Rome has many bridges crossing the only river that runs through the middle of the old city, and they have a long and complex history.
Like many other ancient civilisations did, the ancient city of Rome was founded by a river, the Tiber. Setting the city next to a river, not only provided the Romans with a food supply through fishing, but also drinking water for the people. The river Tiber was also very important to Roman trade and commerce through to the Mediterranean sea, providing access to northern Europe, North Africa, Asia and the populations which faced the Mediterranean sea.
The Tiber was a natural barrier from attack for Romans, and while a bridge from the side of the seven hills to connect to the other side, would allow for the empire to expand and increase trade, it would also open up the city to invasions and attacks. This meant that in the beginning, for many centuries, there were not many bridges that were built, and those that were, were made of wood, which enabled them to be destroyed quickly if Rome was under attack, making it more difficult for Rome’s enemies to cross in to the heart of the city.
One of the first bridges that was built and that can still be seen, though renewed many times, is the now called Ponte Rotto “broken bridge”. In 214BC it linked the cattle market, the Forum Boarium (where now stands the famous and one of the most photographed “mouth of truth”) on the eastern bank, with Trastevere on the western one. Crossing it hasn’t been possible since Christmas Eve 1598, when the bridge collapsed in a violent flood, and all that remains today is a single arch mid-river.
Of course, not all the bridges in Rome you see now are ancient ones. Many were reconstructed in the middle ages and renaissance period. During the Roman Empire only 5 bridges linked the two banks. One no longer can be seen, called Sublicio, however, there are 4 that can be; The two which leads to the Tiberina Island (Cestio and Fabricius 1st century BC), the one which links to the S’Angelo castle 134 AC (Ponte S. Angelo), and Ponte Milvio 207 BC.
Each bridge has its own unique history, character & views of Rome. If you are interested to find out more about the bridges of Rome, and where the best spots are to view them, I’d be happy to show you around.