Ancient bridges in Greece and coastal Asia Minor

Polyxeni Bougia, University of Pennsylvania


A thorough study of ancient bridge building in Greece and Coastal Asia Minor has not been undertaken hitherto. This thesis is a corpus of the ancient masonry bridges erected in this region from Prehistoric to Roman times. Relevant epigraphical and literary material amplifies and supplements the archaeological data. The inscriptions commemorating some of these bridges elucidate matters of construction and maintenance since they frequently name the authorities, officials and experts involved as well as benefactors who financed these projects. The literary evidence refers to non-extant and, mainly, temporary bridges. Judicious selection of Greek and Latin passages records the terms designating both temporary and permanent structures and describes their role in times of war and peace. Widely scattered bibliographic information and observations from inspection are combined in the entries of the descriptive catalogue. The testimony of travellers, topographers and excavators--occasionally in association with the epigraphical record--is checked against the physical remains and is supplemented by observations made on the spot. Historical and topographical considerations set each bridge in the appropriate cultural context and road network. The three bridge types attested--beam, corbelled and arched--are fully analyzed. The corbelled examples date from the Prehistoric to the Hellenistic era, most of them being appendages of Mycenaean roads. Except for a Minoan beam bridge the other constructions of this type were built in the Classical and Hellenistic eras. All the surviving arched bridges are products of the Roman period. The technical characteristics of the extant bridges and the statical principles underlying each bridging system are amply demonstrated. The pattern of their distribution is traced and interpreted. Only two pre-Roman bridges are known from Coastal Asia Minor. There, however, arched bridges generally attained larger dimensions (longer bridges, wider spans) than those in Greece. The majority of beam and corbelled bridges is encountered in Greece. The relatively small, plain beam bridges are unparalleled. The modest viaducts with single corbelled culverts are unlike those constructed in Egypt and Mesopotamia. The representatives of the arched type are typical works of the Roman era but they demonstrate original features.

Subject Area

Archaeology|Architecture|Civil engineering

Recommended Citation

Bougia, Polyxeni, "Ancient bridges in Greece and coastal Asia Minor" (1996). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9627888.