While touring Istanbul, Turkey, travelers should include a visit to the Valens Aqueduct (also known as Bozdogan Kemeri) located in the quarter of Fatih which spans the valley between the hills occupied by modern day Istanbul University and the Fatih Mosque.
This Roman Aqueduct in Istanbul was a part of the single longest ancient aqueduct system ever to be built, reaching nearly 250,000 meters, which supplied water to Byzantium’s most important city of Constantinople. The Valens Aqueduct was operational until the end of the 19th Century.
Today, the Valens Aqueduct Bridge is 921 meters long and the Atatürk Bulvari Boulevard passes under the arches of the only surviving section of this historical structure.
Interestingly, while the Valens Aqueduct Constantinople has been in existence for centuries, a question which to date has experts still deliberating is, when was the Valens Aqueduct originally built?
Image Credit: Harvard
The Valens Aqueduct was built during the late Roman and early Byzantine time periods. The exact date of the original construction of the Roman Aqueduct in Istanbul is unknown but is placed during the years 117 to 138 during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. The construction of the Aqueduct continued to expand from this time forward and was completed during the reign of Emperor Valens in the year 368, thus giving the Aqueduct its name.
The Valens Aqueduct was again expanded by Theodosius I in the year 382 after the city faced a severe drought. Interestingly, the Valens aqueduct was destroyed by the Avars during the siege of 626 and was only rebuilt in the 8th century.
However, through the centuries, reigning Emperors and rulers from the Byzantines to the Ottomans continued to expand, restore and repair the Valens Aqueduct and its arches in order to cater to the increasing water supply needs of the growing population of the city of Constantinople which was renamed as Istanbul during the Ottoman reign.
The Valens Aqueduct Bridge is a two-story structure made of stone and brick with typical Roman arches along its entire length. It was originally 971 meters long, but is only 921 meters long today. The Valens Aqueduct was the culminating bridge of the Roman Aqueduct system with consisted of more than 30 stone bridges and meters of underground tunnels. Once this Roman aqueduct system reached the City there were three open reservoirs and more than 100 underground cisterns within the city walls used for storing water that came through the Valens Aqueduct Bridge.
The famous underground ‘Basilica Cistern’ that still survives today is considered another popular touristic attraction in Istanbul, and was also used in a scene for the James Bond film "From Russia With Love".
This surviving section of the Valens Aqueduct Bridge was restored on the orders of the Ottoman ruler Mustafa II in the late 17th century, without whose intervention the Valens Aqueduct Bridge may not have survived to the present day. The surviving part of the Valens Aqueduct is a distinctive landmark of modern-day Istanbul with traffic passing between the arches.
The part of the Valens Aqueduct located on Atatürk Boulevard was cleaned and strengthened by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality in 1988 and was restored between 1990 and 1993 by Doğan Kuban and Ş. Akinci.
Visitors would usually consider a visit to a historical landmark site as a special trip, but a visit to the Valens Aqueduct need not be so. One can simply pass under the Valens Aqueduct Bridge when traveling on the highway of Atatürk Boulevard. There isn’t much else to do in the area, so it might be best to simply drive under the Valens Aqueduct while on the way to another location. However, do try to stop and take a closer look.
There is also a park nearby, the Fatih Anik Parki, so if you are at a loose end and want some downtime from the sightseeing of Istanbul, then this is an option to consider.
Climbing and walking on the Valens Aqueduct Bridge is actually prohibited by Law, so it is best to avoid this even if the locals may disagree.
Mosques near the Valens Aqueduct: The Sehzade (Prince’s) Mosque and the Bimali Cami are very close to the Valens Aqueduct. The Valens Aqueduct runs along a portion of the north side of the Sehzade Mosque grounds, which gives visitors a good view of the Valens Aqueduct.
The Zeyrek Mosque is also in close proximity, so visitors who are architectural enthusiasts might want to visit this example of Byzantine architecture which is made of two former Eastern Orthodox churches and a chapel.
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