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Bill Thayer

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p397 Pons Aemilius

Article on pp397‑398 of

Samuel Ball Platner (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby):
A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome,
London: Oxford University Press, 1929.

Black-and‑white images are from Platner; any color photos are mine © William P. Thayer.

[image ALT: zzz]
The Ponte Rotto. Current consensus lies with Platner that this is the Pons Aemilius,
but opinions have differed: see for example Smith's Dictionary.

Pons Aemilius: the official name (hemerol. Amit. Vall. Allif. ad Kal. Sept., CIL I2 pp217, 240, 244; Not. app.; Pol. Silv. 545; Hist. Aug. Elag. 17) of the first stone bridge across the Tiber, said to have been built ὑπ᾽ Αἰμιλίου ταμιευόντος (Plut. Numa 9). A comparison of the citations just made with other passages (Ov. Fast. VI.477‑478; Serv. Aen. VIII.646; Aethicus, Cosmog. 28 (ed. Riese 83)) indicates that this bridge was close to the pons Sublicius and crossed the river from the forum Boarium (cf. CIL I2 p325). According to Livy (XL.51.4) M. Fulvius Nobilior when censor in 179 B.C. contracted (undoubtedly with his colleague M. Aemilius Lepidus) for the placing of 'pilas pontis in Tiberi', and P. Scipio Africanus and L. Minucius, the censors of 142 B.C., built arches (fornices) on these piers. This statement is now generally believed to refer to the pons Aemilius, and Plutarch's attribution of the building of the bridge to a quaestor, Aemilius, is interpreted as a mistake or on the hypothesis that the fornices of 142 were of wood and that the stone p398arches were laid by a later Aemilius in his quaestorship. That the upper part of the bridge was of wood, until 142 at least, is certain, and therefore a statement in Obsequens (16) under date of 156 B.C., pontis maximi tectum cum columnis in Tiberim deiectum, is cited as evidence that pons maximus was then a name in common use, although Mommsen's conjecture pontificis may be correct.

In the fourteenth century an arch was standing in the forum Boarium in front of the Ponte Rotto described as arcus marmoreus in platea pontis S. Mariae (Anon. Magl. 155), on which was an inscription (CIL VI.878) referring to a restoration by Augustus after 12 B.C. It is possible that this restoration may have been that of the bridge. Besides pons S. Mariae (LS II.22‑28; iv.49, 84) this bridge was called in the Middle Ages pons Senatorum (Mirab. 11), and pons Maior (Eins. 7.4; cf. Delbrück, Hellenistische Bauten i.14). In the seventh century Aethicus (loc. cit.) writes: pontem Lepidi qui nunc abusive a plebe lapideus dicitur iuxta forum boarium transiens. Both these early variants of Aemilius are easily explained, Lepidi from Aemilius, and lapideus from the tradition that it was the first stone bridge (Plut. loc. cit.). The identification of the pons Aemilius of the empire with the present Ponte Rotto may be regarded as certain. This bridge was partially destroyed by the flood of 1557 (cf. Mél. 1906, 189‑193) and repaired by Gregory XIII (Ill. 37). In 1598 the eastern half was carried away, and in 1887 two of the three remaining arches were removed, so that only one now stands in midstream. Recent investigation has shown that the ancient pier of this arch is not the earliest, as the remains of the abutment are earlier and belong to a bridge slightly further north which crossed the river at a slightly different angle. This was therefore the bridge of the second century B.C. and the existing arch and pier belong to a second structure, probably that of Augustus (Delbrück, op. cit. i.12‑22; ii. taf.2; Richter, Befestigung d. Ianiculums 18‑20; Jord. I.1.409‑414; 420‑421; RE I.593; Mél. 1906, 180‑181, 189‑193; Gilb. III.257‑260; Ber. d. sächs. Gesell. 1850, 320‑326; Besnier 128‑130; BC 1914, 390; DuP 58, and fig. 31; TF 139‑141). Cf. Ill. 32: and see Fornix Augusti.

[image ALT: A view of the island in the Tiber at Rome, taken in about 1925.]
From an engraving by WILLEM VAN NIEUWLANDT

For a viaduct on the road leading from the bridge to the Janiculum, cf. Via Aurelia.

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Page updated: 25 Jul 11