Patara (Turkey)

Roman aqueducts: Patara (Turkey) Gelemis - PATARA
For the photo's, see below
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Patara, the capital of the Roman province of Lycia, was one of the main ancient maritime and commercial centers of the eastern Mediterranean, on the southwest coast of Turkey. Because of its wealth and function as an important port in the eastern Mediterranean, Patara needed an aqueduct, both for the city and for the supply of visiting ships.

The aqueduct of Patara was built during the reign of Claudius and renovated / partly rebuilt under Vespasian after an earthquake. It transported water from sources near the village of Islamlar at 680 m a.s.l. over a distance of 22,5 km to Patara at 50 m a.s.l. The aqueduct comprises five bridges as well as a stretch of pressurized conduit, an inverted siphon locally known as Delikkemer. There seem to be at least two stages in the development of the aqueduct.

The aqueduct

Locations Latitude Longitude
Akbel cemetery 36 16 49 N 29 24 31 E
Delikkemer siphon 36 15 56 N 29 21 59 E
Main distribution basin 36 15 56 N 29 19 25 E
The first stretch of 5.4 km, along the steep western slope of Kisla Mountain down to the community of Akbel, originally consisted of a masonry channel, presumably of Hellenistic age, of which only scant relicts remain. This stretch was later replaced, probably by the Romans, by a single line of 55-58 cm-long ceramic pipe elements with an inner diameter of approximately 30 cm and a 4-5 cm thick wall. The pipeline was laid directly on the ground alongside the abandoned channel and locally positioned on low walls or in rock cuts.
Downstream of this stretch, from Akbel to the city, a masonry channel was laid out consisting of foundation slabs, walls 45-50 cm thick and some 40-45 cm high made of roughly hewn blocks bound in concrete, and large covering stones with a flat bottom and a convex top. Presumably, this was the original Hellenistic channel that was later refitted by the Romans. On the inside, the channel floor and walls are covered by a waterproof mortar known as opus signinum, the usual procedure for Roman aqueducts. The channel has a mean width of 53-55 cm, but a relatively shallow depth of only 40-45 cm. The aqueduct is in a ruined state, with nearly all ceramic pipes destroyed and only preserved as a string of fragments, while the masonry channel lacks its covering stones for most of the length of the aqueduct. Nevertheless, most parts of the structure are well enough preserved to understand its functioning.

The Patara aqueduct has a structure different from most other Roman aqueducts, which normally consist of a masonry channel with a depth between 2-5 times the width, a vaulted roof, and inspections shafts to facilitate access to the channel for maintenance and cleaning. Such aqueduct channels were usually buried over long stretches to prevent damage, contamination of the water, excessive heating and evaporation in summer, and frost damage in winter. This was not the case in Patara, where the masonry channel sits for most of its length on top of the Mesozoic marble basement, with the exception of short trenches cut in the rock where the rock face was steep or rock spurs had to be passed. Likewise, many remnants of the ceramic pipes were found lain out on top of the bedrock rather than buried. Probably, the hard Mesozoic marble and thin soil cover over which most of the aqueduct was built precluded excavation of a trench for the aqueduct channel over its entire length. The covering stones and ceramic pipes were apparently just topped with a thin layer of soil or even left uncovered. This rather unusual construction, with a wide, shallow channel only covered by large covering stones and a stretch of ceramic piping laid out directly on the bedrock meant that the water in the aqueduct was much more exposed to temperature changes than in typical buried aqueducts.

The Patara aqueduct channel shows a variable slope. In the first 4.4 km of its course the water descended from 680 to 280 m a.s.l. (9%), while in the remaining stretch of 18.6 km to the water distribution basin at about 80 m a.s.l. - the "castellum aquae" - it descended only 220 m (1,2%). The mean gradient over the whole course was about 2,7%.

Delikkemer inverted siphon

Water related structures in Patara (Turkey).
The Roman aqueduct entered the town from the north towards nr.10, the main (first order) distribution basin. At nr.12 and nr.18 the second order distribution basins, which also acted a pressure
reduction towers.
The most spectacular structure of the Patara aqueduct is the Delikkemer inverted siphon, which consists of a line of perforated marble blocks with dimensions of about 0,80 x 0,85 x 0,50-0,55 m, each weighing up to 900 kg, built on top of a 200 m long and 10 m-high 'cyclopean' wall. The perforated blocks form a closed conduit 0,28 m in diameter that transported the water under pressure across an 18 m deep mountain saddle. In the terrain alongside the cyclopean wall remains of ceramic pipe elements were found with an outer diameter of some 0,30 m and a wall thickness of 0,05-0,07 m.
According to an inscription found on the wall, the siphon was destroyed by an earthquake in the first century CE (probably 68 CE) and subsequently repaired. Most of the ceramic pipe fragments found here probably belong to this earlier stage, destroyed by the earthquake.

Text of the two inscriptions on the siphon Delikkemer in the aqueduct of Patara (Turkey).
A free translation of the Greek text, see Iskan 2008
Jens Köhler and Wilke Schram

Imperator Caesar Flavius Vespasianus Augustus, after earthquakes had caused the collapse of the wall of the aqueduct, rebuilt it from the bottom together with the conduit of ashlar stones running on it, and he installed an additional pressure conduit along the wall in three rows of clay pipes, and as a result, being there two (conduits), when one needs maintenance, the conduit is not obstructed, and the service actually is not interrupted.

He repaired also the rest of the aqueduct, and the water that had run out for four months he let bring (to the city) by Sextus Marcius Priscus, his legate with propraetorian rank. (Everything was paid) from the city's treasury from the poll-tax, and the (Lycian) league also contributed xx denarii, without that any taxpayer would have been charged by a special payment.

The construction (of the conduit) had been begun by Vilius Flaccus, legate of Claudius Caesar Augustus with propraetorian rank, it was completed and the water brought (to the city) under Eprius Marcellus, legate of Claudius Caesar Augustus with propraetorian rank.

Water distribution

After 22.500m the aqueduct terminated in the main (primary) distribution basin (see map # 10) at the NE side of the town at a level of about 80 m a.s.l. The dimensions of this 'castellum divisorium' were externally 6,20 x 5.10 m. During its second construction phase it was divided in two by a 0,60 m thick masonry wall, with an opening in between, leaving space for two rooms of about 3,40 m long and 1,90 m wide. From this structure the water went into two directions: westwards towards the northern part of the town, its harbour and bath houses, and southwestwards towards the center and the southern part of the town with its public buildings and living quarters.

A reservoir was attached to the first (secondary) distribution basin (#18). The latter also acted as a pressure reduction tower, comparable to the ones in Pompeii. The main distribution tower was situated at 80 m a.s.l., this secondary basin at 23 m a.s.l., which - if no extra measures were taken - resulted in an enormous pressure built-up at the latter.
In between both basins the main water reservoir (#9) was situated at 35 m a.s.l., which might have played an important role in pressure reduction.

A second - also secondary - distribution annex pressure reduction tower (#12) was built some 300 m south of the first one, at 20 m a.s.l. It measured externally 8,60 x 7,50 m, was roofed with a brick vault and was 5 m high. The basin in the tower had one inlet and two outlets. As with all these basins and reservoirs, it was plasterd internally with watertight material.

Due to the presence of the (first) radio-telegraph station of the Ottoman Empire, the third distribution basin was excavated at a rather late date. Up to the lower parts of its vaulted roof it was located below ground level. Its external dimensions were 2.9 x 6.0 m. With an estimated height of 3,8 m it could have had a water capacity of 30 - 40 m3. At higher elevations of the western side terracotta pipes have been found.

Water reservoir

The already mentioned main reservoir (#9) had a capacity of almost 2.000 m3 with external dimensions of 37 x 22 m. Its walls were 2,20 m, thick and along the SW side strengthened by four buttresses, each 3 m thick. Its present heights of the walls varies between 2,10 and 3,30 m. This reservoir was built at 35 m a.s.l. which - given the level of the primary distribution basin at 80 m a.s.l. - results in a gradient of about 15% (the distance between both is about 300 m), which is enormous; the water in a pipeline with such a gradient is difficult to control.
Before the presence of the aqueduct, this reservoir - or one of its predecessors - could have acted as a collector in a water harvesting system.

At the western side of the Mettius Modestus gate (#2) was an big water spout / gargoyle with a water basin at its foot neasuring 5,5 x 7,8 m. Unfortunately it is still unclear how the water should have entered this commemorative gate and where the water could have come from. The same counts for the octagonal basin (#3) some 50 m south of the gate.
East of the Mettius Modestus gate a series of pipes of different size have been found, possibly the remains of a connection between the main distribution basin at #10 and the gate, the octagonal basin, and/or the bath buildings in the town center. In this respect is it interesting to know that from the foot of the MM-gate to the south a pipe line has been found in the direction of the Stoa / Baslicia.


Patara could boast on at least four bath houses, although not all of them will have been in operation in the time frame: the Data palm / Harbour baths (#4), the Central or City baths (#6), the Vespasian / more correctly named Nero baths (#7), and the Small baths (#8), on a much later date complemented by the Byzantine baths (#5).

The cistern on the acropolis hill Dogucasari still waits to be excavated.
Recent (Summer 2014) work in the cistern on the Kursunlu hill (#11) did not bring the discussion about its purpose to an end: it is still an enigma how this reservoir with a capacity of over 700 m3 could have been filled and why - who were the users? If you want to view it yourself: climb up to the top of Patara's Roman theater (#14), turn a little to the east (left) and continue south (right) uphill.

Wilke Schram
The first half of the text is based on the PhD-thesis of dr. E.G. Surmelihindi (2013)

Gelemis - PATARA

Item Info
Length 22.5 km
Cross-section variable; mean: 0,60 x 0,40 m
Volume Present capacity of the source =
10.000 m3/day
Fall mean 2,7 %; from 0,1 - 7,7 %
Period Vespasian
  • Siphon Delikkemer
  • Main distribution basin
  • (2x) 2nd order distribution basins
  • Major reservoir (2.000 m3)

Recommended literature :
  • H. Iskan & N.O. Baykan (2013): Neue Ergebnisse zur Wasserleitung von Patara / Turkei (in: G. Wiplinger (ed) Historische Wasserleitungen, Gestern - Heute - Morgen (2013) pag 93 - 102)
  • H. Iskan, W. Eck and H. Engelmann (2008): Anhang: Zur Wasserleitung von Patara, part of Der Leuchtturm von Patara, annex Zur Wasserleitung von Patara (in: ZPE vol 164 (2008) pag 115 - 118)
  • H. Iskan & O. Baykan (2011): Water supply systems (in: F. Isik (ed) Patara, capital of the Lycian league (2011))
Recommended websites   :
How to visit                  : Patara can be reached from the D-400, the main road from Fetihe to Kas, turn right / south after the branch to Gelemis.
HOME More literature on more aqueducts Last modified: February, 2015 - (webmaster)

Aqueduct course

Natural springs

Cemetery of Akbel

Delikkemer siphon

Header tank?

Venter bridge

Two openings


Perforated blocks


Travas substruction

Ibri aqueduct bridge

Water structures in Patara

Distribution basin

Downstream view

Basin with two chambers

Western chamber

Eastern chamber

Opus Signinum

Second order basin

Second order basin

Inside the basin

Ceramic pipes

Huge reservoir

Near the inlet

Near the outlet

Ceramic pipeline

Mettius Modestus' arch

Octagonal fountain

Harbour baths

Central baths

Vespasian baths

Cistern on the hill

View on the pharos


Model of the pharos