Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard, France, seen from river GardThe Pont du Gard
I’ll admit it. I have a serious fascination with the Roman Empire and their mad architecture skills. So when I had a chance, while visiting Avignon, I leaped at the chance to tour the Pont du Gard, one of France’s most popular tourist destinations, as well as a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Back in 45 AD, Nimes was a happenin’ Roman town, and they wanted all the bells and whistles—fountains, bathhouses and a proper sewage system. Before then, the local spring had done what it needed to, but a surging populace, and their demands, threatened to drain the city dry. So the engineers went to work, and determined that the best water source was 50 km (31 miles) away.

Here’s the most amazing part—between the departure point (the Eure spring in Gard) and the arrival point (the Castellum, or water tower, on the Rue de la Lampeze in Nimes), there’s only a 12m (39.3’) drop in elevation. When you’re planning an aqueduct that spans 31 miles, that has to drive the water entirely by gravity, and remain 90% underground, that’s very impressive. It took about 27 hours for a drop of water to make it from Point A to Point B. I’m serious—those Roman engineers rocked.

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