The Romans were brilliant builders, and with their inventions, changed the world. Such is the case with Roman Aqueducts, which channeled water from distant water sources into cities. These aqueducts supplied water for the whole town – fountains, baths, toilets (!), and households. The genius part is that aqueducts, by their very construction, moved water without need for any mechanization or assistance – by using gravity. Aqueducts were built with a slight gradient, which allowed the water to flow unobstructed. Some of the aqueduct parts were underground, but the visible parts of the aqueducts were usually imposing bridges, built to cross waterways or skirt around mountains. Some ancient Roman aqueducts are still in use today! The invention of aqueducts supported the populace immensely and improved lives – they had constant, reliable water, instead of depending on rainwater, local water sources, and transporting water from far away. As you can imagine, health and hygiene were positively impacted by aqueducts.The aqueduct in Segovia, Spain (pictured here) is one of the best preserved and most important ancient Roman monuments in Spain. It is the city’s most important architectural landmark, and is featured in the coat of arms for Segovia! It was likely built in the 1st or 2nd century AD, and transports water from a river 11 miles away. Restoration projects have been in progress since 1997 – the Plaza Azoguejo is a pedestrian mall, and vehicular traffic is not allowed, as pollution has increased the rate of decay of the aqueduct.
Download a larger image and share the photo with your class, then try these discussion questions and classroom activities:
- Watch this UNESCO video about Segovia and the Aqueduct. Isn’t it cool that the stones hold each other in? What do you think is the most genius part of the civil engineering of the aqueduct – the structure, building, maintaining cleanliness of the water, gradation, or something else?
Learn about how aqueducts are engineered, and how even in modern times, aqueducts are an excellent means to import clean, fresh water. Contemplate the enormous feat of engineering required to build such a civic treasure.
Build your own aqueduct! Be sure to read the manual first, so that the gods will look favorably down upon you for all of your hard (and structurally correct) work.
Legend has it that the aqueduct was built by the devil, in exchange for a girl’s soul – she who was tired of carrying water. Learn the legend then write your own short legend of the creation of the aqueduct, taking into account local culture and geography. Share your legends!