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List of Roman dams

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List of Roman dams

This is a list of Roman dams and reservoirs. The study of Roman dam-building has received little scholarly attention in comparison to their other civil engineering activities,[1] even though their contributions in this field have been ranked alongside their expertise in constructing the well-known Roman aqueducts, bridges, and roads.[2]

Roman dam construction began in earnest in the early imperial period.[3] For the most part, it concentrated on the semi-arid fringe of the empire, namely the provinces of North Africa, the Near East, and Hispania.[4] The relative abundance of Spanish dams below is due partly to more intensive field work there; for Italy only the Subiaco Dams, created by emperor Nero (54–68 AD) for recreational purposes, are attested.[5] These dams are noteworthy, though, for their extraordinary height, which remained unsurpassed anywhere in the world until the Late Middle Ages.[3]

The most frequent dam types were earth- or rock-filled embankment dams and masonry gravity dams.[6] These served a wide array of purposes, such as irrigation, flood control, river diversion, soil-retention, or a combination of these functions.[7] In this, Roman engineering did not differ fundamentally from the practices of older hydraulic societies.

"The Romans' ability to plan and organise engineering construction on a grand scale" gave their dam construction special distinction.[8] Their engineering prowess, therefore, facilitated the construction of large and novel reservoir dams, which secured a permanent water supply for urban settlements even during the dry season, a common concept today, but little-understood and -employed in ancient times.[9]

The impermeability of Roman dams was increased by the introduction of water-proof hydraulic mortar and especially opus caementicium in the Concrete Revolution. These materials also allowed for bigger structures to be built,[8] like the Lake Homs Dam, possibly the largest water barrier to date,[10] and the sturdy Harbaqa Dam, both of which consist of a concrete core.

On the whole, Roman dam engineering displayed a high degree of completeness and innovativeness.[8] While hitherto dams relied solely on their heavy weight to resist the thrust of water, Roman builders were the first to realize the stabilizing effect of arches and buttresses, which they integrated into their dam designs. Previously unknown dam types introduced by the Romans include:

The origin of the so-called weir bridges, which were to become a popular design in Iran thereafter, can also be traced to the forced labour of Roman prisoners of war (see Band-e Kaisar).[15]


This list is sorted by maximum height. All measurements are in m; in case of differing values, more recent respectively more detailed studies were given preference. In earth dams, thickness refers to the masonry wall.

Height Thickness Crest length Name Country Date Type / Comments
50 13.5 1170? Subiaco Dams [16] Italy 54–68 AD Gravity dam. Devised as pleasure lake for Nero, the dam was the highest in the Roman Empire,[17] and in the world until its destruction in 1305.[3]
34.0 38.0 1120.0 Almonacid de la Cuba Dam [18] Spain 1st c. Gravity dam
28.0 26.0 1194.0 Cornalvo Dam [18] Spain 1st–2nd c. Gravity dam, still in use
21.6 15.9 1427.8 Proserpina Dam [18] Spain 1st–2nd c. Gravity dam, still in use
21 1? 1365 Harbaqa Dam [19] Syria 2nd c. Gravity dam
20.0 14.0? >800.0 Alcantarilla Dam [18] Spain 1st c. Gravity dam
16.6 16.9 1180.0 Ermita de la Virgen del Pilar Dam [18] Spain 1st–2nd c. Gravity dam
16 1? 1140 Orükaya [20] Turkey 2nd c. Arch-gravity dam[21]
13.0 17.0? 1160.0 Muel Dam [18] Spain 1st c. Gravity dam
12 13.9 1118 Glanum Dam [22] France 1st c. BC Arch dam, earliest known[12]
12 1? 1130 Löstügun [23] Turkey 6th c. Gravity dam
10 17.3 1150 Kasserine Dam [24] Tunisia 2nd c. Arch-gravity dam[21]
18.4 12.7 1168.0 La Pared de los Moros [18] Spain 3rd c. Gravity dam
17.0 12.0 1150.0 Arroyo Salado [18] Spain ? Gravity dam
17 120 2000 Lake of Homs dam [25] Syria 3rd c. Gravity dam, largest artificial reservoir to date (capacity of 90 million m³), still in use[10]
17 1? 1193 Ma'agan Michael (West) [23] Israel 4th c. Gravity dam
17 1? 1180 Çavdarhisar [20] Turkey 2nd c. Arch-gravity dam[21]
17 1? 1150 Olisipo [26] Portugal 2nd c. Gravity dam
~6.1 1? 11? Qasr Khubbaz [27] Syria ? ?
16.0? 13.0 1150.0 Arévalo [18] Spain 2nd c. Gravity dam
15.6 12.2 1320.0 Esparragalejo Dam [18] Spain 1st c. Multiple-arch buttress dam, earliest known[14]
15.2 11.9 1195.0 Las Tomas [18] Spain 4th c. Buttress dam
15 1? 1191 Wadi Megenin [28] Libya 2nd c. Buttress dam
14.8 12.6 >632.0 Consuegra Dam [18] Spain 3rd–4th c. Buttress dam
14.6 14.2 1174 Muro Dam [29] Portugal ? ?
14.5 12.7 1141.1 El Paredón [18] Spain 3rd c. Gravity dam
14.5 12.5 1119.5 Melque VI [18] Spain ? Gravity dam
>4.0 11.0 1102.0 Lower Iturranduz Dam [18] Spain 2nd c. Buttress dam
14.0 15.6 1100.0 La Pesquera [18] Spain ? Gravity dam
14 1? 1300 Böget [20] Turkey 2nd c. Gravity dam
13.7 11.8 1139.0 Araya [18] Spain 2nd c. Buttress dam
13.6 13.5 1197.8 Vega de Sta. María [18] Spain ? Buttress dam
13.5 12.0 1140.0 Arroyo Bejarano [18] Spain 1st c. Gravity dam
>3.0 13.0 1170.0 Charca de Valverde [18] Spain ? Gravity dam
13.0 13.4 1200.0 Las Muelas [18] Spain 2nd c. Buttress dam
13.0 13.0? 1129.0 Azud de la Rechuela [18] Spain ? Buttress dam
13.0 12.3 1130.0 Les Parets Antiques [18] Spain 3rd–4th c. Gravity dam
13.0 12.2 1150.0 Villafranca [18] Spain 2nd–3rd c. Buttress dam
13.0 11.8 1198.0 Mesa de Valhermoso [18] Spain 2nd–3rd c. Gravity dam
13.0 11.5 1130.0 Castillo de Bayuela [18] Spain 2nd–3rd c. Buttress dam
13.0? 1? 11? San Martín de la Montiña [18] Spain 1st–2nd c. Gravity dam
12.5 15.0 1100.0 Cañada del Huevo [18] Spain 2nd c. Buttress dam
12.5 11.5 1125.0 Pineda o Ca'La Verda [18] Spain 3rd c. Gravity dam
12.4 11.2 1180.0 Paerón I [18] Spain 1st–2nd c. Gravity dam
12.2 11.0 1115.0 Palomera Baja [18] Spain 3rd c. Gravity dam
12.2? 11.0? 1130.0? El Peral [18] Spain 1st–2nd c. Gravity dam
12.1 11.9 1140.8 Moracantá [18] Spain 1st–2nd c. Gravity dam
>2.0 12.5 1180.0 Los Paredones [18] Spain 1st–2nd c. Gravity dam
>2.0 10.8 1152.0–180? La Cuba [18] Spain 2nd–3rd c. Gravity dam
12 10–12 1516 Band-e Kaisar [30] Iran 3rd c. Gravity dam, earliest dam-bridge (weir combined with arch bridge)[15]
12.0 11.0 1156.0 Puy Foradado Dam [18] Spain 2nd–3rd c. Arch-gravity dam[18]
11.6 1? 11? Las Mezquitas [18] Spain 2nd c. Gravity dam
>1.5 11.1 1130.0 Paerón II [18] Spain 1st–2nd c. Buttress dam
11.5 10.8 1135.0 El Pont d'Armentera [18] Spain 2nd–4th c. Gravity dam
11.3 11.6 1230.0 El Hinojal (Las Tiendas) [18] Spain 3rd–4th c. Buttress dam
11.3 11.4 1114.7 El Argamasón [18] Spain 2nd–3rd c. Gravity dam
11.2 12.4 1130.0 Balsa de Cañaveral [18] Spain 4th c. Gravity dam
11.1 10.7 1113.4 Río Frío [18] Spain 1st c. Gravity dam
>0.9 10.7 1117.6 El Peral II [18] Spain ? Buttress dam
10.9 10.7 1140.0 Azud de los Moros [18] Spain 1st c. Gravity dam
>0.8 11.6 1160.0–80.0 Valencia del Ventoso [18] Spain 3rd–4th c. Gravity dam
>0.8 11.1 1150.0 El Chaparral [18] Spain 3rd–4th c. Gravity dam
1? 10.7 1150.0 Higher Iturranduz Dam [18] Spain 3rd–4th c. Buttress dam
1? 1? 1900 Leptis Magna (Wadi Caam II) [31] Libya 2nd–3rd c.? ?
1? 1? 11? Leptis Magna (Wadi Caam I) [31] Libya 2nd–3rd c.? ?
1? 1? 11? Leptis Magna (Wadi Lebda) [32] Libya 2nd–3rd c.? Buttressed dam
1? 1? 11? Las Adelfas [18] Spain 2nd c. Gravity dam
1? 1? 11? Monroy [18] Spain ? Gravity dam
1? 1? 11? Odrón y Linares [18] Spain ? Gravity dam
1? 1? 11? Soufeiye [20] Syria ? Gravity dam
1? 1? 11? Dara Dam Turkey 560 AD Arch dam, earliest description of arch action in such types of dam by Procopius (De Aedificiis II.3)[33]



Further reading

  • Vita-Finzi, Claudio (1961), "Roman Dams in Tripolitania", Antiquity 35: 14–20

See also

External links

  • Traianus – Technical investigation of Roman public works (see section Saeptum Fluminum)
  • "Barrages romains du Portugal. Types et fonctions", Mélanges de la Casa de Velázquez (2006) (French)
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