10 Bridges Built By The Ancients That Are Still In Use Today
The Colosseum, the Leaning Tower of Piza, and the pyramids come to mind when we think
ink of buildings that have survived to the present day. But what about systems that are still in use, albeit not in their original capacity?
Although most ancient buildings have been repurposed as tourist attractions, the humble bridge has remained relatively unchanged over time. Many bridges were constructed hundreds of years before our time and are still in operation today because they were built to last.
Although old bridges are often demolished in natural disasters, blown up in wars, or burned down in horrific incidents, the bridges on this list have remained largely unchanged over the years.
Many items created by the Romans have stood the test of time. A few significant structures constructed during the Roman period still stand today thanks to their rigid and efficient construction techniques. Take a trip to Rome and see the Pons Fabricius bridge for yourself if you want to see their job for yourself.
Lucius Fabricius built the bridge in 62 BC, probably to replace a wooden bridge that had burned down. Lucius had it written on the bridge in four different places, so you can tell he ordered it built.
Following a flood in 23 BC, two consuls named Marcus Lollius and Quintus Aemilius Lepidus made changes to the bridge in 21 BC to help protect it, but it is unclear what those improvements were. That may have been the addition of the small arch on the bridge, which relieves pressure during high water levels. That alone is likely to have contributed to the bridge's durability.
The Ponte Vecchio is a bridge in Florence, Italy, that was built in 1345. It was designed to replace a wooden bridge that couldn't withstand floods and is still in its original state.
The odd thing about Ponte Vecchio (which means "Old Bridge") is that it was built to house a shopping arcade, which is still in use today. In the 1400s, the bridge was haunted by fishmongers and butchers, whose trade left a foul odor on the bridge.
Grand Duke Ferdinand, I had the merchants removed and the selling of fish and meat products on the bridge prohibited because Florence was becoming the epicenter of the Renaissance at the time. Only goldsmiths and silversmiths were permitted to sell on the bridge, which helped to establish Florence's reputation among wealthy foreign tourists.
This bridge would not have lasted to the present day if it hadn't been for a wartime gesture of respect. During World War II, German soldiers fleeing Florence blew up any bridge they crossed to halt enemy forces. The only bridge that was spared was the Ponte Vecchio; they decided to destroy the bridge's access rather than the bridge itself.
Ponte Di Rialto
In 1591, an Italian bridge was designed to replace a wooden bridge that had collapsed. It was designed by Antonio da Ponte, who was up against Michelangelo and Palladio for the job of constructing the bridge. Unfortunately, it did not go over well with the locals until it was finished.
It attracted both praise and scorn from critics, who slammed its construction as "top-heavy and ungraceful," just like the Eiffel Tower did after it was completed.
Despite the criticism, the bridge has held up well since its completion. It had to be structurally sound, with a 7-meter (24-foot) arch to allow galleys below and enough power to support the row of shops that spans its middle. It's so sturdy that it was used to fire cannons during protests in 1797.
The late Shah Abbas II ordered the building of this bridge in 1667 on the foundations of an older bridge. Its primary role as a bridge was to allow people to cross the Zayandeh River, but it also served other purposes. It has sluice gates and functions as a dam, but its most interesting use is for social purposes.
Though we're not used to bridges being used for social gatherings, that didn't stop Shah Abbas II from trying. There is an incredible collection of paintings and tile work along the bridge, which is still evident today.
In the center, a pavilion was designed so that Shah Abbas II and his courtiers could look out over the scenery. The pavilion is now a teahouse and an art gallery. If that wasn't enough, the pavilion even had a stone seat from which Shah Abbas could gaze out over the water. The seat is still in use, but it is just a shadow of its former glory.
Shaharah Bridge, also known as the "Bridge of Sighs" (but not the one in Venice), is located in Yemen. Shaharah Bridge, built in the 17th century, connects two mountains, Jabal al Emir and Jabal al Faith, by crossing a 200-meter-deep (650-foot) canyon.
Visiting each other was a hassle for the residents of both mountains, as it involved climbing down one mountain and ascending another. To save time and effort, the bridge was built to better link the villages on both mountains.
It was more than just a hub for transportation. Given that it was the town of Shaharah's only entry, it needed to be reinforced to help fend off Turkish invaders. Locals are said to know how to demolish the bridge at any time, isolating the villagers from danger.
Shaharah Bridge is now a major tourist attraction, and it continues to serve its original role as a working bridge for the locals.
This bridge, also known as the Severan Bridge, was constructed by four Kommagenean cities in Turkey during the second century. It was designed to honor Septimius Severus, his wife Julia, and their two sons Caracalla and Geta, who were Roman emperors at the time. It is the second-longest arched bridge designed by the Romans, despite being very ancient.
Two columns were placed on each side to depict members of the emperor's family: Severus and Julia on one side and Caracalla and Geta on the other. If you check them out for yourself, you'll find that the Geta column is currently missing.
This is because Caracalla assassinated Geta because of a long-standing rivalry, even though Geta was in his mother's arms at the time. Caracalla went so far as to assassinate Geta's allies and associates. To deliver a final blow to Geta's reputation, Caracalla decreed that all mention of Geta's name be removed from history, and the Geta column was demolished.
Anji Bridge, also known as Zhaozhou Bridge, is China's oldest bridge, having been completed in AD 605. Its name, which translates to "Secure Crossing Bridge," suggests that it was constructed to last. It was built to be one of the world's best.
Due to its wide arc, it was the most technically advanced bridge at the time. The bridge was recognized as the 12th landmark in international civil engineering by the American Society of Civil Engineers and was honored with a bronze monument long after it was built.
Given that it is still safe to cross, it is clear that the Anji Bridge, though ambitious, did not cut any corners in its construction. In reality, the bridge has withstood the test of time much better. In its recorded lifetime, it has survived ten floods, eight wars, and numerous earthquakes while only needing repair work nine times.
Emperor Hadrian ordered the construction of Ponte Sant'Angelo (Bridge of the Holy Angel) in AD 136, and it is one of Rome's most prominent and beautiful bridges. Hadrian's act was slightly self-indulgent, as the bridge's purpose was to link all of Rome to his own mausoleum, the Castel Sant'Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel).
Because of the statue of the archangel Michael on the top of the mausoleum, they're both called "of the Holy Angel." In 590 BC, an angel was said to appear on the same building and miraculously end the plague in Rome.
Long after Hadrian was alive to see it, one of the bridge's most beautiful additions took place. Lorenzo Bernini, a sculptor, enhanced the bridge in 1668 by creating ten angels to adorn its length, two of which he made himself. Each angel is carrying a symbol of Jesus' crucifixion, such as a crown of thorns or a whip. Both the bridge and the angels are still standing after all these years, making it a perfect tourist attraction.
The Tarr Stairs, located in Exmoor, is a clapper bridge, or a bridge constructed entirely of rocks stacked on top of one another. It's difficult to say when it was constructed because of its construction, but estimates vary from 3000 BC to the Middle Ages. Tarr Steps was first mentioned in Tudor times, implying that it dates back to at least the 1500s.
Tarr Steps is said to have been constructed by the Devil himself, who vowed to kill anyone who tried to cross it, according to local legend. The cat that the villagers sent across to test the hypothesis was vaporized. Then they sent a vicar to meet the Devil at the bridge's halfway point (undoubtedly fearful of suffering the same fate as the cat).
After an argument with the Devil, the Devil agreed to a deal: everybody could use the bridge, but if the Devil decided to sunbathe, the ban would be restored. If you want to walk the Tarr Steps on your own, make sure there aren't any sunbathing demons around first.
Unfortunately, the Tarr Steps is an outlier in a long line of bridges that have remained largely intact over time. Since a mound of rocks doesn't have the finest of foundations, floods have thrown parts of it over throughout history.
As a result, all of the stones have been numbered so that they can be retrieved and returned to their proper places, preserving their authenticity. It's basically the same bridge, although it's been reassembled many times.
Arkadiko BridgeThe Arkadiko Bridge in Greece is the world's oldest still-in-use arch bridge. It's thought to have been founded about 1300–1200 BC during the Greek Bronze Age, which means it's been through a lot to get to where it is now.
In Mycenaean times, it served as part of a military road system connecting Tiryns and Epidauros. With a road width of about 2.5 meters, it has a wider berth than a standard footbridge (8 ft). Historians say the extra width added to the bridge could support chariots.
What's more remarkable is that it's made entirely of limestone boulders, with no glue or other binding agent used to hold the bridge together. That means the bridge has survived over three millennia solely due to Mycenaean masonry skills and has weathered the test of time.