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The Alcántara Bridge, Spain, a masterpiece of ancient bridge building
Pons Fabricius in Rome, Italy
Roman pontoon bridge across the lower Danube
For a list of all known Roman bridges, see List of Roman bridges
For the railway station in Wales, see Roman Bridge railway station

Roman bridges, built by ancient Romans, were the first large and lasting bridges built.

Roman bridges were built with stone and had the arch as its basic structure.(see arch bridge). Most utilized concrete as well; which the Romans were the first to use for bridges.

Built in 142 BC, the Pons Aemilius, later named Ponte Rotto (broken bridge) is the oldest Roman stone bridge in Rome, Italy.

The biggest Roman bridge was Trajan's bridge over the lower Danube, constructed by Apollodorus of Damascus, which remained for over a millennium the longest bridge to have been built both in terms of overall and span length. They were most of the time at least 2 meters above the body of water.

An example of temporary military bridge construction are the two Caesar's Rhine bridges.

Typical characteristics

  • Many are more than 5 meters wide
  • Most of them slope slightly
  • Many have rustic work
  • The stonework has alternating stretcher and header courses ; i.e. one layer of rectangular stones is laid lengthwise, and the next layer has the ends facing outwards
  • Stones linked with dovetail joints or metal bars
  • Indents in the stones for gripping tools to hold onto

(Source Traianus - An endeavour to identify Roman Bridges built in former Hispania)

Arch shapes

Early Roman arch bridges, influenced by the ancient notion of the ideal form of the circle, often describe a full circle, with the stone arch continuing underground. A typical example is the Pons Fabricius in Rome. Later, Roman masonry bridges rested mostly on semi-circular arches, or, to a lesser extent, on segmental arches.[1][2] For the later design, which shows an early, local concentration in north-eastern Italy, but can be found scattered throughout the whole empire, the Limyra Bridge, the Alconétar Bridge and the Ponte San Lorenzo are prime examples. In addition, a number of other arch form make rare appearances, in some cases of which later deformations cannot be ruled out though. The late antique Karamagara Bridge represents an early example for the use of pointed arches.



  1. ^ Galliazzo 1995, p. 429–437
  2. ^ O’Connor 1993, p. 171


  • Fuentes, Manuel Durán: La construcción de puentes romanos en Hispania, Xunta de Galicia, Santiago de Compostela 2004, ISBN 9788445339374
  • Galliazzo, Vittorio (1995), I ponti romani, Vol. 1, Treviso: Edizioni Canova, ISBN 88-85066-66-6 
  • Galliazzo, Vittorio (1994), I ponti romani. Catalogo generale, Vol. 2, Treviso: Edizioni Canova, ISBN 88-85066-66-6 
  • Gazzola, Piero (1963). Ponti romani. Contributo ad un indice sistematico con studio critico bibliografico. Florence. 
  • O’Connor, Colin (1993), Roman Bridges, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-39326-4 

See also

External links

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