Segobriga (Spain)

Roman aqueducts: Segobriga (Spain) Segobriga - SEGOBRIGA
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Segobriga is one of the best preserved Roman cities and one of the most important archaeological sites on the Spanish meseta. It is located on a hill called 'Cabeza de Griego', 100 km SE of Madrid (Spain), along the highway E901 to Valencia, exit Saelices.
Since the 1st c CE it became a center of communication and trade, agriculture and mining, and the administrative capital of a great territory.
Segobriga became the largest town in this region specialized in the mining of lapis specularis, a transparent gypsum as mentioned by Pliny the Elder (HN 36, 160). The mines were located in the area and near Osa de la Vega, 30 km S of Segobriga. Large blocks of lapis specularis were sent to Carta Nova to be shipped to Rome; after processing they were used as window glass and floor decoration.
It was later abandoned due to the Islamic conquest of Spain (7/8th c).
The major highlights now are the Roman theater and amphitheater, the city walls and its gates, two baths complexes, and above all, the Forum. From the top of the hill, one can also enjoy a wonderful view of the city and its surroundings.

On the other side: there are not much visible remains related to the ancient water supply of Segobriga.

Water catchment area

The supply of drinking water to the city of Segobriga through an aqueduct was documented by M. Almagro Basch in the seventies of the twentieth century. He followed the specus on the slopes of the hills that are located north of the city (Almagro Basch 1976: 875-901). This aqueduct captured the subterranean spring water from a karst aquifer located near the Fuente de la Mar, 1 km north of Saelices and about 4 km in a straight line from the Roman city. The underground water catchment gallery, 225 m long, was discovered in the late nineteenth century and published by M. Sanchez Almonacid in the Boletín de la Real Academia de la Historia (1889: 160-170).
In it, four catchment galleries converged, two located at the beginning and two at the end, which collected the water in a channel, 25-40 cm wide and 15 cm deep. The water was cleaned in a settling basin and brought to the outer specus that led the water to Segobriga (Almagro Basch 1978a: 51). A total of fourteen putei or shafts are known in the layout of the gallery with depths between 3 and 17 m. They were of quadrangular plan, constructed in opus vittatum and equipped with foot holes at regular intervals in opposite walls, as steps, in order to be able to go up and down to the gallery (Almagro Basch 1976: 879).

Outside the city

In the first section, the aqueduct ran in a covered channel. A siphon was used for the second part, with lead pipes in the specus, built in opus caementicium and internally coated with opus signinum (watertight plaster), which did not show traces of calcareous concretion. The course of the specus was superficial, the channel was covered by imbrices (Roman roof tiles) and throughout its course it was equipped with several cleaning basins. Inside one of them, Almagro Basch (1976: 890) discovered a fragment of a lead pipe, which we could not identify anymore. He also reported about a farmer who in the lands northeast of the circus, had found a long fragment of lead fistula (pipe), embedded in masonry work fastened with mortar (Almagro Basch 1976: 891-893 and Plate XXXII).

Near the city

Another piece of information about the water supply to the city with lead pipes, was provided by the discovery of a vicenary fistula (a lead pipe of 20 digit / 9 cm wide) in a test-trench carried out outside the wall, east of the theater. This was in the direction of one of the cisterns located on the west side of the slope of the Cabeza de Griego hill, already inside the pomerium. The cistern was built in opus caementicium and internally coated with opus signinum and had a single chamber. It is possible that this large cistern was supplied with water from the aqueduct, instead of with rainwater, serving as a terminal reservoir, although this cannot be affirmed by the absence of excavation results.
The siphon of the aqueduct was dated by Almagro Basch (1978b: 166) in the middle of the first century CE. In the campaign of 2008 in the area of the circus, a longitudinal and rectilinear structure was found, with vertical walls and a flat bottom, and with a northeast-southwest orientation, next to the access way to the archaeological site, where Almagro Basch proposed that drinking water to Segobriga entered from the Fuente de la Mar. This structure was documented in a section of 24.20 m, with an average width of 80 cm and a depth of 50-55 cm, and its landfill was composed of thin, loose brown earth, with an abundant set of pottery from the Julio-Claudian period including fragments of terra sigillata hispanica (Dragendorff type 27), dated in the last quarter of the first century CE. Inside this structure could have been a lead pipe, which was dismantled shortly after its installation when the siphon was rendered unusable.

Second aqueduct

This can explain the construction of a recently located second aqueduct, which captured the waters of the springs and streams of the river Valdejudíos, NE of Saelices and located ten kilometers from the Cabeza de Griego-hill, which had to supply drinking water to the city from the time of the Flavians (69 - 96 CE) (Almeida et alii 2010-11: 461).
The channel of the aqueduct rose on a substructure of opus caementicium, in which is placed a specus of circa 3 feet wide and 1 - 1.5 feet high (0,90 m wide and 0,30 - 0,45 m high). This channel was covered with some imbrices with side appendages exclusively made for this work. A few kilometers from Segobriga, the aqueduct took an underground route, with spiramina (shafts), getting lost in the same way as the other water supply system to the city.

Distribution in the city

Interior of the cistern for the collection of water under the atrium of a dwelling found next to the Basilica in Segobriga. The water inlet by means of a pipe could be observed in the corner.

The distribution of water inside the city was carried out by lead pipes belonging to the public urban network and marked as R (ei) P (ublicae) S (egobrigensis or Segobrigensium). The water was primarily supplied to bath establishments and public fountains, from which the population took their water for domestic use, although some houses had underground cisterns, such as the one located on the upper terrace of the Basilica of the forum or the one located in the western side of the Aula near the Basilica. Most of the cisterns that today stand isolated within the city should have had the same goal.

Baths and Fountains

Segobriga had two public baths establishments: the so-called Baths near the theater, located next to the northern wall, and the Monumental baths, built in the Flavian period on the terrace above the Forum. A third baths enclosure was excavated by Almagro Basch in the northeast part of the slope of the hill, before arriving at the theater and outside the pomerium, although its interpretation is incomplete due to the state of deterioration, having been occupied by a Visigoth cemetery (Almagro Basch 1976: 893). We also know of several public fountains. One of them is situated in the southeast corner of the Forum next to the tavern closest to the Basilica but on a superior terrace. This fountain was placed in a square and it ascribed as a type of lacus, formed by a pylon elaborated with slabs of limestone, with the joints united with lead and a background of opus signinum. Although not conserved, the fountain would have had a spout at the end of a lead pipe with which it supplied water coming from the aqueduct. One was able to drain the remaining water to a second fountain located in Tavern 6, where the back wall had a channel coated with opus signinum and the floor of the room was also coated with hydraulic mortar. In addition, the space behind this tavern housed a lead fistula with the letters R P S.
A third fountain has been identified in the street to the west of the Monumental baths, of which only the reservoir in opus caementicium is preserved; it supplied water to the baths and was reutilized in 3rd c CE in a private setting, to which we ascribe the supply of the fountain with a representation of the god Ocean, found in room 1 of the house of the deputy of the mines, Caio lulio Silvano (Cebrián 2002-2003: 131-134).

Main text from: Cebrian 2014,
translated and adapted by Wilke D. Schram

Segobriga - SEGOBRIGA

Item Info
Length 6 km
Cross-section Lead pipe 0,1 m in diameter
Volume unknown
Gradient 0,4 %
Period 1c CE
  • Subterranean source
    (from aquifer)
  • Lead pipe in channel
  • Siphon
  • Probably a second branch

Recommended literature:
(in Spanish)
  • M. Almagro Basch (1976): El acueducto romano de Segobriga. Saelices (Cuenca) (in: Revista de Archivos, Bibliotecas y Museos vol 79-4 (1976) pag. 875-901)
  • A. Bermejo Fernandez and E. Guadalajara Guadalajara (2013): Guia Didactica de Segobriga
  • R. Cebrian (2002-2003): Surtidor de fuente procedente de la vivienda de C. Iulius Silvanus en Segobriga (Saelices, Cuenca. Conventus Carthaginiensis) (in: Lucentum vol 21-22 (2002-2003) pag. 131-134)
  • R. Cebrian (2014): El Agua en Segobriga (in: Archivo Español de Arqueología vol 87 (2014) pag 141-156)
  • M. Sanchez Almonacid (1889): El acueducto romano de cabeza de Griego (in: Boletín de la Real Academia de la Historia vol 15 (1889) pag 160-170)
Recommended websites:
(only on Segobriga, not focussed on the aqueduct)
How to visit                 : see above

HOME More literature on more aqueducts Last modified: November, 2017 - (webmaster)


Bird's eye view

Overall view

General plan

Fuente de la Mar

Subterranean channel

Covered channel

On top of an aquifer

Inside a shaft

Inside a shaft


Aqueduct channel

Information panel

Theater Baths


Monumental Baths


Two chamber cistern

Opus Signinum

Small cistern

Cistern overview

Another cistern


Lapis Singularis