Alcántara Bridge

The Roman bridge at Alcántara in Extremadura, Spain, is one of the finest examples of Roman bridge-building and a monumental feat of engineering. It was built over the Tagus River in the ancient Roman province of Lusitania between 104 and 106 AD and was dedicated to the Roman emperor Trajan on behalf of the local indigenous populations. The architect of this great masterpiece was a man called Caius Julius Lacer. Built of granite and without mortar, the Alcántara Bridge consists of six semicircular arches supported by five pillars. It spans the river at a length of almost 200 m and rises more than 40 m meter above the water level.

The name of the bridge comes from the Arabic “El Kantara” meaning “bridge”. Its dimensions make it unique among Roman bridges and it boasts the largest arch span of the peninsular Roman bridges, with an arch of almost 29 m. At its ends, the arches are supported by buttresses.

A honorific arch at the centre of the bridge was dedicated to the emperor Trajan. The inscription found on the attic reads (CIL II 759): Imp(eratori) • Caesari • divi • Nervae • f(ilio) • Nervae / Traiano • Aug(usto) • Germ(anico) • Dacico • pontif(ici) max(imo) / trib(unicia) • potes(tate) • VIII • imp(eratori) • V • co(n)s(uli) • V • p(atri) • p(atriae).

Another inscription from the side of the triumphal arch reveals that the bridge was paid for by eleven Lusitanian municipalities (municipia provinciae Lusitaniae). The inscription also claims that, in addition to contributed funds to the building of the bridge, these local municipalities ‘completed’ the bridge (perfecerunt).

At the south-east end of the monumental bridge are the remains of a small votive temple, distyle in antis, of Tuscan order with a single cella. It was constructed as an offering to Trajan and to the gods of Rome. It was designed by the same architect as the bridge and the triumphal arch, Gaius Julius Lacer. The dedicatory inscription (CIL II 761) on the temple (now a reconstruction of the original), cut in a slab of marble, records that the temple was dedicated to Trajan, erected by the bridge’s architect Gaius Iulius Lacer, with the help of his associate and friend Curio Lacone Igaeditano (from the city of Idanha-a-Velha). After the conquest of Cáceres in 1169 by Ferdinand II of Leon, the temple was converted into a chapel of St. Julian which explains why the building remains so well-preserved. The architect was buried in the temple and his tomb is still preserved inside.

pontem perpetui mansurum in saecula mundi (a bridge that would last forever)

Over the centuries, the Alcántara Bridge sustained damage in various armed conflicts and also in environmental events, mainly water-related, which have led to the destruction of part of its structure and have degraded it. The bridge was restored during the reign of Isabel II by the engineer Alejandro Millan y Sociats in 1859. It was listed as a Spanish National Monument in 1924 and is in the process of being declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Coordinates: 39° 43′ 21.00″ N 6° 53′ 33.00″ W

PORTFOLIO

View of the Alcántara Bridge looking north-west.
View of the Alcántara Bridge looking north-east.

The honorific arch at the centre of the bridge dedicated to the emperor Trajan.
View of the Alcántara Bridge looking south-east.
The small votive temple dedicated to the Roman emperor Trajan and the Roman Gods.
Dedicatory inscription (CIL II 761) on the votive temple honoring Trajan and the Gods for the successful building of the bridge.
The entrance is flanked by two Tuscan columns and accessed by an exterior staircase, covered with a gabled roof made of slabs of stone, with a pediment with trim at the edges and a smooth tympanum without decoration.
The interior of the small votive temple.
The Alcántara bridge and the small temple, view from the east.
The Alcántara bridge is still used for traffic.

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Severan Bridge

The Severan Bridge (also known as Cendere Bridge) is a Roman bridge located near the ancient city of Arsameia (today Eskikale), 55 km north east of Adıyaman in southeastern Turkey. It is spanning the Cendere Çayı river which was known as Chabines in antiquity. Built by the Sixteenth Roman legion stationed at Samosata (Samsat) in the last years of the 2nd century AD, it replaced an earlier bridge probably built under the emperor Vespasian (69-79 AD). It is one of the best preserved Roman stone bridges in Turkey.

Coordinates: 37° 55′ 56.64″ N, 38° 36′ 29.52″ E

The bridge, part of the road to Nemrud Daği, was constructed as a single vaulted arch sitting on two rocks at the narrowest point of the creek. With a 34.2 m span, the structure is the second largest extant arch bridge built by the Romans. It is 123 m long and 7.50 m wide.

Inscriptions on the bridge reveal that it was built by the Legio XVI Flavia Firma, a Roman legion stationed in the ancient city of Samosata. The Sixteenth was taking part in the two campaigns of Lucius Septimius Severus (194 and 197-198), which culminated in the capture of the Parthian capital Ctesiphon and the re-establishment of the province of Mesopotamia. The area was reorganised and the river Chabinas was bridged by the soldiers of the legion deployed in the area.

There were originally four columns, located at each end of the bridge, which were erected by the four Commagenean cities (Samasata, Perre, Doliche and Germaniceia). The inscriptions on these columns state that the columns at the southeastern end of the bridge were dedicated to Septimius Severus and his wife Julia Domna while the columns at the other end of the bridge were dedicated to their two sons Geta and Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus. The latter eventually reigned as Caracalla (211-217), had his brother Geta killed and erased him from history. Geta’s column was therefore removed from the bridge after his assassination.

The Severan Bridge is situated within one of the most important national parks in Turkey, which contains Nemrut Dağı with the famous remains of the large statues dedicated by King Antiochus Theos of Commagene and declared as a World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO.

Until recently, cars and small trucks up to 5 tons were allowed to pass over the bridge. The bridge was restored in 1997 and another road bridge was built 500 m east of it. The Severan Bridge is now closed off, except to pedestrians.

PORTFOLIO

The east side of the Roman bridge at Cendere.
The west side of the Roman bridge at Cendere.
The two columns dedicated to the emperor Septimius Severus and his wife Julia Domna.
Inscription on the column dedicated to Septimius Severus.
The road on the Roman bridge at Cendere.
Inscription on the column dedicated to Julia Domna.
The east side of the Roman bridge at Cendere.
The column dedicated to Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus (Caracalla).

CIL 03, 06709
Imp(erator) Caes(ar) L(ucius) Septi/mius Severus Pius / Pertinax Aug(ustus) Ara/bic(us) Adiab(enicus) Parthic(us) / princ[e]ps felic(um) pon/tif(ex) max(imus) trib(unicia) pot(estate) / XII imp(erator) VIII co(n)s(ul) II / proco(n)s(ul) et Imp(erator) Caes(ar) / M(arcus) Aurel(ius) Antoni/nus Aug(ustus) Augusti / n(ostri) fil(ius) proco(n)s(ul) imp(erator) III / et P(ublius) Septimius [[Ge]]/[[ta]] Caes(aris) fil(ius) et fra/ter Augg(ustorum) nn(ostrorum) / pontem chabi/nae fluvi a so/lo restituerunt / et transitum / reddiderunt / sub Alfenum Senecionem / leg(atum) Augg(ustorum) pr(o) pr(aetore) curante Ma/rio perpetuo leg(ato) Augg(ustorum) leg(ionis) / XVI F(laviae) F(irmae)
CIL 03, 06710
Imp(erator) Caes(ar) L(ucius) Septi/mius Seve[r]us [P]i/us Pe[r]tinax Aug(ustus) / Arab(icus) Adiab(enicus) Par/thic(us) princ[e]ps Felix pont(ifex) m(aximus) / t[r]ib(unicia) potest(ate) XII / imp(erator) VIII [c]o[n(sul)] I[I] / proco(n)s(ul) et [Imp(erator)] / Caes(ar) M(arcus) Aurelius An/toninus Aug(ustus) Au/g(usti) n(ostri) f(ilius) proc[o](n)s(ul) / imp(erator) III et [P(ublius)] Septi/mius [Geta] Caes(ar) / [fil(ius)] et frat(er) Augg(ustorum) / nn(ostrorum) pontem Ch/abinae fluvi a so/lo restituerunt / et transitum red/diderunt / [sub Alfeno S]enecione leg(ato) / [Augg(ustorum) pr(o) pr(aetore) cu]rante Mario Per/[petuo leg(ato)] Augg(ustorum) leg(ionis) XVI Fl(aviae) F(irmae)

The east side of the Roman bridge at Cendere.

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