How did old aqueducts work

Why did the ancient Romans build aqueducts?

Even today there are impressive aqueducts that the Romans built. In Rome, in southern France, but also in Segovia, Spain, you can admire these water supply systems. Why did the Romans build aqueducts? This question comes from Steffen, 9 years old.

A good water supply was very important to the Romans. Its aqueducts are considered an architectural masterpiece of antiquity. Source: © kavram, Shutterstock.


The population in the Roman Empire grew steadily. More and more people settled in the cities in particular. The Romans built aqueducts to provide the residents with the water they need. The Romans were very wasteful with water. They not only needed drinking water, but also a lot of water for their thermal baths, public wells, gardens, water reservoirs, country estates and bathing establishments.

With the help of underground pipes, the water was drawn into the city from the springs in the surrounding hills. But if the water had to be led over valleys, the Romans built aqueducts and carried the water on through these constructions. The Latin word aqueduct is also composed of "aqua" = water and "ducere" = lead.

Construction material concrete

The Romans already had excellent building skills back then: On the one hand, they knew how to build round arches, so-called arcades. This construction technique was known since the Etruscans, the Romans perfected this technique. On the other hand, the Romans already knew a type of concrete that was mixed from volcanic rock, gravel, lime and water. This material made it possible to build cheap and durable. Concrete was also much easier to work with than large blocks of stone.

Masterpiece of ancient architects

Aqueducts were real miracle structures of antiquity. Often they were several hundred kilometers long and had to guide the water evenly over this distance. To ensure that the water always flowed at the desired speed, the slope of the building and the pipes were precisely calculated. A real masterpiece of the ancient architects and surveyors!

You can find out more about the Therma in WAS IST WAS Volume 75, Ancient Rome. Ancient world power