Cordoba (Spain)

Roman aqueducts in Cordoba (Spain) Cordoba - CORDUBA / COLONIA PRATICIA
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One can follow the stages of urban growth of Roman Corduba through the analysis of the strategies for the water supply. Throughout the Republican era the wealth of ground water in this area, at shallow depth and in very soft clay, allowed public and domestic supply from springs and wells. But with the reign of Augustus (27 BC-14 AD) an important period started with a significant impact on monumentalization of the water infrastructure.

Aqua Augusta

In this period a network of streets and sewers was built as was the first aqueduct. Through epigraphic evidence (CIL II2 / 7,217) we know that this aqueduct was called Aqua Augusta (later Aqua Vetus). Our research has identified it as the one known so far from the Caliphs as the Valdepuentes aqueduct.

The channel transported between 20,000 and 35,000 m3 of water a day to the city; the water was captured in the Sierra Morena NW of Córdoba (springs in the area of Arroyo Bejarano, Cano del Escarabita and Veneros de Vallehermoso), mostly subterranean with a total length of 18.6 km. The complete aqueduct was built in opus caementicium, coated inside with opus signinum. Its cross-section was rectangular, internally 0.90 x 0.64 m enclosed by 0.35 - 0.40 m thick walls and covered by a vault of 0.30 m inner radius. The most remarkable technical feature of the aqueduct is a system of shafts - called spiramina - used to reduce the speed of the water in areas of steep natural slope, of which a total of 40 are preserved.

During the reign of Tiberius, a member of the local aristocracy, the duovir Lucius Cornelius, built at his own expenses (de sua pecunia) public street-fountains (lacus siliceos) decorated with bronze ornaments (effigies aheneas) (CIL II2 / 7, 218).
A calculation of the likely distribution of the water flow carried by the aqueduct Valdepuentes based on the texts of Vitruvius and Frontinus, allows us to suggest the existence of hundred of these street-fountains from the first century AD in Córdoba and the simultaneous supply of many houses (about 200) and public buildings.

Aqua Nova Domitiana Augusta

However, the urban economy throughout this century, the period of monumentalization that happened early in the Flavian era, related to the implementation of the provincial imperial cult, and the enrichment of the local elites through intensive farming in the ager cordubensis, demanded the construction of a second great aqueduct to the capital of the province Baetica during the reign of emperor Domitian (81 - 96 AD). Thanks again to epigraphy (CIL II2 / 7, 219) we know its name: Aqua Nova Domitiana Augusta. It was identified in the eighteenth century by F. Ruano and called the Pedroche brook, northeast of the city. Still remains of four branches of the water supply from different streams and springs are known in this sector of the Sierra, with a total length of 13.2 km. They are built in rectangular shape in opus caementicium, without opus signinum or any other coating, measuring internally 0.60 x 0.45 m.
Three kilometer from the city, the branches were united in a unique box of 0.90 x 0.60 m internally and reached Colonia Patricia (Corduba) on a retaining wall or substructio of about 6 m high.
We believe that the Aqua Nova carried 20,000 cubic meters of water per day which, added to the 35,000 m3 provided by the Aqua Vetus (or Augusta), Corduba was one of the best water supplied cities in Hispania during the Roman epoch.

Aqueduct of the bus station

Yet, between the 2nd and 3rd century a.d. a third aqueduct was built in order to supply water to an urban residential area to the west, outside the perimeter walls, and perhaps also to secure the water supply to the existing public buildings there, among which could be the palace of emperor Maximianus Herculius (in archeological terms this area is called Cercadilla). The original Latin name by which the work was baptized in the Roman period is unknown in absence of explicit epigraphic evidence, but from certain Arab literary texts we can conclude that among the eighth and tenth century it was called in Mozarabic and Latin-speaking circles Fontis aureae aquaeductus or 'the aqueduct that supplied the golden fountain'.

The caput aquae and the entire trace of the conduit had not been explored yet in full detail. In fact, we only have intensively investigated a stretch of about 100 m in length discovered during construction of the new bus station in Cordoba. Hence its name: the aqueduct of the bus station. It consists of a channel made of opus caementicium coated inside with a layer of waterproof white plaster that makes up a typical torus in the form of quarter circles on the boards of the bottom and sides. These are approximately 40 cm thick and define internally a rectangular sections of 0.90 m high by 0.45 m wide. The canal was originally above surface, covered with large rectangular slabs of dune lime stone (calcarenite). It shows remarkable similarities with the Aqua Nova Domitiana in dimensions, building techniques and average gradient of the specus, so we can deduce that it carried a similar water flow, between 10,000 and 20,000 m3 per day.

Angel Ventura Villanueva
From: Guia Archeologica de Cordoba (2003)

The aqueduct (2nd c AD) and qanat (10th c AD) of the Bus Station

(Text from the information panel under the bus station)

Roman aqueduct and Muslim qanat

The Roman channel was built using opus caementitium (Roman concrete), a material made of medium-sized limestone rocks stuck together with lime and sand.

The Arab historian al-Dabbi (9th c) reports the existence of two fountains situated in the Western outskirts of Cordoba. One of them was called Ayn Funt Aurea, an Arabic version of the Latin name Font Aurea (Golden Fountain). This Font Aurea could originally have been a saliens (Roman fountain or nymphaeum) situated either in the circus or in the Western quarters of the city, and supplied by this aqueduct.

In 976 al-Hakan II decided to build a large piping system or qanat to supply the Great Mosque with water. In order to achieve this purpose, the engineers working for the caliph discontinued the route of the old Roman aqueduct and diverted its water with a new system of pipes that went over the former siphon and a castellum divisorium. After the Reconquista of the city the qanat became the property of the Cathedral authorities. They started to charge the citizens for the privilege of supplying their houses with aqueduct water. In modern times it continued to carry water to the Cathedral and the Alcázar (fortress). For this reason it became known as Water from the Factory of the Holy Church and Cathedral.

This aqueduct has remained in use since Roman times. After building the bus station, its water was channeled so that it could continue to feed the gardens in the Alcázar.


Item Augusta Novus Bus Station unit
Length 18,6 13,2 ?? km
Cross-section 0,90 x 0,64 0,60 x 0,45 0,90 x 0,45 m x m
Volume 20 - 35.000 20.000 10 - 20.000 m3/day
Period Augustan Domitian 2nd/3rd c  
  • Augusta: over 40 spiramina (dropshafts)
  • Bus Station: siphon

Recommended literature :
  • VENTURA VILLANUEVA, A. (1993): El abastecimiento de agua a la Córdoba romana. I El Acueducto de Valdepuentes, Córdoba.
  • VENTURA VILLANUEVA, A. (1996): El abastecimiento de agua a la Córdoba romana II. Acueductos, ciclo de distribución y urbanismo, Córdoba.
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HOME More literature on more aqueducts Last modified: June, 2010 - (webmaster)

The three aqueducts
of Cordoba

Aqua Augusta / Aqua
Vetus / Valdepuentes

Strong fall

Over 40 dropshafts

Aqueduct bridge

Street fountain

Aqua Augusta


Detail with plaster

Inscription CIL II2 7,217

Completed version

Inscription CIL II2 7,218

Interpretation of the

Aqua Nova


Aerial view on Corduba

Remains of the Aqua Nova

Inscription CIL II2 7,219

Aqueduct of the
Bus Station

Under the Bus Station

1.Castellum 1

2.Upstream view

3.Two channels

4.Roman aqueduct 2

5.Well or setting basin

6.Roman aqueduct 1

7.Towards castellum 2

8.Castellum 2

9.Upstream view

Behind the siphon