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This webpage reproduces an article in the
Classical Review
Vol. 14, No. 1 (1900), pp86‑88.

The text is in the public domain.

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 p86  The 'Bridge' at Aricia

Juv. IV.117.

caecus adulator dirusque a ponte satelles

dignus Aricinos qui mendicaret ad axes.

Readers of this Review may remember an attempt to identify Juvenal's pons with a 'causeway' on the Via Appia, near Aricia (VII, 400; VIII, 16). Mr. Owen has since reexamined this work, and I have lately examined and measured it with Mr. T. Ashby. We had at first wished to write a joint article on the subject, but we found it would be clearer to put them in two consecutive notes. I begin, therefore, with a statement of facts and my deductions, and Mr. Owen follows with his deductions. Canina's plans, to which I shall refer, are in Mon. Ined. II (1837), xxxix; Annali IX (1837) and Edifizi VI (1856) lxv. Canina apparently excavated on the spot in 1835 on behalf of Lord Stanhope and the Institute.

The situation is as follows. The Appian Way, on its course southwards, descends from the heights of Albano and skirts the eastern ridge of the little plain — once a lake — called Vallericcia: here it traverses the area of Roman Aricia, of which the ruins are clear. Leaving that town by its  p87 southern gate, part of which still stands, the road mounts the opposite slope, climbing along the hillside in a great curve, as a modern railway might climb. Immediately after the commencement of the ascent, on a gradient of 1:25 or 1:30 is the 'causeway.' Here, for 666 feet (as we measured) the outer side of the road, that is, the side away from the hill, is supported by massive opus quadratum, which is in places 25 feet in height. Canina says that at one point it is 40 feet high, but we noted nothing beyond 25 feet. On the inner side of the road there is at present a cultivated field, nearly level with the roadway, but this has been artificially levelled, as a glance at it shows, and there are signs that part of the 'causeway' once had its inner face banked with masonry like the outer face. Canina indicates this, probably as a result of his excavations and evidence can still be detected. The visible, outer face of opus quadratum is pierced by four arched apertures placed at irregular intervals and passing right under the road. Two of these are about 15 feet wide at the base and equally high: the third is a drain, 3 feet wide and 4 high, and Canina mentions a second drain, noticed by Mr. Owen. Now, one of the larger apertures is 29 feet long and has at its inner end traces of facing stones, though it is now banked up with earth and stones. That is, the causeway here originally stood free, and the same was likely enough the case at the other larger aperture, which we could not examine properly. Both apertures are apparently paved: that is, they are apertures in the 'causeway' and not spans across a space of ground. One of the drains we traversed to its end, but could not decide whether it originally opened into the air like the large aperture, or (as I think) drained the land-springs in the hillside on to the fields below, as it does at present. Neither of the drains, however, has any bearing on the present question of the interpretation of Juvenal, and for our purposes they may be disregarded.

The meaning of the whole is not hard to conjecture. The 'causeway' carried the road up broken ground: parts of it were walled only on one side and otherwise rested on the hill, while at two points it stood free and two arched apertures let through the surface water. At these two points the 'causeway' was 29 feet wide. The roadway on the top is consistently 15 feet wide, the usual measure of the paving along the Appian Way. The two apertures do not constitute bridges: they are too small for that, especially when viewed in relation to the size of the whole work, and are simply openings in an embankment at irregular intervals. It would be more correct not to speak of a 'causeway' but of an embankment on a gradient. The whole is good work, but in no way surpasses some other stone embankments on the Via Appia, and it is misleading to call it magnificent or celebrated or anything extraordinary.

I am inclined, therefore, to conclude that the 'causeway' cannot be Juvenal's pons (1) because two smallish apertures, placed irregularly in a large and long wall of masonry, do not constitute a 'bridge' in an ordinary way, and (2) because the whole thing is not distinctive enough to be thus mentioned casually and without explanation. If the great Papal Viaduct up above the site of the 'causeway' had been in question, that might unquestionably have been called Pons. You can see that for miles, and when you drive over it, you know you are on a magnificent bridge. But if you drove up the 'causeway,' you would never even guess you crossed an aperture of any sort, not even a ponticulus. Besides, the passage translates quite well without this theory. A ponte can be taken like pastor ab Amphryso and the rest of such expressions — 'hailing from a bridge' that is, a beggar, or like (servus) a rationibus, a libellis and the rest. The context suggests the latter. This point, however, is not material to the interpretation of pons, for it is obvious that whatever difficulties of Latinity beset the rendering 'from a bridge,' beset equally the rendering 'from The Bridge.'

F. Haverfield.

The meaning 'hailing from a bridge,' elsewhere expressed by Juvenal by de ponte (14.134) can hardly be elicited from a ponte, in the absence of exact parallel. The expressions pastor ab Amphryso &c., which I quoted C. R. VII, 401, are from other authors, and rather different: while the analogies produced by Mayor, a theatro, a manu, &c. are misleading, for these phrases all denote an office or dignity, and though a beggar has his beat, that beat cannot be regarded as an office or a dignity. Therefore as no other explanation seems satisfactory, I still hold that a ponte refers to the stone-faced causeway along which the Appia passes as it proceeds to climb the hill towards Genzano. The level of the ground has risen, as is usual,  p88 since ancient times. That it has greatly risen is attested by the fact that the arch of the southern gate of Aricia is now deeply embedded in earth. I have little doubt that the part of the causeway where the arches are, stood clear on both sides in Roman times: the valley on the eastern side has filled up since. There are two large arches on the causeway in the middle, and a small one beyond each, at the northern and southern extremities. The fourth arch, the small one nearest the town, is much overgrown and banked up with earth, but was clearly visible when I saw it to my great joy in April, 1898. The causeway in question then contains four arches: such a structure I still consider might be described by Juvenal as a pons. Indeed how else could a poet describe it? The correct architectural word is substructio (Frontinus, De aquaed. I p227; Keuchen, 'substructionibus aut opere arcuato.') But against such an unmetrical word, Juvenal might well have exclaimed

lex pedis officio fortunaque nominis obstat,

quaque meos adeas, est via nulla, modos.

He would then be driven to use the word pons. This word, connected by Vaniček (Etymologisches Wörterbuch, p152) with πάτος a track, πατέω I tread, means a thing one goes over: cp. perpetuus = going on, compitum = a going together. Pons then signifies a means of going from one side to the other. The Arician pons fulfils this requirement; it goes from the town to the hill. Though the sense of pons is generally restricted so as to mean a bridge going over water, the word is also used in the sense of a causeway across a morass. Hirtius, B. G. 8.14, pontibus palude constratis legiones traducit. Tac. A. 1.61, § 2: 63 § 5. The pons longus of Colonia (Catull. 17) appears to have been a kind of causeway across a marsh. Statius Silv. 4.3.125 (speaking of Domitian's road near Cumae) uses the word of a causeway ueniet fauente caelo | qui foedum nemus et putres harenas | celsis pontibus et uia leuabit. I think then that pons in Juvenal refers to the structure in question. The poet says that Catullus the courtier, whose place is in the Alban Palace of Domitian on the hill above, ought, if he got his deserts, to join the brotherhood of beggars, and beg on the causeway in the valley below the palace.

G. Owen.

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