Posted by: viewfromtheriva | August 29, 2016

Exploring a 1,700 year old aqueduct built by Emperor Diocletian in Split!


20 meters down, the 1,700 Roman Aqueduct that brought water from the Jardo River, 9km away from Split and Diocletian's Palace, still works!
20 meters down, the 1,700 Roman Aqueduct that brought water from the Jadro River, 9km away from Split, to Diocletian’s Palace, still works!

What an amazing day–exploring more than 500 meters of the 1,700 year-old Roman aqueduct built by Roman and Greek slaves to bring water from the Jardo River into the Emperor Diocletian’s Palace here in Split.  Re-discovered by Tonci Radja and his son Jurica, experienced spelunkers, we were one of the first “outsiders” to actually experience this unique architectural wonder in more than 50 years!

Beginning 9km away at the Jadro River from a height of 33 meters, the aqueduct still works, although parts of it have been diverted and modern filtration and pumping stations have been added. The Radjas discovered an anonymous above-ground entrance with steep steps leading  20 meters down to a pristine section of the aqueduct and have been working clearing it out and exploring its length for the past several years.  They recently got  permissions to share their experience with others.

The water may look muddy, but when  you stand still it is clear--and has tested to still be drinkable!!
The water may look muddy, but when you stand still it is clear–and has tested to still be drinkable!!

The adventure started with getting suited up in waders, hard hats and lights. And then a work jacket to keep arms from getting scratched up by the walls.  Once we were off the steep steps leading down to the aqueduct itself, it was like entering a new world….the sheer number of rock cuts necessary to hollow out a waterway so deep underground was astounding….you could see how workers literally chiseled their way along a rock face and when it became impossible to cut more, simply moved in a different direction, sometimes creating almost 90 degree turns.

As the temperature dropped, we went from standing height to practically sitting on our ankles. Despite the spookiness–no rats or bats though–it was mesmerizing. From time to time, bricked arches and every 300 meters or so, we could see how the the clever Romans dug a vertical overhead shaft to the surface to haul out debris rather than carry it backwards.

At one point Jurica told us to feel the terra cotta tiles under our feet–terra cotta tiles?!!! And in one stretch of the cut you could clearly see waterproof plaster that the Romans had covered the walls with to make sure the water remained fresh–what a marvel of engineering!

And consider this:  when it was designed 1,700 years ago the water flow was sufficient to supply 175,000 people–but the number of people actually living inside Diocletian’s walled fortress was only 2,500. The population of the city of Split today? 178.000!

Tonci getting ready to lead us down into the aqueduct.
Tonci getting ready to lead us down into the aqueduct.
Diane, one of the two Americans with us, in her waders getting ready too!
Diane, one of the two Americans with us, in her waders getting ready too!
In many places parts of the walls were covered with stalagmites
In many places parts of the walls were covered with stalagmites
One of the many bricked arches
One of the many bricked arches
Note the clearly defined water level stains
Note the clearly defined stains revealing the water level 1,700 years ago!
The group taking a break
The group taking a break, yours truly on the left
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