Tongeren (Belgium)

Roman aqueducts: Potaissa (Romania) Tongeren - ATUATUCA TONGRORUM
For the photo's, see below
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In the period Julius Caesar conquered Gaul, present Tongeren was one of the villages of the Eburones and Ambriorix was its leader. In 54 BC he ambuscaded one of Romans legions which - at the end - resulted in the annihilation of his tribe (see Caesar: The Gallic War chapter 6 and Cassius Deo: Roman history chapter 40). After the defeat the Tungri made this area their home location; their capital became known as Atuatuca Tongrorum. Surprisingly, since 1860 Ambriorix is honored by a statue at the main square in Tongeren.

The statue of Ambriorix in the city center of Tongeren.

A special artifact, found along the Leopoldwal outside the city wall, is the Roman dodecahedron, a body with 12 flat pentagonal faces. In total a hundred of these dodecahedra have been found north of the Alps, most in Germany and France. Its use is still unclear and several proposals were made, see Wikipedia and the site of G.M.C. Wagemans.

Every Roman town was continuous in need for fresh and clear water. When built on a location without natural sources, as was the case with Atuatuca, an aqueduct could of help. The remains of a bath building has added to the idea that Tongeren was provided with an aqueduct.
Only the last few kilometers of the Roman aqueduct of the city of Tongeren are known by its substruction, since it rested on a massive earthen dyke locally known as the Beukenberg (Beach hill), still dominant in the landscape. Present height 14,3 m and a width at the foot 55 - 90 m. As with every aqueduct there must have been a water source, but the exact location of the one of Tongeren is an enigma, so the total length is unknown.
Even the remains of a conduit - pipes or a masonry channel - are missing. According to the present insights one surmises a wooden channel, just under the surface on top of the dyke. Only a few wooden lids gave access the channel shafts.

Just in front of the city wall this substructure must have been replaced by a masonry arcade transporting the aqueduct water to a location close to the city center from which is was distributed to the local users by means of fountains, baths, and possibly private dwellings.

There still exists an urban legend that the Beukenberg is not the substructure of an aqueduct of an aqueduct but a manmade dyke built in old times when Tongeren was located along the shore of the North sea: Tongeren on sea.

Wilke D. Schram

Atuatuca and the Tabula Peutingeriana

The Tabula Peutingeriana (Peutinger map) is an itinerarium depicting the road network in the Roman Empire. The original map is lost, an unique copy was last revised in the fourth or early fifth century. It measures about 0,35 m in height and 7 m in length. Dr. W. Bruijnesteijn van Coppenraet made this outline (from: De Romeinse reisgidsen, 2006). Distances in Roman miles (1482 m). Vignettes are Mansiones (official stopping place along a Roman road with (or without) some facilities).


Item Info
Length 6 - 20 km
Cross-section unknown
Volume unknown
Gradient 0,13 % (?)
Period 2nd half 2nd c
  • no traces of the canal
  • wooden conduit?
On the map Present name Distance
Blariacum Blerick (NL) 12
Catualium Heel (Be) 14
Feresne Stokkem (Be) 16
Atuatuca Tongeren (Be) 16
Perniciacum Braives (Be)  
Coriovallum Heerlen (NL) 12
Iuliacum Jülich (Germ) 18
CCAA Köln (Cologne) 16
Novaesium Neuss (Germ)  

Recommended literature : Opmetingen van het Romeinse aquaduct te Tongeren (in: Archeologie in Limburg vol 93 (2003) pag 3 - 6) - L. Ponzetta, N. Dewinter and E. Wesemaal (2002) (in Dutch)
Recommended website : none
How to visit : Take the Sint Truidersteenweg from the city center to the west; after 500m at your right hand turn into the Legioenslaan. The dyke of the aqueduct is at your left hand.

HOME More literature on more aqueducts Last modified: April, 2012 - Wilke D. Schram
(W.D.Schram 'at'



West of Tongeren




Beukenberg / Beeches hill

Earthern dyke