The Pont Flavien (Flavian Bridge), with its surviving triumphal arches at each end, is one of the most beautiful surviving Roman bridges outside Italy. The ancient bridge stands near the modern town of Saint-Chamas in southern France and consists of a single arch spanning the Toulourde River on the Via Julia Augusta.
Coordinates: 43° 32′ 29″ N, 5° 2′ 35″ E
The name “Flavien” refers to a local Roman-Gaul aristocrat called Lucius Donnius Flavius, and a Latin inscription on the bridge itself states that it was built at his instigation. In translation, it means:
Lucius Donnius, son of Caius, Flavos, flamen [priest] of Rome and Augustus, has ordained in his will that [this monument] be built under the direction of Cauis Donnius Vena and Caius Attius Rufius.
As the inscription indicates, the bridge was constructed at Flavius’ instigation following his death. It was completed around 12 BC. The bridge measured 21.4 metres long by 6.2 metres while the arches at either end each stood 7 metres high.
Following excavations, one can see the remnants of the Roman road with ruts worn by chariots and carts. The bridge was heavily used until fairly recently but it is now reserved for pedestrian use only.
The Pont Flavien has been subjected to repetitive damages. In the 18th century, the western arch collapsed destroying the Roman lions on top of the pediment (the only surviving original lion is on the right-hand side of the eastern arch). Then the same arch was damaged by a German tank during the Second World War and finally collapsed when it was hit by an American truck. It was rebuilt in 1949 and some years later.