: An Introduction, WBG (Scientific Book Society) 2006, ISBN 3-534-18558-7
  5. photograph of Sennecherib's inscription .
  6. Dahlia Shehata: Babylonier, Hittiter & Co. for Dummies, Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA 2015, ISBN 3-527-70499-X
  7. ^ Numbers after F. Coarelli: Rom. An archaeological guide. Zabern, Mainz 2000, p. 41.
  8. ^ Vitruvius, De architectura 8, 6, 2 .