October 28, 2020

Identified the largest Roman aqueduct of the Iberian Peninsula | Culture


The Valencian historian Pere Antoni Beuter He was the first to ask himself in 1538 to which towns the imposing aqueduct of Peña Cortada would supply what crossed the Valencian populations of Chelva, Calles, Domeño and Tujar. The experts of the time, and later, even discussed whether it worked at any time. Five centuries later, the archaeologist and doctor of architecture of the polytechnic university of Valencia Miquel R. Martí Maties, has given an answer at the VI International Congress of Roman Engineering, held in Santo Domingo de la Calzada (La Rioja): these sections were part of the largest aqueduct built in Hispania in Roman times. A total of 98.6 kilometers that started from a spring in the mountain range of Valencia, in Tuéjar, at 585 meters high, and ending in the current center of Valencia, at sea level. That is to say, the medieval azudes and ditches of the Valencian orchard are only an adaptation, by sections, of the engineering work designed by Rome.

However, this 1st century supply infrastructure d. C – which in principle had 93 kilometers and that crossed little stable lands – collapsed due to water seepage, in what is now the current Chelva municipal term. The Roman engineers then decided to cancel 6.4 kilometers of its route and add another 12 for geologically more stable areas of the limestone mountains, which gave it a final length of 98.6 kilometers. The landslide in Chelva left a straight cliff with the opening of the canal of the aqueduct, which is currently known in the town as the Balcony of the Devil.

The monumental length of the Valencian aqueduct makes it the sixth longest in the Roman world, ahead of the Aqua Marcia in Italy (91 kilometers) or that of Cologne (Germany, 95). It is also the first of the Iberian Peninsula and 23 kilometers more than that of Cádiz. Along the way, archaeologists have found Roman inscriptions that “allow reading,” explains Martí Matíes, “the names of those who drank and lived in Roman villages connected with covered pipes or channels.”

But the crashes not only affected Chelva, but they happened in other places: “Those stretches collapsed, erased, made one think that it was never over and led some to offer novel alternatives of why it was not finalized,” adds the archaeologist. “The curse of the crashes did not end, since in Gestalgar – where the Calicantos aqueduct is located and which was believed unfinished -, the detachments of both small and huge rock fragments, which still happen, must have traumatized users when the aqueduct was in full use, ”says Martí Maties.

Roman aqueduct excavated in rock as it passes through the municipality of Calles.


Roman aqueduct excavated in rock as it passes through the municipality of Calles.

With the fall of the Empire it was already impossible to maintain the infrastructure given its length and the required investment. So they amputated him. They settled for the route that remained between Vilamarxant and the Valencian capital. The water would no longer come from the original source of Tuéjar, but directly from the Turia. “This meant less technical and economic problems and the gradient was used for the gravity course of water,” says Martí Maties.


The route of the aqueduct of Valencia

They are visible near

60 km

Tossal Square

(Valencia)

Source: Miquel Ramon Martí Matias, archaeologist

of the UPV

THE COUNTRY

The route of the aqueduct of Valencia

They are visible near

60 km

Tossal Square

(Valencia)

Source: Miquel Ramon Martí Matias, archaeologist at the UPV

THE COUNTRY

The route of the aqueduct of Valencia

They are visible near

60 km

Tossal Square

(Valencia)

Source: Miquel Ramon Martí Matias, archaeologist at the UPV

THE COUNTRY

Identified the largest Roman aqueduct of the Iberian Peninsula



Already in the sixth century, Valencia recovered economically and socially from the crisis and a new monumental architecture emerged. The Byzantines, who were looking for cereal for Constantinople, rebuilt the Valencian aqueduct with the collaboration of the elite of the Spanish-Roman city. A few kilometers inside, a Spanish-Byzantine city was built, called Valencia la Vella (Ribarroja del Turia) with walls and towers, which will be later conquered by the Visigoth king Leovigildo. The aqueduct from Vilamarxant will supply it.

In the Arab era, Valencia became the center again. In the ninth century, the Rovella ditch, recycling the Roman canal, penetrated directly into the capital from the hands of Muslims. “The difference between the Roman hydraulics (specially designed for human consumption) and the Islamic one is that between a good thick official cable of light and illegal shots of small cables in a neighborhood (azudes and ditches). Muslim ditches, with the same channel or not, follow the route designed by Rome. Therefore, the Arabs did not invent the Hispanic irrigation of which the Roman Cadiz agronomist Columela already spoke, nor the norias that were Greek. Rome was the pioneer as evidenced by the existence of the aqueduct, adapted by the Byzantines and Visigoths and then by Arabs and Christians, “concludes Martí Maties.

Motorways, swamps and towns

The urban development and infrastructure of the province of Valencia has been burying or disappearing, little by little, the great Roman engineering work. For example, the construction of the Loriguilla reservoir in 1965, next to the Chera-Sot de Chera Natural Park, flooded the remains of the aqueduct. However, Miquel Martí Maties has managed to recover its original layout using aerial photographs of the United States Army taken in 1956. Despite the cement, the aqueduct is visible between the municipalities of Tuéjar and Domeño (28.6 kilometers). Between Vilamarxant and Valencia another 26 are conserved more or less intermittently, as well as 700 meters in Gestalgar, which join another kilometer and a half, already in a tunnel, between this town and Chulilla. Upon arrival in Valencia, the aqueduct entered through the same place where Robella’s ditch penetrates today. From where now stands Casa de la Misericordia, it would pass to Tossal Square and from there it would distribute the water to the entire city.

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