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Roman Architecture - Bridges

( Originally Published 1921 )

Roman bridges were simple, solid, and practical in construction and designed to offer a well-calculated resistance to the rush of water, and the roadway was generally level throughout. They promoted intercourse between cities and thus were factors in the spread of civilisation. Just as the arches of aqueducts carried water over land, so the arches of bridges carried land over water.

The Pons Sublicius, Rome, was for long the only bridge across the Tiber, and Livy records its destruction by the Roman garrison when the Etruscans were advancing upon Rome ; while Macaulay has immortalised the incident of its defence by Horatius Cocles.

The Pons Milvius, Rome (B.C. 109) (p. 188 A), now known as the Ponte Molle, has semicircular arches over massive piers with protecting "starlings" or cut-waters and extra arches above them to allow the flood waters to pass through. It was here that Cicero arrested the Gaulish ambassadors and here Maxentius met death and defeat at the hands of Constantine (A.D. 312).

The Bridge of Augustus, Rimini (A.D. 14) (p. 188 B), is the best preserved and one of the finest ancient structures in Italy, with its stretch of five arches over the river Marecchia.

Roman bridges in Spain are of two types, both of which are equally impressive : (a) the many-arched type, as exemplified in the extreme length of the bridges at Salamanca and Alcantara (A.D. 105) ; (b) the single-arched type, such as the later Moorish and Gothic bridge at Toledo which, with the romantic sweep of its gigantic arch, spans the rocky valley of the Tagus (p. 532).

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