In 1AD, the Turkish city of Seleucia Pieria had a problem: its all-important port required regular dredging, because the river water that flowed into from the Amanus Mountains carried a large amount of sediment. During each thaw, the river would rise causing frequent floods in the city.
To counter this issue, Roman Emperor Vespasian ordered the construction of a water tunnel. In order to divert the stream, the tunnel must have been cut through solid rock.
The tunnel was subsequently built using only manpower and was completed by Vespasianus’ son Titus, in the 2nd century.
Today, the tunnel consists of two sections and includes features such as, a dam and a discharge channel. The tunnel has been recognized by UNESCO as one of the Roman Empire’s most incredible engineering feats. Also, it is added to its list of world heritage sites.
However, for all its genius of design, the tunnel could not save the port forever. In the 5th century, it became muddy once again, leading to the city’s decline and ultimate abandonment.
The tunnel is situated around 20 miles southwest of Antakya, at the foot of the Nur mountains near Çevlik, Turkey. An inscription with the names of Vespasian and Titus is displayed at the entrance to the first tunnel. The vast majority of it is still open today; only 130 meters is closed.
Walking trails and viewing points can be found around the tunnel. It is an excellent way to take in the area’s picturesque scenery.
However, for most of the steady flow of casual visitors, architects, and engineers, it’s an opportunity to fully appreciate an incredible feat of manpower that saw a tunnel so huge built only with chisels and hammers.
Perhaps equally as remarkable, almost 2,000 years since the tunnel’s completion, it remains practically undamaged today.