Samos Eupalinos

Roman aqueducts: Samos (Samos - Greece) Pythagorion - SAMOS
For the photo's, see below
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In the 6th c. BC the water sources within the town of ancient Samos - now called Pythagorion - were not sufficient for the growing prosperity of the town and its growing population. So the tyrant Polykrates engaged the architect Eupalinos to build an aqueduct from the N side of Mount Kastro (237 m) to the town. Eupalinos was the son of Naustraphos and came from Megara (in between ancient Corinth and Athens). We know this from Herodotus who described the tunnel and the aqueduct as one of the greatest engineering feats of the Greek world, together with the sanctuary of Hera and the mole in Samos' harbor. The latter - together with the cyclopean wall around the town - was also constructed by Eupalinos.

== Herodotus III.60 ==
... and about the Samians I have spoken at greater length, because they have three works which are greater than any others that have been made by Hellenes: first a passage beginning from below and open at both ends, dug through a mountain not less than a hundred and fifty fathoms [200 m] in height; the length of the passage is seven furlongs [53] and the height and breadth each eight feet, and throughout the whole of it another passage has been dug twenty cubits in depth and three feet in breadth, through which the water is conducted and comes by the pipes to the city, brought from an abundant spring: and the designer of this work was a Megarian, Eupalinos the son of Naustrophos. This is one of the three; and the second is a mole in the sea about the harbor, going down to a depth of as much as [54] twenty fathoms; and the length of the mole is more than two furlongs. The third work which they have executed is a temple larger than all the other temples of which we know. Of this the first designer was Rhoicos the son of Philes, a native of Samos. For this reason I have spoken at greater length of the Samians.
[Translation from: Boston Leadershipbuilders]

The water came from an abundant spring, N of Mount Kastro and was conducted into a covered basin (water reservoir) which is now under the old chappel of the deserted village of Agiades. Because of the turbulent times the aqueduct was completely subterranean. From its upper end it traveled south for some 150 m, until it passed under the bed of a stream that flows only after rain. It then curves east and paralled a larger stream for about 350 m. At 600 m from the source it turned sharply W, passed under this stream and then ran along the N slope of Mount Castro. Farther on it turned to the SW and passed the entrance in the tunnel of Eupalinos after going once more under a small and usually dry creek bed. Finally it entered the east side of the tunnel (see drawings). The first 600 m from the source were constructed in 'cut and cover' technique up to a depth of 5,2 m. The remaining 190 m to the N-entrance of Mount Kastro was dug in qanat-technique (shafts were lowered every 20 to 40 m sometimes up to considerable depths and from the bottoms the waterway was excavated) as was the trace from the S-entrance to the terminal. After completion these shafts were used for inspection, maintenance and repair. The lower third of the conduit has fallen into decay since Fabricius visited it, but the manholes still show its trace.
The water was conducted in clay / terracotta pipes with a bore ranging from 0,24 - 0,26 m and each 0,71 - 0,73 m long. The system may have supplied 400 m3 water per day to the town.
Many Lesbian prisoners were used by the Samians for the completion of this work. Why Eupalinos decided on a tunnel rather than a much easier 'cut and cover' channel running along the contours of Mount Kastro, is still unknown.

The Eupalinos tunnel through Mount Castro was dug simultaneously from both ends through solid siliceous limestone and marl by pucks, hammers and chisels which construction required approximately 10 years. Along the east side of the main tunnel floor (1,8 x 1,8 m and 1050 m long, in straight line 1036 m) ran a continuous trench, in the bottom of which were the aqueduct pipes themselves. At the N-end the lower tunnel was 3,9 m below the almost horizontal main tunnel, at the S-side the difference is about 8,25 m which led to a gradient of about 0,4 %. The main tunnel could serve for easy access in case of maintenance and repair. From the S entrance an almost straight trace direction E followed to the one (or several) distribution basin(s) including over 20 manholes en route.

At a distance nearly halfway the passage cut from the S entrance comes to a sudden end. The abandoned working face is clearly visible. The passage that have been driven from the N comes into the W wall almost at right angles. This is obvious the point at which the two independently driven tunnels were joined. The odd angles of the junction is accounted for by a curve in the N portion of the tunnel just before it joins the S portion. Further evidence that the tunneling proceeded from both ends can be seen in an abrupt change in elevation of the tunnel at this sharply angled junction. Here the floor of the N part of the passage is a much as one meter higher that the ceiling of the S part. In fact, the passage overshoots the S passage for a short distance. Perhaps the work crews had been hearing each other from a short distance and those in de N tunnel changed direction as a result. In this last stretch the N passage, which had been surprisingly straight, makes serveral curves. (Goodfield1964)

History and publications
Because of the statement made by Herodotus, many travellers have searched for an entrance of the tunnel. In 1853 V. Guerin took the Agiades spring as a starting point and followed the first 400 m from the trace, which findings were published three year later. Local people took over the job in an attempt to restore the ancient water channel for their own water supply. At the end it was Abbot Kyrillos Monínas of the nearby monastery who discovered the (N) entrance but one was not able to complete the plan for restoration. By order of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) E. Fabricius continued the research in 1884 which led to his famous publication in the 'Mitteilungen der DAI in Athen' (vol 9, pag 163 ff). Then the tunnel was neglected for several decades.

In 1961 J. Goodfield and S. Toulmin spent 10 days in the area and published their experiences in 1963 in the journal Isis vol 56 (1965) and in the June 1964 issues of Scientific American.
Between 1971 and 1973 H.J. Kienast of the DAI partly based on the work which in the 60's was done by W. Kastenbein and U. Jantzen, did a full search in the total trace which led to two major publications in the Samos-series of the DAI (see below).

A Dutch website published the travel-stories of two Americans - D. Hughes and H. J. Keller - which are very helpful for those who want to discover the traces their selves. In this publication a reference is made to T.M. Apostols web-based article 'The tunnel of Samos' with a more mathematical approach of the construction of the Eupalinos tunnel.

Although the tunnel is built in the 6th c. BC, the Romans made some alterations, as can be seen on the photos below. Close to the S-entrance one can find the remains of a second, pure Roman aqueduct. See the separate entry at this website

One can visit 100 m tunnel at the S-side of Mount Kastro (Tuesday - Sunday 8.45 - 14.45h admission fee € 4,- Sundays free). The N-entrance is now effectively locked. Permission to take photos in the Northern part of the tunnel can be obtained at the New Archaeological Museum (but takes at least three days). The water basin under the old church of Agiades is inaccessible and completely sealed off.

Drawings below are taken from the book "530 B.C. The digging of Eupalinos in ancient Samos" (1997) written in Greek by D. Tsimpourakis (ed. Arithmos, Athens).

Wilke D. Schram

Pythagorion - SAMOS

Item Info
Length over 2300 m
Cross-section pipes of 0,25 m diameter
Volume 400 m3/day
Gradient less than 1 %
Period 530 BC
  • archaic
  • major tunnel
  • many manholes
  • collecting basin

Recommended literature :
  • H.J. Kienast: Die Wasserleitung des Eupalinos auf Samos (1995; Samos series vol XIX)
  • U. Jantzen: Die Wasserleitung des Eupalinos : die Funde (2004; Samos series vol XX)
Recommended website : see the links in the main text
How to visit : see main text above

Waypoint Location Latitude Longitude
S1-027 road crossing Agiades 26.929398 37.709199
S2-030 Agiades chapel / basin 26.924126 37.706216
S3-026 specus + manhole 3 26.925072 37.705463
S4-025 manhole 4 (Kienast1995) 26.924778 37.705176
S5-024 manhole 7 or 8 26.925683 37.704452
S6-023 manhole 10 26.928162 37.704226
S7-029 manhole 13, 14 or 15 26.926046 37.703333
S8-028 manhole 16 26.925541 37.703108
S9-022 N-entrance Eupalinos 26.925212 37.703174
S10-009 S-entrance Eupalinos 26.930585 37.694468
S11-008 second last manholes 26.935030 37.694539
S12-007 last manhole 26.935236 37.694375

HOME More literature on more aqueducts Last modified: November, 2006 - Wilke D. Schram

Mole of Eupalinos

Area of the source

Agiades sign

Agiades 2006

N-side and tunnel

Natural basins

Natural basins

Natural basins

The old church of Agiades

Sealed entrance

Basin under the church

Bird's-eye view

Start of the aqueduct

Detail of the channel


First manhole (3)

View in the manhole

Cross-sections of the N-part

Manhole (4)

View in manhole (4)

Blocked manhole

New top-construction (9)

View into manhole 9

Manhole (10)

Shafts before N-entrance

Manhole (16)

Partly reconstructed

Manhole (15)

Holes for beams



Last manhole N-side


Staircase at the N-entrance

Levels near the N-entrance

Room close to the entrance

Room with shelf

Original conduit

Basin with pipes

Transition basin

Arched ceiling

Metal reinforcements

Gabled ceiling

Towards the N-entrance


Several elements
of the aqueduct

S-entrance for the public

Start of the lower tunnel

Lower tunnel reinforcements

Public access

Gabled roof

Manhole for direction finding

The same manhole in daylight

View into the manhole

Protective measures

Lower level of the tunnel

Lower level of the tunnel

Lower level of the tunnel

View into the main tunnel

Ceiling of the tunnel

Measurement marks

Plateau for oil-lamps

Eupalinos tunnel

Behind the barrier

Central part

Details meeting point

Meeting point in 3D

Manhole near S entrance

View into manhole (39)

Manholes (40) near
the parking lot

Archaic manholes

Protective measures

Manhole (46A) plus GPS

Last visible manhole (47)

View into manhole (47)