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Segovia's Roman Aqueduct

Segovia's Roman Aqueduct

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Aqueduct of Segovia

The Aqueduct of Segovia was built during the second half of the 1st century A.D. under the rule of the Roman Empire and supplied water from the Frío River to the city into the 20th century. The remaining portion of the structure stands 28.5 meters tall at its maximum height and nearly 6 additional meters deep in the main section. Along 14 kilometers of rolling landscape, the aqueduct adjusts to the contours of the valley, hills, and city and creates a sense of grandeur and monumentality. The pillars and arches of its tall, two-story arcades are made of solid blocks of stone fit closely together with little or no mortar, and the lower arches alternate in height according to the structure’s adaptation to the contours of the land. Detrimental reconstruction occurred in the 15th and 16th centuries, and not until the 1970s and 1990s was there urgent conservation intervention. The aqueduct was inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1985 and stands prominently in the urban landscape of Segovia. The Aqueduct of Segovia remains one of the most intact Roman aqueducts in Europe.

Aqueduct History

The presence of Rome in Segovia dates back to the second century B.C., at which time the province was structured around three towns: Duratón, Coca and Segovia. The indigenous population became Romanised as, little by little, it began speaking and writing in Latin and adopting the Roman lifestyle.

The construction of the Aqueduct can be seen as the alignment of the indigenous population with the Roman world. It is a source of prestige for the civil engineers who built it and the city alike and, at its highest point, there would have been noble houses and, at the very least, some Roman baths.

The main purpose of the construction was to carry water from the mountains to the town, although it also served as political propaganda (public works were often subsidised by government or local political figures).

Vestiges of the Roman city of Segovia can be seen at the Museo de Segovia [Museum of Segovia], where materials found in excavations in the city and the province are displayed.

Segovia's Aqueduct measures in total around 15km and water is collected from near the present-day Revenga Reservoir and it ends at the Alcázar [Fortress] -where the military settlement responsible for guarding the city would have been-.

The Aqueduct can be divided into three stretches:

a) From where the water is collected to the elevated channel. It is not known whether the channel was above or below ground level.
b) The second stretch is the elevated channel, masonry and arches which reach a maximum height of 28m. In this part, the sand trap is located, which is a small covered deposit in which the flow of incoming water slows to allow solid particles to sink to the bottom.
c) The final stretch continues beneath the streets of the historic quarter.

The granite blocks used in the construction of the monument were sourced from a number of different quarries. These were finished on site and placed without the use of mortar. They were raised using ropes and pulleys and adjusted with iron levers.

Between the two rows of arches on Plaza del Azoguejo [Azoguejo Square] is a space where the names of the emperor and local magistrates, to whom we owe the monument, are displayed.

The style of the Aqueduct –to which we can also add associated archaeological discoveries on display at the Museum of Segovia- allows the construction to be dated to the very end of the first or beginning of the second century A.D.

Among the modifications and repairs which have been carried out, those authorised by the Catholic Monarchs are noteworthy, in particular the substitution of the old channels with granite ones which can still be seen today.

The conservation of the arches and pillars in Azoguejo Square allows one to appreciate the grandeur of one of the most impressive works of Roman engineering, listed by Royal Order on 11th October, 1884.

2 thoughts on &ldquo Roman Aqueducts in Spain Present New Findings &rdquo

Why was the aqueducts location chosen? you mentioned that those who lived closer to the aqueduct had an advantage and rebaked its benefits, was this area where a certain social class lived before the construction?

The aqueduct’s location was chosen because it supplied water from the Frio River into the city. The foundations for the city were already built and the population shifted after the aqueduct’s presence to reflect social hierarchy. Before the aqueduct, the population of Segovia consisted mostly of convents and religious figures, and followed the societal hierarchies imposed by the church. After the construction of the aqueduct, consumer traffic increased in the area and Segovia became a textile center and an important stop in the trading routes of international textiles.

Segovia's Roman Aqueduct - History

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    The Aqueduct of Segovia (or more precisely, the aqueduct bridge) is a Roman aqueduct and one of the most significant and best-preserved ancient monuments left on the Iberian Peninsula. It is the foremost symbol of Segovia, as evidenced by its presence on the city's coat of arms.

    As the aqueduct lacks a legible inscription (one was apparently located in the structure's attic, or top portion), the date of construction cannot be definitively determined. Researchers have placed it between the second half of the 1st Century AD and the early years of the 2nd Century—during the reign of either Emperor Vespasian or Nerva. The beginnings of Segovia itself are likewise not definitively known. Vacceos are known to have populated the area before the Romans conquered the city. Roman troops sent to control the area, which fell within the jurisdiction of the Roman provincial court (Latin conventus iuridici, Spanish convento jurídico) located in Clunia, stayed behind to settle there.

    The aqueduct transports waters from Fuente Fría river, situated in the nearby mountains, some 17 km (11 mi) from the city in a region known as La Acebeda. It runs another 15 km (9.3 mi) before arriving in the city.

    The water is first gathered in a tank known as El Caserón (or Big House), and is then led through a channel to a second tower known as the Casa de Aguas (or Waterhouse). There it is naturally decanted and sand settles out before the water continues its route. Next the water travels 728 m (796 yd) on a one-percent grade until it is high upon the Postigo, a rocky outcropping on which the old city center, the Segovia Alcázar, was built. Then, at Plaza de Díaz Sanz (Díaz Sanz Square), the structure makes an abrupt turn and heads toward Plaza Azoguejo (Azoguejo Square). It is there the monument begins to display its full splendor. At its tallest, the aqueduct reaches a height of 28.5 m (93 ft 6 in), including nearly 6 m (19 ft 8 in) of foundation. There are both single and double arches supported by pillars. From the point the aqueduct enters the city until it reaches Plaza de Díaz Sanz, it boasts 75 single arches and 44 double arches (or 88 arches when counted individually), followed by four single arches, totalling 167 arches in all.

    The construction of the aqueduct follows the principles laid out by Vitruvius as he describes in his De Architectura published in the mid-first century.

    The first section of the aqueduct contains 36 semi-circular arches, rebuilt in the 15th century to restore a portion destroyed by the Moors in 1072. The line of arches is organized in two levels, decorated simply, in which predominantly simple moulds hold the frame and provide support to the structure. On the upper level, the arches have a total width of 5.1 meters (16.1 ft). Built in two levels, the top pillars are both shorter and narrower than those on the lower level. The top of the structure contains the channel through which water travels, through a U-shaped hollow measuring 0.55 by 0.46 meters (1.8 by 1.5 feet). The channel continuously adjusts to the base height and the topography below. The lower-level arches have an approximate width of 4.5 meters (14.8 ft) Their pillars gradually increase in circumference size. The top of each pillar has a cross-section measuring 1.8 by 2.5 meters (5.9 by 8.2 feet), while the base cross-section measures approximately 2.4 by 3 meters (7.9 by 9.8 feet).
    Principal facade of the Aqueduct of Segovia.

    The aqueduct is built of unmortared, brick-like granite blocks. During the Roman era, each of the three tallest arches displayed a sign in bronze letters, indicating the name of its builder along with the date of construction. Today, two niches are still visible, one on each side of the aqueduct. One of them is known to have held the image of Hercules, who according to legend was founder of the city. The other niche now contains the images of the Virgen de la Fuencisla (the Patroness of Segovia) and Saint Stephen.

    The Acueduct of Segovia

    The Great Roman Aqueduct of Segovia is the most important, loved and broadly known monument by both the segovians and the visitors.

    History Construction Legend
    Aqueduct Visitor Centre Guided Tour

    If you wish to consult the information available in Spanish click here.

    Why is Segovia’s Roman Aqueduct still standing?

    It is made of granite and anyone who comes across it can’t help but be amazed at this feat of engineering which was built somewhere between the I and II centuries AD, and without access to any of today’s modern technology. Stone upon stone, and without the use of mortar or cement, all granite blocks fit perfectly alongside each other.

    So much so that about two thousand years later this stone colossus is still standing, although a legend says this is so because it was built by the devil himself!

    On our VIP Tour of Segovia we will tell you about the clues which could have dated its actual date of construction and about how Spain’s Christian monarchs destroyed these as they carried out one of the several reconstructions this monument has had throughout its history.

    In charge of transporting fresh water to the city’s inhabitants for about two millennia it is, without a doubt, one of the best feats of Roman engineering still around in the world.
    And the best part? It is only one hour from Madrid.

    And if you are in Segovia, Madrid Experience can also organize a VIP Tour of the city where we will unveil the secrets of its Gothic cathedral, which took over two centuries to build, or its famous fairy-tale castle –the Alcazar, believed to have inspired Walt Disney, not forgetting about the beauty of its streets, its stores which are still minded by real craftsmen whose work, of course, you will also get to know. And not forgetting about the city’s culinary grandeur.

    Learn more about Queen Isabella the Catholic who was proclaimed Queen in Segovia, visit the tomb and learn more about the work of the great mystic “San Juan de la Cruz” (Saint John of the Cross) and visit the curious circular church “de la Vera Criuz” which is said to have a Templar past. Enter an ancient world of knights, princesses, legends and great mystics. Let us transport you to other times.

    What is an Aqueduct

    The Romans constructed aqueducts that served as Roman water systems, throughout the Empire. The water supplied public baths, fountains, latrines, gardens, milling, farms and private households. The constructions moved water through gravity alone, for the most part along a slight descending downward gradient inside conductors of stone, brick, or concrete, yet some of the time through steeper gradients. Most conduits were covered underneath the ground and took after the contours of the terrain. Most aqueduct systems included sedimentation tanks, which helped reduce any water-borne debris. The run-off water from the constructions drove urban water-processes, and scoured the channels and sewers.

    Where to Stay near the Aqueduct in Segovia

    If you’re visiting the Acueducto de Segovia and Segovia, you have several options for where to stay. You’ll find below hotels depending on your travel style:

    Cheapest accommodation in Segovia, for around 30€ per night. It comes with private bathroom and free wifi.

    This hostel has the best location, it’s right on the main square Plaza Mayor, and everything is within walking distance. There’s also A/C and heating in each room, for your comfort.

    Very comfy rooms, with private bathroom, for around 65€ per night.

    The two nice bonuses? It’s right next to the Cathedral, and there is a spa, the perfect place to go and relax after a long day of exploring Segovia!

    If you’re looking for the perfect dreamy place to relax and enjoy your stay in Segovia, look no further.

    The Hotel Infanta Isabel might very well be your favorite place in the city luxurious hotel, with stunning rooms, and incredible beds. What about the location? Well, you’ll have a view on the Segovia Cathedral straight from your room!

    Roman Aqueduct of Segovia

    Segovia’s Roman aqueduct stands austerely on Plaza del Azoguejo. It was built during the 1st century A.D. Today it can be found on Segovia’s coat of arms, a proud symbol of the city’s identity.

    The Aqueduct of Segovia is one of the most well preserved Roman aqueducts in the world. Surprisingly, the nearly 25,000 granite blocks used to build the aqueduct are not held together by mortar, and yet it still stands today. Talk about built to last! Are you brave enough to stand underneath it?

    Originally supplied by the Frio River located 11 miles outside of Segovia, the aqueduct runs partially underground. You can trace part of its underground path through the city following the brass markers imbedded in the cobblestone streets. The aqueduct reaches 93.5 feet at its tallest and contains a total of 167 arches.