Roman Aqueducts - Ancient Rome - Aqueducts Facts
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Roman Aqueducts

April 2016 - As Roman towns got bigger, in the course of the Roman Republic, it got too hard for the people who lived in the towns to get drinking and washing water. Because raw sewage was draining into the rivers, people who drank river water often got very sick or died. Local governments, first in the city of Rome and then elsewhere in the growing Empire, decided to build long stone channels to carry clean water from nearby hills to the towns. They built the first Roman aqueduct in 312 BC.

aqueduct in rome
Aqueduct in the city of Rome

Aqueducts (ACK-wa-ducts) got their name from the Latin word for water, aqua, and the Latin word for channel, ductus. By the time of the Empire, three hundred years later, most Roman towns had at least one aqueduct to bring in fresh water, and big cities like Rome had ten or more.

pont du gard
The aqueduct at Nimes, in southern France (Pont du Gard)

These aqueducts were quite a challenge to build. The engineering had to be just right in order to get the water to run through the channels and get to the city without stagnating in the channel or coming too fast into the city. They had to keep the slope the same all the time, so sometimes the aqueducts had to run on high arches, and other times along the ground in stone channels, or even under the ground in tunnels.

Learn by doing: build a Lego or Minecraft aqueduct that slopes slowly down and carries water
More about Roman Aqueducts

Bibliography and further reading about Roman aqueducts:

Roman Roads and Aqueducts, by Don Nardo (2000). For younger kids.

City : A Story of Roman Planning and Construction, by David Macaulay (1983). For kids - brilliant!

Roman Aqueducts and Water Supply, by Trevor Hodge (2002). Clear and complete, though not especially for kids.

Or check out the aqueducts article in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Roman Architecture
Roman Baths
Roman Sewage Systems
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Learn more about Roman aqueducts

Build your own model aqueduct (the aqueduct at Segovia in Spain) a


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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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