Segovia has one of the greatest works of the Roman Empire: this is how this vital construction worked

The Castilian city has one of the best preserved works of this type.

Segovia has one of the greatest works of the Roman Empire: this is how this vital construction worked
In the past, access to water as a fundamental resource was the key to everything | Image: Bernard Gagnon

The Roman Empire always shone brightly in terms of public works and infrastructure. The large slave labor force allowed him to build large roads that are now hidden gems, as well as to develop a manufacturing system so important that it allowed access to technology typical of the 21st century, but 2000 years ago. One of the great technological works of this style is the aqueduct, a large water pipeline that was capable of carrying this fundamental liquid to the homes of all those who populated the Empire. Some of them stretched for miles over large geographical features and their objective was obvious: to improve the living conditions of large cities.

After all, although the bulk of the population lived in rural areas, the Roman Empire was directed and articulated through large cities that controlled key places and that served to build the apparatus of an imperialist system such as that of the city on the Tiber.

In Spain, specifically in Segovia, we find one of the best examples of this type of work. An aqueduct that is in an excellent state of conservation, despite the passage of time (thanks to restorations) and that has become a symbol of the city’s identity. But how did the aqueducts work? Let’s try to find out since it is pure ingenuity.

The aqueduct of Segovia

The aqueduct of Segovia is possibly one of the most paradigmatic Roman public works. Ordered to be built in the second century A.D. It is unknown exactly by whom, but it is speculated that it could have been during the government of Nerva, to later be completed in the time of Trajan or Hadrian.

It stretched for 17 kilometres to reach a water source in the Fuenfría spring. Thus, throughout this route it was saving certain geographical features until it was monumentalized at the entrance to the city.

One of the most interesting details is in its arcade, as it is built by approximation of rows of granite ashlars without mortar joining them. Only the weight of this work makes it stand upright without the need for any type of binding object. This is something that usually surprises and highlights the advanced level of Roman technology, especially for its knowledge of physics applied to the construction of infrastructures.

The aqueduct is frankly impressive
The aqueduct is frankly impressive | Image: David

In short, the details are as follows:

  • The Segovia aqueduct originally had a length of 17 kilometres.
  • He had to overcome many geographical features, since Segovia is nestled in the mountains.
  • It dates from approximately the second century A.D., although it is not known exactly which emperor ordered it to be built.
  • It has many very interesting legends around it.
  • It is not an exclusively Roman work, since, over the centuries, many kings and emperors have been rebuilding it to fulfill its function.

It is not the only aqueduct that is preserved in the world, but it is true that it is the most archetypal. When an aqueduct is depicted in cartoons or on any other medium, reference is usually made to the aqueduct of Segovia, although there are many others still standing. In our country there is the aqueduct of Los Milagros in Mérida, while in France we find the one of Nîmes, which was both a bridge and a Roman road.

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