The Barbegal Roman Mill was a flour mill complex powered by 16 waterwheels, fed by two aqueducts bring water to Arles. The mill was located on a hillside near the village of Fontvieille, and was considered "the greatest known concentration of mechanical power in the ancient world".
Bread for Roman Arles
The Barbegal mills operated for a couple of hundred years, from the end of the 1st century until the end of the second century. The mills had a capacity to produce 4.5 tons of flour a day, enough to provide bread for all 12,500 inhabitants of Arles (Arelate) at the time.
Barbegal Flour Mills
The Barbegal mill complex was built in two rows on the steep hillside, with the water flowing down in channels on either side of the complex. Pairs of waterwheels were housed in a row small buildings on the hillside, with a total of 16 waterwheels powering the mill.
Two separate aqueducts from several sources in the Alpilles were built by the Romans to bring drinking water to Arles.
The northern Alpilles part (Eygalieres aqueduct) originated near the Saint Sixte Chapel and the village of Eygalières. This aqueduct crossed to the west past Glanum and Saint Remy-de-Provence, then turned south to pass near the village of Fontvieille to arrive at the Barbegal site from the northwest.
The southern part (Caparon aqueduct) was much shorter, originating at the Arcoule sourse and other sources in the Alpilles near the village of Paradou. This aqueduct flowed southwest from the southern Alpilles to arrive at the Barbegal site from the east.
The two sources met just north of the ridge above the Barbegal complex, flowed through two side-by-side aqueducts to the cutting in the ridge and came down through the flour mill complex on either side of the mills, where part of the water was channeled off to power the mills.
The joined aqueduct was routed south from the Barbegal site, then curved west and finally entered Arles from the southeast.