The Tiber’s bridges: a history of technology and progress
“Here is born the river / sacred to the destinies of Rome”
This is the inscription placed at the source of the Tiber, on Mount Fumaiolo, in Emilia-Romagna. Its waters flow 405 Km before they meet the Tyrrhenian Sea, and many bridges have been built along its course. After all, it cuts almost horizontally the Italian peninsula, and the eternal city rises along its bends.
The connection between the two banks posed therefore a serious problem, and that is where the history of the Tiber’s bridges originates from.
The original nucleus of the city of Rome as on the right bank of the river, the bridges started to be built when Rome definitely took control of the left bank.
In fact, in a time of socio-political instability, the river represented of course a source of water, but also, even more important, an opportunity to defend and control the area.
The need of crossing the river was solved with rudimentary wooden bridges on the Tiber that could be quickly destroyed in case of an attack. Only a more stable political situation made it possible to build stone bridges, some of which, with some changes over the following centuries, are still there today.
Nevertheless, the majority of the Tiber’s bridges that we can still see are linked to the development of the city in the popish period, and most of all to the urban sprawl that affected the capital from the 19th century on.
That of the Tiber’s bridges is also a history of engineering and technology; the initial structure with five travertine arches is in fact superseded by thin and elegant bridges carried in a single arch, in reinforced concrete, a show of great confidence in new technologies and an engineering challenge deriving from the 20th century’s culture.
That’s what we want to do: tell you one by one the stories of the Tiber’s bridges, because they really represent one of the strongest aspects of Rome, and they don’t deserve to be looked at in a superficial way.