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p399 Pons Cestius

Article on pp399‑400 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: A three-arched slightly humpbacked bridge over a peaceful river about 50 meters wide, flowing away from us. In the foreground, the right bank has a brick walk shaded by trees on the street above to the right and off-camera; in the background, to the left, behind the left arch of the bridge, a church with a square belfry. It is a view of the Ponte Cestio and the church of S. Bartlomeo all' Isola in Rome.]
The Ponte Cestio and the church of S. Bartolomeo all' Isola.

Pons Cestius: the modern Ponte S. Bartolomeo, the first stone bridge from the island to the right bank of the river. It is mentioned only in Not. app. and Pol. Silv. (545), but probably was built soon after the pons Fabricius. Several Cestii of some prominence are known in this period, and the bridge was probably constructed by one of them, while curator viarum, between 62 and 27 B.C.

In the fourth century the pons Cestius was replaced by what was practically a new structure, which the Emperors Valentinian I, Valens and Gratian finished in 369 (Sym. Pan. in Grat. p332) and dedicated in 370 as the pons Gratiani. There were two inscriptions recording this event, each in duplicate, the first cut on marble slabs placed on the p400parapet on each side of the bridge, the second beneath the parapet (CIL VI.1175, 1176). One of the former1 is still in situ. The pons Gratiani was 48 metres long and 8.20 wide, with one central arch, 23.65 metres in span, and a small arch on each side, 5.80 metres wide. The material was tufa and peperino with facing of travertine, and the pedestals of the parapet probably supported statues of the emperors as those of the pons Fabricius did hermae. The construction was rough and characteristic of the decadence, and very little of the earlier pons Cestius could have survived in the later structure, although the general appearance and form of the two bridges were doubtless about the same.

The pons Gratiani was restored at various times between the twelfth century and 1834, but in 1888‑1892 the building of the new embankment and the widening of the channel made it necessary to take down the old bridge and erect a new one, 80.40 metres long, with three arches. The central arch of the new structure reproduces the original exactly, although only about one-third of the old material could be used again (Jord. I.1.418‑420; Mitt. 1889, 282‑285; Besnier 106‑119, and literature there cited).


The Authors' Note:

1 So also are both the latter <those beneath the parapet> (cf. ib. 31250, 31251).


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Page updated: 25 Jul 11