The Aqueduct of Segovia, a glorious Roman heritage in Spain
If we speak about architecture, the Romans are among the greatest builders of the world’s history.
Some of the surviving Roman buildings and monuments are magnificient still today, many centuries after they were built.
And one of such creations is the famed Roman Aqueduct of Segovia. The historic city of Segovia is located in north-western central Spain, in the autonomous region of Castile and Leon. This important city is rich in history and sights, as it is located on an important trading route between Merida and Zaragossa. In ancient history, this was an important Celtiberian settlement, which then passed into the Roman’s hands.
The massive roman aqueduct of Segovia is one of the city’s greatest historical treasures, and it is one of the most well-preserved existing testaments to the engineering feats of ancient Rome.
Its exact construction date has been difficult to pin down due to the absence of any sort of inscription, but the aqueduct and its bridge is generally believed to have been constructed around 1st or 2nd century A.D. , during the reigns of Roman emperors Domitian, Trajan, and Nerva.
Although many of the magnificent aqueducts of the Roman Empire have disintegrated leaving only ruins to mark their existence, Segovia’s is one the few still standing, and it is not only remarkably well-preserved. It continued to supply water to the city from the Frio River well into the 20th century.
The actual waterway system of the Segovia aqueduct is close to 17 kilometers long, and It was designed to carry water from the closest freshwater source – the Rio Frío – which is located in the mountains of Sierra de Guadarrama.
From this river, the Roman built channels that would carry water through the rolling hilly landscape all the way to Segovia and the overlooking castle of Alcázar, built in 12th century.
The remaining portion of the structure is roughly 900 meters long and at its highest point almost 30 meters tall, while the aqueduct bridge is made up of 167 arches supported by pillars. Its colossal granite blocks are joined without use of mortar or clamps, ingeniously held together by balancing forces. The design follows the guidelines laid out by Roman architect and engineer Vitruvius in his 15 B.C. multi-volume architecture guide “De Architectura” written for Vitruvius’s generous patron, Julius Caesar.
A towering symbol of Segovia, the aqueduct is an extraordinary illustration of the marriage between the grandiose beauty and ingenious functionality that defined the architecture of ancient Rome.
It is locally nicknamed “Puente de Diablo”, Devil’s Bridge, due to a local legend detailing the aqueduct wasn’t a feat accomplished by the great empire, but instead by the devil himself.
According to folklore, a young girl tired of walking up the steep city streets to fill her pail with water every morning struck a deal with the devil: in exchange for her soul, he would construct the aqueduct before the cockerel crowed the following morning. However, the devil lost leaving behind the aqueduct.
To commemorate this story, a controversial art piece is just a short walk away from the aqueduct. This comedic statue depicting a “Selfie Devil” did stir up controversy across Segovia. Residents felt it was inappropriate and illustrated satan in a jovial light.
The aqueduct, that was inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1985, is arguably best enjoyed at Azoguejo square, where its pillars are at their highest point. In the shadows of the aqueduct you can find a replica of the bronze sculpture of the Capitoline, the she-wolf that in ancient Roman mythology suckled and raised the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remulus.
Images from web – Google Research