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x0x Aqueducts - an ancient method of replenishing water supplies

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    x0x Aqueducts - an ancient method of replenishing water supplies By Gul Demir - Niki Gamm ISTANBUL -Practically everybody in Istanbul at one time or another
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 28, 2009
      x0x Aqueducts - an ancient method of replenishing water supplies

      By Gul Demir - Niki Gamm

      ISTANBUL -Practically everybody in Istanbul at one
      time or another passes through the narrow arches
      of the aqueduct built over 1,600 years ago by the
      Byzantine Emperor Valens. Built in the latter half
      of the fourth century AD The Valens Aqueduct, or
      the Bozdogan Aqueduct in Turkish was a main source
      of fresh water for the city

      How graceful they look with their slender columns
      and graceful arches. Centuries later they are a
      testament to the engineering abilities of Roman
      architects and are to be found all around the
      Mediterranean area from Spain to Turkey. Over
      hills and valleys, from long distances to cities
      in need of water, aqueducts performed an important
      function G bringing needed water to those who
      needed it.

      Bringing water to cities has a long history that
      extends from far before the famed aqueducts of the
      Romans. The Egyptians and the Harrapans of India
      had elaborate water systems in order to provide
      fresh water to their cities. Among the Persians
      was developed a system of underground channels
      known as qanats that can still be used today in
      some instances. Because they were underground
      there was much less water loss and they relied on
      gravity to bring the water from a higher level to
      its lower intended target.

      Among the Greeks, the only one referred to is that
      of the tunnel or aqueduct of Eupalinos on the
      island of Samos. Built in the sixth century B.C.
      and over a thousand meters long, it is only the
      second tunnel aqueduct known in history that was
      built from both sides.

      The world really credits the Romans with the
      beautiful, sturdy aqueducts that their engineers
      built all over the Roman Empire and that includes
      those that were built to bring fresh water to

      Today's aqueducts in Istanbul

      Practically everybody in Istanbul at one time or
      another passes through the narrow arches of the
      aqueduct built over 1,600 years ago by the
      Byzantine Emperor Valens. In Turkish it is known
      as the Bozdogan Aqueduct while for others it is
      named after the emperor who had it built, the
      Valens Aqueduct. You have to credit succeeding the
      Ottomans and Turks with having preserved it so
      well after all these years. Of course today, the
      aqueduct is no longer in use and is subject to
      constant motor traffic in an area of small
      businesses. It also straddles one of the major
      boulevards that runs from the Sea of Marmara and
      the Golden Horn and funnels traffic from the shore
      up to through Unkapani to Taksim and places north
      toward the Black Sea.

      The Emperor Valens had the aqueduct built in the
      last quarter of the fourth century A.D. although
      the use of channels and pipes to bring water to
      Istanbul started two centuries earlier during the
      reign of Emperor Hadrian. Theoretically the end
      point was a large cistern where Beyazit Square is
      today, the entry point being around Egrikapi.

      All of the water was collected in a pool known as
      the Nymphaeum Maximum before being distributed
      elsewhere. Today there's no trace of this water
      collection point and of course it would be
      unthinkable to start excavations in the area where
      it most likely is because of the many important
      buildings there. However after World War One, a
      French urban planner decided that the exit point
      was the Basilica Cistern that provided water for
      St. Sophia and other important buildings in the
      area. Another much more likely prospect is the
      cistern below the Grand Bazaar where the merchants
      to this day can lower pails and pull water up from

      The Valens Aqueduct was a main source of fresh
      water for the city and supplied the imperial
      palace and the monumental buildings nearby such as
      St. Sophia. Over the centuries, edicts were issued
      protecting the water supply from potential thieves
      and the fines were stiff. It is also known that
      the Byzantines even planted trees along the
      aqueduct so one could perhaps consider them one of
      the world's first environmentalists. Over time as
      the Byzantine Empire deteriorated, it became
      harder to maintain the water supply system and
      with the arrival of the Latin Crusaders who
      preferred to sack Constantinople than go on to
      conquer the Holy Land. The system basically

      The water system in the Byzantine capital was
      taken over by the Ottomans when the latter
      conquered Constantinople in 1453. The Ottomans
      were very practical and knew a good thing when
      they saw it. Tursun Bey who lived in the 15th
      century and took part in the conquest wrote that
      the old water courses were found and brought to
      Istanbul by means of aqueducts. While Fatih Sultan
      Mehmed repaired much of the old waterway system,
      it would be left to Kanuni Sultan Suleyman to
      restore and expand it.

      The story goes that Sultan Suleyman had been
      hunting in the area north of the Golden Horn when
      he came across the ruins of an aqueduct and had
      the idea immediately of how to restore and expand
      the aqueduct system. He was also blessed with one
      of the great architects of the world, Mimar Sinan,
      to whom he entrusted the project.

      Sultan Suleyman brought experienced people from
      Belgrade and put them in charge of the aqueducts,
      dams and reservoirs. The descendants of these
      original waterway managers worked on the system
      for three and a half centuries. The ultimate
      manager was the Ottoman religious authority
      because water in Islam is considered sacred. In
      order to purify oneself before entering a mosque
      to pray, ablutions have to be performed and it
      must be done with running water.

      The later sultans made a point of ensuring that
      the water system was in good shape and even
      expanded it to ensure that the burgeoning
      population in the city had enough water. The
      reservoirs that the sultans built were of marble
      and often beautifully decorated and today are a
      pleasant way to spend a day although one is
      advised to drive there. Walking in to them can be
      a long trek.

      Belgrade Forest

      The Belgrade Forest for centuries supplied
      Istanbul with water via three lines. One came as
      far as Taksim Square from which it would be
      distributed to nearby areas. Indeed the square
      takes its name from the water distribution center
      in the square. [Today the main building has been
      turned into the Taksim Republic Art Gallery.]
      Later water began to be brought from Terkoz Lake.

      The Valens Aqueduct that one frequently passes
      under was approximately one kilometer but over
      time weather and neglect has reduced the structure
      by about a tenth. Its highest part of the graceful
      double-level structure is 20 meters above the
      street. Unfortunately it's a little worse for wear
      due to the need for repairs that were sometimes
      handled quite badly.

      Then there is the Maglova Aqueduct constructed by
      Mimar Sinan Bey in the 16th century over the ruins
      of a previous aqueduct that supplies water from
      Alibeykoy. It is still in use today.

      A much less well-known aqueduct is that of that
      once ran across the ridges of the hills that lead
      into the city from the Black Sea. It runs along an
      avenue lined with tall old plane trees that add to
      the effect of being a part of Istanbul's history.
      It's less well-known because the part of it that
      is still visible is on the highway to Kilyos on
      the Black Sea coast.

      Another visible aspect of the Byzantine water
      system is the so-called water towers. There's one
      just near Taksim in front of the Divan Hotel that
      is currently under renovation; another is near the
      Yerebatan cistern at Sultanahmet. They were used
      to maintain pressure inside the channels,
      especially since the pipes inside them were made
      of clay and therefore fragile.Aqueducts are
      something special and not everyone gets to live in
      a city that has one that enjoys a history of over
      1,500 years. May Istanbul's aqueducts remain for
      another 1,500 years!


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