Trajan’s Bridge over the Danube – a wonder of Antiquity

Trajan’s Bridge, also known as the Bridge of Apollodorus over the Danube, was the first bridge to ever be built over the lower part of the Danube. The Roman arch bridge was built at Trajan’s order in 105 BC. The emperor employed Apollodorus of Damascus, a Greek architect that also built Trajan’s Column in Rome, for the erection of the bridge across the Danube. Trajan wanted to build a bridge for his Roman troops to get into the Dacian territory easily and lead to the conquest of Dacia.

The remainings of the bridge are located east from the Iron Gates, in Drobeta – Turnu Severin, very close to the Serbian city of Kladovo.

Constructed in a remarkably quick time, between 103 and 105 AD, the wood and stone structure measured a total length of 1,135 meters, with a 15 m width and a 19 m height. Each end of the bridge had a Roman Castrum, Pontes and Drobeta, which made crossing the bridge only possible by walking through them. Apollodorus’ of Damascus superstructure was partially destroyed by Trajan’s successor, Hadrian, as he considered that the Roman Empire needed to protection against barbarian invasions. However, the actual desertion and total decay of the bridge are linked to the Romans leaving Dacia definitively in 275 BC.

The twenty pillars that sustained the bridge could still be visible in the mid-1800s, for the Danube hit a record low level. After some decades, it was decided that the destruction of two pillars was needed as navigation in this area was obstructed. In 1932, there were only 16 pillars left underwater and after 50 years, 4 more were missing. What can still be seen today is a pillar which is now part of the history museum of Drobeta-Turnu Severin, later expanded and named Iron Gates Region Museum.

The Iron Gates Region Museum have on display natural sciences exhibits like Danubian fauna and flora, history and documents, archaeology, ethnography and numismatics (coins, money and currency).

There have been long time discussions over the reason behind building this bridge. The ones opposing the official theory of Apollodorus of Damascus being the architect of this bridge and the building period of 3 years say that in fact this bridge existed beforehand and it was built by Burebista, who anyway dominated both sides of the Danube at that time. Moreover, it is thought that Apollodorus of Damascus only restored the old bridge to a functional Roman standard.

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Stefania Tripe
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” ― Stephen King.

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