Parts of Hadrian’s Aqueduct discovered


Newly uncovered section of Hadrian’s Aqueduct, which supplied drinking water to the ancient city of Corinth. © Greek Ministry of Culture

In ancient Roman times, an 85-kilometer-long aqueduct supplied the city of Corinth with water. The pipeline system, built under Emperor Hadrian, is considered one of the longest aqueducts of Roman times. Archaeologists have now uncovered part of this structure near the town of Tenea, a few kilometers south of Corinth. In addition to other Roman buildings, cult objects and bronze coins, 29 very rare Greek silver coins were also found during the excavations.

The Roman historian Pausanias already reported on this superlative building: Around 130 AD, the Roman Emperor Hadrian had an aqueduct built to supply the city of Corinth with drinking water. The 85-kilometer-long pipeline transported water from a spring near the mountain town of Stymfalia through several tunnels and canals to the city of Corinth. This was already an important center of trade and power in ancient Greece because of its location on the Isthmus of Corinth, but was destroyed in battle with Roman troops in 146 BC. It was only under Julius Caesar that Corinth was refounded and rebuilt in 44 BC. Numerous ancient ruins bear witness to the city's former size and power.

30 meter long section of aqueduct uncovered

Archaeologists are currently carrying out excavations on behalf of the Greek Ministry of Culture in Tenea, a few kilometers south of today's Corinth. In the last excavation season, which was completed in October 2023, they came across a roughly 30-meter-long, well-preserved section of the Hadrian Aqueduct. It is located near ruins of Roman baths on the Karkana River and runs in a north-south direction. “This helps to determine the exact course of this longest hydraulic structure in Roman Greece,” said a statement from the Greek Ministry of Culture.

The aqueduct runs mostly underground in this section. It consists of a vaulted, 3.20 meter high cover made of clay bricks joined together with mortar. At their base, the side walls of this roof dome were reinforced by a second row of parallel clay bricks. The roof of this domed structure probably protruded from the ground in ancient times and was visible, as archaeologists explain. The interior of the water pipe is around 60 centimeters wide and 1.20 meters high. Its floor was covered with clay tiles. There is also an access shaft in the section of the aqueduct that has now been excavated. Its 80 by 80 centimeter opening was in the roof of the pipe and was protected from sand and earth by a towering wall.

These ancient coins and small clay figures were found during excavations in Tenea near Corinth. © Greek Ministry of Culture

Huge buildings and rare coins

But the aqueduct is not the only important find from the current excavations. In recent years, archaeologists had already discovered the remains of a large building from the Roman and late antique era with workshops and storage rooms. Now they have uncovered the rest of this facility as well as a second, 300 square meter building. In this, further workshops, an oven, two tanks and several storage rooms are lined up along a three meter wide and almost 15 meter long covered corridor, as the archaeologists report. In some of the storage rooms they came across remains of linen, marble columns and shards of a glass window. The floor of a central large room was decorated with decorative tiles.

The discovery of numerous coins from Greek and Roman times is of particular importance. They bear witness to Corinth's long, eventful history. According to the archaeologists, a real rarity is a hoard of 29 Greek silver coins, which were discovered in a deeper excavation layer along with a portable clay altar, an equestrian figure and a miniature vase. The oldest coins date from the sixth to fourth centuries BC. Some come from Olympia and bear stamps from various Olympic Games. A silver coin from Thebes in the fifth century BC shows Hercules strangling two snakes with his bare hands. “The presence of this coin treasure is closely linked to cultic rites, as evidenced by, among other things, the animal and human figures and other finds,” explains the Greek Ministry of Culture. In Greek times there was probably a temple or similar religious place in this area.

However, finds of bronze coins from the subsequent Roman period in Corinth were significantly more numerous. The oldest coin of this era discovered during the excavations was minted in Corinth in the first century under Emperor Nero, the youngest dates from the sixth century and bears the coinage of the late antique emperor Justin I or Justinian I.

Source: Greek Ministry of Culture

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