Urbem fecisti - Roman bridges | Bed and Rome and Breakfast

sabato 10 dicembre 2016

Urbem fecisti - Roman bridges

Some years ago, in 1992, a huge flooding occurred in the small town of Vaison la Romaine in Provence, southern France, making also several victims. The modern part of the town, close to the river Ouzere, was seriously damaged. The roman bridge that, since almost 2000 years, is crossing the river, had only limited damages, essentially the parapets.
By the way, probably the most famous roman bridge is also located in Provence, Pont du Gard.

The story of the bridge of Vaison la Romaine tells a lot about the ability of ancient Romans when building bridges.
In the city of Rome there are several ancient bridges that are still used  so demonstating how reliable was their construction technique.
Pons Fabricius
The one that has had less modifications is Ponte Fabricio (Pons Fabricius), built in 62 BC and still in its original status. It connects the east bank of the Tiber to the Tiber Island. The inscriptions celebrating Lucius Fabricius the curator of the roads that commissioned the bridge, are still perfectly visible.

On the other side of the Tiber Island, going to the west bank, there is Ponte Cestio (Pons Cestius). It was built some year after Pons Fabricius. The two side arches have buin rebuilt at the end of the XIX century when the walls on the river embenkment were constructed.
 
  Pons Cestius in the XIX century                         Pons Cestius today              

Ponte Sant'Angelo (or Pons Aelius) was bulit in 134 AD by Emperor Hadrian to connect the city center to his mausoleum. The bridge has five arches. Origninally it had three arches, the central ones, while on the two sides there were ramps. At the end of the XIX century the ramps were replaced by new arches.
Ponte Sant'angelo (Pons Aelius)
Probaly the most famous of the Roman bridges is Ponte Milvio (Pons Milvius). It was originally a wooden bridge that, in the late II century BC, was replaced by one made of stones. It was the main entrance to the city from the north side so it had a critical strategic and economic importance. In 312 AD, in the area between it and Saxa Rubra, Constantine I defeated Maxentius in the battel of the Milvian Bridge so becoming the sole emperor. That battle marked the beginning of a new era in the relations between politics and religion and its consequences are still present today.
Ponte Milvio
Because of its strategic importance Ponte Milvio has been seriously damaged several times because of war facts. Nowadays only the three central arches, that in any case have required deep maintenance, are the original ones. The tower on the north side has been built by architect Valadier in the early XiX century. 
Ponte Milvio has remained open to car traffic till 1978. Since then it is only for pedestrian use.
In the early years of this millenium Ponte Milvio has become the starting place of a ritual that, since then, has spread in other Italian and European cities. The ritual consist in placing a love padlock to a lamppost by young couples. The ritual was invented by the writer Federico Moccia in his novel "I want you". Due to the collapse of a lamppost in 2007, the placement of the padlocks has been forbidden and, in 2012. the existing padlocks have been removed. Nowadays padlocks may be found in the area around Ponte Milvio as well as in other parts of the city that are commonly visited by lovers.


The last ancient bridge is Ponte Nomentano, also located on the noth side of the city but crossing the Aniene river. The central arcj is of the late republican period. The other parts were recontructed in the VI century AD after being damaged during the invasion of the Ostrogoths led by their king Totila. The tower over the bridge was originally built in the VIII century and reconstructed in the XV century. Another main recontruction occurred in XIX centrury after that, in 1849, the French troops cutted it for a lenght of 7 meters.
Ponte Nomentano
 The strengh of the construction is reflected in the fact that, until 1997, the bridge has been used for normal car traffic. Also I crossed it almost every day by car.

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