Strasbourg (France)

Roman aqueducts: Strasbourg - ARGENTORATE (France) Strasbourg - ARGENTORATE
For the photo's, see below
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The source

The rivulet Souffel and possibly other sources brought water into a pond in Kuttolsheim (F) 20 km WNW from Strasbourg. This artificial lake, measuring 80 x 30 m, was the start of the aqueduct of Strasbourg. Adjacent to the pond is a chapel dedicated to Sainte-Barbe, possibly one of the successors of an ancient pagan sanctuary. It is built on a sulfur spring 40m below.
The altitude of the pond is about 200m a.s.l.
The rivulet Souffel and possibly other sources brought water into the pond in Kuttolsheim, the start of the aqueduct of Strasbourg (France).
The Sainte-Barbe chapel in the background was probably one of the successors of an ancient pagan sanctuary.

The pipeline

The most remarkable characteristic of this Roman aqueduct is the nature of its conduit: it comprises of a double set of parallel laid pipes, some 0,3m apart. The use of pipes is quite unique for an aqueduct of this size in the western part of the empire. The segments measure 0,52 - 0,60m long, 0,19 - 0,24m internal diameter and 2,5 - 3,9 cm thick. Each one is a little conical, the smaller (male) end put into the wider (female) end of its successor, and sealed with strong lime mortar. Inside is a thin layer of calcareous deposit, often called sinter.
Its capacity is estimated over 2.000 m3/day.

Reports from over 100 years ago make mention of square holes (0,10 x 0,10 m) on top of some segments, in most cases carefully closed with strong mortar (Samesreuther p109). These holes are not unusual in Greek pipelines in f.e. present Greece and Turkey. Its purpose is still an issue amoung scholars (for internal sealing of the joints, for keeping an eye on the water flow inside, and/or measuring the flow).


If this pipeline ran full, there must have been a built up of pressure which - without proper measures - could harm the aqueduct. Some sources indicate that (only on that particular spot ?) the water filled 2/3rd of the cross-section. On the other hand, the sinter in the pipe segment which is at display at the Archaeological Museum of Strasbourg, was present at the entire internal surface. Apart from this, an installation was found which could have served as a decompression unit, see the drawing below. Note that the internal diameter of the pipe segments was about 20 cm, the decompression pipes had an internal bore of 12 cm.

The route

Major parts of the aqueduct follow the ancient road from Saverne (Tres Tabernae) to Strasbourg (Argentorate), now indicated as the Route des Romains. On some places the ancient road may have served as the service road for maintenance and repair of the aqueduct.
Samesreuther (1936) gave a detailed map indicating the probable route: Kuttolsheim, Fessenheim-le-Bas, Quartzenheim, Hurtigheidm, along the valley of the river Musaubach, crossing the river on a small dam, continuing its cours between Dingsheim and Oberhausbergen, Cronenburg towards the center of Strasbourg.
There should have been two side branches, one from Kuttolsheim to an ancient Roman villa in the Kichheim area, the other just before Strasbourg to the industrial area of Koeningshoffen, along the Route des Romains.
The overall distance between the source and the distribution basin is estimated as 19 km. The fall is about 60m (from 200 to 140m) resulting is a gradient of about 0,3%, which is not an unusual figure.


Before the water reached the main distribution point, which is surmised in the area of the present Galeries Lafayette, a settling basin was constructed to get rid of the dirt in the water.
Terracotta pipes with a smaller diameter, and lead pipes have been found in Strasbourg, to facilitate the distribution of the aqueduct water for both civil and military purposes. Apart from public fountains, one surmises a kind of water supply to the following areas, all on the major island (Grande Ile): towards Saint-Thomas (SW), towards a villa where probably the legatus of the military camp had his home, towards La Haute Montee (NW), towards de Rue de la Chaine (SW) and towards the military camp of the 8th Legio Augusta (NE and SE of the island).
Ancient Argentorate had at least two bath facilities, one inside and the other outside the camp; these must have been sumptuous users of the aqueduct water.
One of the pipe segments of the aqueduct as at display in the Archaeological Museum of Strasbourg.
Each segment was about 0,56m long and its wall was 3 cm thick. The internal diameter was about 0,20m.


Given the fact that some terracotta pipe segments bearded stamps of the 8the Legio Augusta, one surmised that the 6800 segments were made by the army in the tile factory in Koeningshoffen, and even that they also were responsible for the survey and construction work of the aqueduct. The 8th legion came to Argentorate at the end of the first century CE; the aqueduct might have been built in the first half of the 2nd century CE.


For the general public there are just a few visible remains left of this intriguing aqueduct: only in Kuttolsheim (the Lake) and in the Archeological Museum of Strasbourg (one terracotta pipe segment and some lead items). Fortunately the archaeologists left some interesting drawings, see below.

A modern artist might have known the story of Strasbourg's Roman aqueduct and made an interesting piece of art called the Janus Fountain - a small arcade combined with a head of Janus - at the Place Broglie, quite close to the bridge towards the Place de la Republique.

Wilke D. Schram

Strasbourg - ARGENTORATE

Item Info
Length 19 km
Cross-section bore 0,19 - 0,22m
Volume 2.000 m3/day
Gradient 0,3 %
Period 2nd c CE
  • collecting basin = pond
  • 6800 terracotta pipes
  • press-reduction unit(s)

Recommended literature :
  • E. Samesreuther (1936): Romische wasserleitungen in den Rheinland, pag 106 - 110
  • J.-J. Hyatt (1983): La conduite d'eau Romaine de Kuttolsheim a Strasbourg (in: J.-P. Boucher: Journee d'étude sur les aqueducs Romains), pag 175 - 177
  • J.-J. Hatt (1993): Argentorate Strasbourg, pag 76 - 78
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HOME More literature on more aqueducts Last modified: July, 2015 - (webmaster)

Lac de Kuttolsheim

Map of the aqueduct


Pipe at display

Decompression unit

West of Strasbourg

The military camp

Lead plate

Janus fountain