Aqueduct of Segovia

The Aqueduct of Segovia, or Acuducto de Segovia in Spanish, was constructed in the 1st century A.D in the Segovia province in Spain under the rule of the Roman Empire. This aqueduct carried water to Segovia from the Frio River, 17 kilometers (11 mi) away. 

The actual inscription of the aqueduct was absent until the 20th century, wherein one was found on its upper portion and, when translated, notes its completion in 98. Other dates indicate the completion in 50, while archaeological evidence pointed out the completion to be in 117 or during Emperor Hadrian’s reign. Nevertheless, the construction and completion cover the idea of its construction and completion from mid to the later 1st century A.D. 

In 1985, UNESCO made the Aqueduct of Segovia part of a World Heritage Site as this Roman aqueduct is still present today.

Architecture, Structure, and Materials

The Aqueduct of Segovia was built without mortar but with an estimated 20,400 granite blocks. Its construction was under the Roman emperors Domitian, Nerva, and Trajan, if not Hadrian. The topmost point reaches up to 28.5 meters above ground level, while its length on its aboveground portions is 728 meters long. This Roman aqueduct has two tiers, 120-128 pillars at the bottom and 166 pillars at the top tier. The foundations of the aqueduct are 6 meters deep. Blocks weighed 1 ton, while the heaviest was around 2 tons. In total, the estimated total weight of granite used is 20,000 tons.

The process of water transport within the aqueduct starts with gathering water in a tank known as the Big House or El Caserón. The water is then led towards another tower (Casa de Aguas). The water would also undergo decantation on this second tower before traveling again along the channels of the aqueduct until reaching Segovia. The decantation process sieved and removed sand for a cleaner water supply.

Purpose & Significance

Like other aqueducts, the Aqueduct of Segovia helped convey water from streams to a valley or hollow, offering the people clean water free of contaminants and human waste. It helped in the improvement of public health in Segovia. The aqueduct was still in use until the early 20th century.

As Segovia was located between two major Roman settlements, Leon and Castile, it became a significant stopover for trade and travelers. The aqueduct provided this relevant stopover with clean water during the reign of the Roman Empire. Hence, it helped in the flow of travelers and trade through the help of the transfer of water from the outskirts to the settlement of Segovia.

Today, there are visible niches or images in the aqueduct, such as Saint Stephen and the Patroness of Segovia, which became the replacement of the niche of Hercules during Roman times.