Atlas Project of Roman Aqueducts

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  • Cees Passchier, Curator
  • Gül Sürmelihindi
  • Driek van Opstal
  • Wilke Schram


From the project website (accessed 2020-09-29)

Roman aqueducts are amongst the most impressive and interesting structures that have survived from the Ancient World. Although aqueduct bridges such as the Pont du Gard are best known, roman aqueducts are complex water supply line systems that are impressive feats of engineering even by today's standards. Some of the aqueducts are simple water channels, but many contain complex structures such as inverted siphons, tunnels, basins and drop shafts while the channels themselves can be up to 240 km in length. Over 1600 roman aqueducts have been described in the Mediterranean basin and the aim of this website is to present the available corpus of literature on the subject in a systematic way. Besides available literature on each aqueduct, we aim to present summarised data on each aqueduct. However, this is a project in development, and it will take time to add new data and publications, and to update content.

The Atlas Project of Roman Aqueducts (ROMAQ) project aims to localize and collect all publications on ancient aqueducts within the borders of the Roman Empire, focusing on roman aqueducts built in the period 400 BC to 400 AD. By necessity, we concentrate our attention on the large aqueducts that served cities and towns, although we also include interesting small aqueducts that served villas and sanctuaries. We have started this initiative because of the following reasons:

  • Ancient aqueducts are a valuable element of the joint cultural heritage of all people in the Mediterranean basin
  • They are a unique source of scientific data. Aqueducts give information on knowledge levels in hydrology and civil engineering in the ancient world, and on the social life and history of cities; aqueducts can also give unique information on earthquake activity in the Mediterranean basin which can help us to understand the dangers posed by specific geological faults in the Earths crust. Finally, travertine deposits in aqueducts carry information on land use, deforestation, and the climate in roman times.
  • Aqueducts are vulnerable and much more likely to suffer damage and destruction than the remains of towns or sanctuaries which can be fenced in. Aqueducts are harder to protect because they are narrow, ribbon-like structures in the topography, commonly away from centers of habitation and (apart from the bridges) not preserved as attractive and photogenic ruins.

One important reason that aqueducts are commonly damaged or destroyed is that there is no central database of the location of their remains. ROMAQ aims to improve this situation in the following manner:

  • By setting up this database of the presently known roman aqueducts and the corpus of published literature on roman aqueducts. We presently have localized over 4000 publications in 23 languages describing over 1300 aqueducts. We aim collect pdf’s of all publications in our Thomas Ashby Digital Repository (TADIR). We presently have over 2000 pdfs stored.
  • By collecting all published topographic data on aqueducts and storing this information in a GIS platform
  • By publication of a printed atlas of the known roman aqueducts, including photographs, maps and detailed information