Roman Ingenuity in Byzantium

Emperor Valens

Emperor Valens, under whose reign the Aqueduct was completed.

Roman Aqueducts

The Romans were genius engineers, and this is an illustration of the kinds of structures these engineers used on the Aqueduct systems.

The Valens Aqueduct dates back to the fourth century, when the city of Byzantium was faced with a water problem. The population was growing at an unprecedented rate, and there just wasn’t enough water to sustain it. To address this water problem, Constantine I (the 57th Emperor of the Roman Empire who reigned on and off from 306-337 AD) ushered in a rebuilding of a city that led to its massive expansion, including the birth of the longest single water supply in the ancient world. This was around when the Valens Aqueduct was first built, initially getting its water supply from the hills in between the Kağıthane and the Sea of Marmara.

While it is not known for certain precisely when the construction began, the aqueduct's construction ended in 368 AD when the Roman Emperor Valens was ruling the city—hence the aqueduct's name. Although he was not responsible for its inception and building, Emperor Valens was at the city’s helm and is thus known as the aqueduct’s “restorer,” because he finished up the work that others had started.  

The building of this Aqueduct is a great reflection of the ingenuity of the Romans, who essentially saved Byzantium by incorporating these water sources into it. In this way, the idea of this being a functional lieu de memoire, as Nora calls it, is obvious. After its completion in 368 AD, it was a “functional” site of memory because it literally allowed for the city to get water and flourish, and the aqueduct towering over the city stood for the resilience and cleverness of its original Roman forefathers. 

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Sources 

Ortaköylü, Doğa. “Longest single water supply line from the ancient world.” Accessed Nov. 3, 2016.

The Water Supply of Constantinople. Water Wall. The University of Edinburgh. Accessed Nov. 3, 2016.