The end of Roman Aqueducts - Fall of Rome
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The End of Aqueducts

Segovia aqueduct
Aqueduct at Segovia in eastern Spain

December 2016 - Roman engineers built aqueducts all over the Roman Empire, from Syria to England. All Roman towns pretty much got clean drinking water from these aqueducts. But in villages, where most Roman people lived, there were no aqueducts, and people often drank dirty water from the nearest river, and many women and children spent hours every day carrying water from the river or the nearest well in clay pots. Often these people got sick with dysentery from germs in their water, because their drinking water mixed with their sewage.

ostia well

People in the Roman Empire kept on using aqueducts until the 400s AD, when the fall of the Roman Empire in Western Europe meant that most towns became much smaller, and were able to get enough water from wells.

By the 400s AD in the Roman town of Ostia, the town had gotten so much smaller that the people living there didn't need to keep this street clear anymore, and they put their well right in the middle of the street!

Learn by doing: learn where your water comes from and how it gets to you
Or: try carrying a full bucket of water around the block
More about Roman aqueducts
More about sewage systems

Bibliography and further reading about Roman aqueducts:

Roman Roads and Aqueducts, by Don Nardo (2000). Easy reading.

City : A Story of Roman Planning and Construction, by David Macaulay (1983). Brilliant!

Roman Aqueducts and Water Supply, by Trevor Hodge (2002). Clear and complete.

More about Aqueducts
Sewage Systems
Roman Architecture
Ancient Rome
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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, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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