Pons Sublicius
The earliest known bridge of ancient Rome, Italy, the Pons Sublicius, spanned the Tiber River near the Forum Boarium ("cattle forum") downstream from the Tiber island, near the foot of the Aventine Hill. According to tradition, its construction was ordered by Ancus Martius around 642 BC, but this date is approximate because there is no ancient record of its construction. Martius wished to connect the newly fortified Janiculum Hill on the Etruscan side to the rest of Rome, augmenting the ferry that was there. The bridge was part of public works projects that included building a port at Ostia, the then location of worked salt deposits. 

Drawing of the site of the Pons Sublicius (falsely shown as a pier), by Friedrich Polack Legend tells us that the bridge was made entirely of wood. The name comes from Latin pons, pontis, "bridge," and the adjective sublicius, "resting on pilings," from the stem of sublicae, pilings. As a sublica was a pick, sublicae implies pointed sticks; that is, the bridge was supported by pilings driven into the riverbed. Julius Caesar’s engineers used this construction to bridge the Rhine. The bridge was rebuilt repeatedly. The date of its final disappearance is not known, but it is not in classical times. The Via Latina went over the bridge and connected to the Via Cassia, a road built over an old Etruscan road that led to Veii. The bridge was a favorite resort for beggars, who used to sit upon it and demand alms, hence the Latin expression "aliquis de ponte" for a beggar.

The bridge was downstream from the Pons Aemilius, a good stone bridge with which it is sometimes confused.


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Building Activity

  • updated a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via Annotator