The Ancient Library

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The Greek term for a permanent bridge is which the ancient etymologists connected with the Gephyraei (Fec^upcuoi), a people whom Herodotus (y. 57) states to have been Phoenicians, though they pretended to have come from Eretria; and the etymologists accordingly tell us that the first bridge in Greece was built by this people across the Cephissus; but such an explanation is opposed to sound etymology and common sense. As the rivers of Greece were small, and the use of the arch known to them only to a limited extent [ae.cus], it is probable that their bridges were built entirely of wood, or, at best, were nothing more than a wooden platform supported upon stone piers at each extremity, like that of Nitocris described above. Pliny (PI. N. iv. 1) mentions a bridge over the Acheron 1000 feet in length ; and also says (iv. 21) that the island Euboea was joined to Boeotia by a bridge ; but it is probable that both these works were executed after the Roman conquest.

In Greece also, as well as in Italy, the term bridge was used to signify a roadway raised upon piers or arches to connect the opposite sides of a ravine, even where no water flowed through it (rfyv yetyvpav, $7 eVi tw v&ttsl *?\v, Xen. Aiiab. vi. 5. § 22).

The Romans were undoubtedly the first people who applied the arch to the construction of bridges, l)y which they were enabled to erect structures of great beauty and solidity, as well as utility ; for by this means the openings between the piers for the convenience of navigation, which in the bridges of Babylon arid Greece must have been very narrow, could be extended to any necessary span.

The width of the passage-way in a Roman bridge was commonly narrow, as compared with modern structures of the same kind, and corre­sponded with the road (via) leading to and from it. It was divided into three parts. The centre one, for horses and carriages, was denominated agger or iter; and the raised footpaths on each side (decursoria\ which were enclosed by parapet walls similar in use and appearance to the pluteus in the basilica. [basilica, p. 199, b.]

Eight bridges across the Tiber are enumerated by P, Victor as belonging to the city of Rome. 1. Of these the most celebrated, as well as the most ancient, was the pons sublicius, so called because it was built of wood; sublices, in the lan­guage of the Formiani, meaning wooden beams. (Festus, s. v. Sublicium.) It was built by Ancus Martins, when he united the Janiculum to the city (Liv. i. 33; Dionys. iii. p. 183), and became re­nowned from the well-known feat of Horatius Codes in the war with Porsenna. (Liv. ii. 10 ; Val. Max. iii. 2. § 1 ; Dionys. v. pp. 295, 296.) In consequence of the delay and difficulty then experienced in breaking it down, it was re­constructed without nails, in such a manner that each beam could be removed and replaced at plea­sure. (Plin. H. N. xxxvi. 23.) It was so rebuilt by the pontifices (Dionys. iii. p. 183), from which fact, according to Varro (De Ling. Lat. v. 83), they derived their name; and it was afterwards considered so sacred, that no repairs could be made in it without previous sacrifice conducted by the pontifex in person. (Dionys. ii. I. c.) In the age of Augustus it was still a wooden bridge, as is manifest from the epithet roboreo, used by Ovid (Fast. v. 621) ; in which state it appears to have



remained at the time of Otho, when it was carried away by an inundation of the Tiber. (Tacit. Hist. i. 8G, who calls it pons sublicius.^) In later ages it was also called pons Aemilius^ probably from the name of the person by whom it was rebuilt; but who this Aemilius was is uncertain. It may have been Aemilius Lepidus the triumvir, or probably the Aemilius Lepidus who was censor with Muna- tius Plancus, under Augustus, ten years after the pons sublicius fell down, as related by Dion Cassius (p. 423, c.) We learn from P. Victor, in his de­ scription of the Regio xi., that these two bridges were one and the same—"Aemilius qui ante sub­ licius." It is called Aemilian by Juvenal (Sett. vi. 32) and Lampridius (Heliog. c. 17), but it is mentioned by Capitolinus (Antonin Pius, c. 8) as the pons Sublicius ; which passage is alone suffi­ cient to refute the assertion of some writers that it was built of stone at the period when the name of Aemilius was given to it. (Nardini, Rom. Ant, viii. 3.) "

This bridge was a favourite resort for beggars, who used to sit upon it and demand alms. (Senec. De Vit. Beat. 25.) Hence the expression of Ju­venal (xiv. 134), aliquis de ponte, for a beggar. (Compare also Juv. iv. 116.)

It was situated at the foot of the Avcntine, and was the bridge over which C. Gracchus directed his flight when he was overtaken by his opponents. (Pint. Graccli. p. 842, c. ; compare Val. Max. iv. 7. § 2; Ovid. Fast. vi. 477.)

II. pons palatinus formed the communica­tion between the Palatine and its vicinities and the Janiculum, and stood at the spot now occupied by the " ponte Rotto." It is thought that the words of Livy (xl. 51) have reference to this bridge. It was repaired by Augustus. (Inscrip. ap. Grut. p. 160. n. 1.)

III. IV. pons fabrjcius and pons cestius were the two which connected the Insula Tiberina with the opposite sides of the river ; the first with the city, and the latter with the Janiculum. Both are still remaining. The pons Fabricius was ori­ginally of wood, but was rebuilt by L. Fabricius, the curator viarum, as the inscription testifies, a short time previous to the conspiracy of Catiline (Dion Cass. xxxvii. p. 50) ; which passage of Dion Cassius, as well as the words of the Scholiast on Horace (Sat. ii. 3. 36), warrant the assumption that it was then first built of stone. It is now called " Ponte quattro capi." The pons Cestius is, by some authors, supposed to have been built during the leign of Tiberius by Cestius Gallus, the per­son mentioned by Pliny (x. 60 ; Tacit. Ann. vi. 31), though it is more reasonable to conclude that it was constructed before the termination of the republic, as no private individual would have been permitted to give his own name to a public work under the empire. (Nardini, /. c.) The in­scriptions now remaining are in commemoration of Valentinianus, Valens, and Gratianus, the emperors by whom it was restored. Both these bridges are represented in the following woodcut: that on the-right hand is the pons Fabricius, and is curious as being one of the very few remaining works which bear a date during the republic ; the pons Cestius on the left represents the efforts of a much later age ; and, instead of the buildings now seen upon the island, the temples which originally stood there, as well as the island itself, have been restored.

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