Of all the things the Ancient Romans did, what fascinates me the most are the Roman Aqueducts. These bridge-like structures supported by multiple levels of Roman arches can be seen spanning across valleys in many countries across Europe and North Africa – territories that were part of the Roman Empire. The aqueducts carried fresh water into Rome’s homes, baths, and fountains. In fact, even today the famous Trevi fountain in Rome is fed by water from an aqueduct that was built in 19 BCE.
The Romans built the aqueducts from 312 BCE to 226 CE, under the rules of Augustus, Caligula, and Trajan. While the parts above ground are the most recognizable, a majority of the aqueducts were laid below ground – and are made up of underground tunnels, pipes, and canals. Of a total of 420 kms of aqueducts, only 50 kms are above ground.
The water flowed from dams, reservoirs, and other sources towards Rome because of gravity. The entire aqueduct system had to have just the right gradient – too much and the water would flow too fast particularly into Rome and burst the pipes, too low and the water would stop flowing. The Romans used rivers and riverbeds to learn about gradient technology to allow water to flow at the correct speed. The engineering knowledge the ancient Romans must have possessed to achieve this feat is remarkable.
Once the water arrived in Rome, it went into a large storage reservoir called the main castellum. From the castellum, the water traveled to different parts of Rome in smaller channels, and entered a secondary castellum, from where it further branched until it reached its final destination like the Trevi fountain.
The ancient Romans built 11 aqueducts in all. Some of the Roman aqueducts are Aqua Claudia, Aqua Appia (oldest), Aqua Anio Vetus, Aqua Marcia (could take water up to Palatine hill), Aqua Alexandina (last one built), and Aqua Traiana.