During the first half of the 1st century AD, the Nimes aqueduct was constructed, spanning approximately 50 kilometers to convey water from the Fontaine d’Eure springs in Uzés to the Roman colony of Nemausus.

Despite the straight-line distance being only 20 kilometers, the aqueduct’s path meanders to navigate the mountainous terrain known as the Garrigues de Nîmes.

Near the present-day city of Vers-Pont-du-Gard, the aqueduct had to cross the Gardon River, accomplished by building a three-tiered bridge with a total height of 48.8 meters, making it the tallest of the Roman aqueducts. It is known as Pont du Gard.

About 35 kilometers of the total aqueduct route were constructed underground, digging a trench in which a stone channel was raised, covered by an arched roof made of stone slabs, and then buried in soil. In some sections, the channel passes through tunnels carved into the rock.

In ancient times, the aqueduct transported around 40,000 cubic meters of water daily to the fountains, baths, and homes of Nimes citizens, with an impressive elevation difference of only 12.6 meters between the origin and the end of the structure.

In fact, Pont du Gard has an elevation difference of just 2.5 centimeters between its ends, spanning 274 meters, demonstrating the remarkable precision achieved by Roman engineers.

In the remaining 25 kilometers to Nimes, there is only a descent of 6 meters. It took 27 hours for the water to complete the entire aqueduct route.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the bridge persisted due to its secondary function as a toll bridge to cross the river. Bishops and local lords took turns in its exploitation and maintenance until the late 20th century when the state took over its conservation, definitively eliminating traffic.

The width of Pont du Gard is 9 meters at its base, narrowing to 3 meters at the top. Additionally, the three levels have a different number of arches. Like other aqueducts, it was constructed without mortar, with precision-cut stone blocks fitting together perfectly through friction.

However, in later aqueducts such as the one in Segovia, Roman engineers managed to cover approximately the same distance using fewer arches, optimizing volume and construction costs.

The original spring still exists, but the channel has been replaced by a pumping station.


This article was first published on our Spanish Edition on July 16, 2019. Puedes leer la versión en español en Puente del Gard, el más alto de los acueductos romanos

Sources

Ministerio de Cultura de Francia | Pont du Gard (Web Oficial) | Structurae | Wikipedia


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