Rome’s Oldest Bridge: Pons Fabricius

Rome‘s historic monuments are so plentiful that it’s hard to take it all in during one trip. There’s just so much to see, and everywhere you look there’s something ancient. It’s kind of overwhelming. So, in the process of checking off all those important buildings and ruins, you might overlook the city’s oldest bridge. It’s worth mentioning, though, as it’s a relic from ancient Rome.

The Pons Fabricius, as it was known in ancient Rome, is the oldest Roman bridge in the city. There are two broad arches holding up the bridge, and a smaller more decorative arch in the pillar where the two arches meet in the middle. It was built in 62 BCE, and it still stands in its original location and its original state – the latter of which is somewhat rare for structures that are as old as the bridge.

Pons Fabricius || creative commons photo by MatthiasKabel

Pons Fabricius || creative commons photo by MatthiasKabel

The stone bridge you see today was built on the site of a wooden bridge which had been destroyed in a fire. The man in the Roman government at the time who was responsible for the construction of roads and bridges was named Fabricius, and so the bridge took his name. A flood in 23 BCE damaged the bridge and some repairs on the brickwork were required, but to date those are the only major repairs or changes to the Pons Fabricius. It has been in constant use since it opened, and you can still walk on the bridge today.

It stretches from the eastern side of the Tiber (the one with the Colosseum) to Tiber Island in the middle of the river. Another Roman bridge, Pons Cestius, connects Tiber Island with the western side of the city (the one with the Vatican). Tiber Island is historically considered a place of medicine, so would have attracted many seeking guidance and healing when the bridge was first constructed. Today, there is still an operational hospital on the island, and the island is also home to a popular summer film festival.

1976 image of Pons Fabricius || creative commons photo by Nicholas Hartmann

1976 image of Pons Fabricius || creative commons photo by Nicholas Hartmann

In Italian, the bridge is known as the Ponte Fabricio or the Ponte dei Quattro Capi. The former refers to its Latin name, while the latter – “quattro capi” means “four heads” – refers to two pillars that each depict the two-faced Roman god Janus. Those statues weren’t on the original bridge, but were moved there in the 14th century.

A few Rome tours include the Pons Fabricius, either while exploring Trastevere or the Jewish Ghetto, or while visiting Tiber Island. There are affiliate links to a few of those tours below, which means I get a little something if you book through these links – but it won’t cost you anything extra. Thanks.

3 responses to “Rome’s Oldest Bridge: Pons Fabricius”

  1. Greg Speck says:

    On October 3rd I walked down the river from our apartment near Campo de Fiore and came upon the island. The bridge was very interesting but I had no idea of the history until your post! Thanks for a great post.

  2. Francesco D'Arcangeli says:

    Yes indeed.
    My fellow citizens (I am from Rome) built things to last 😀 sadly, their modern counterparts seem to have forgotten this.
    You’re right – Rome can be overwhelming to take in one trip only, since even the roads you walk on have history.
    62 BCE… basically older than ANY STATE in the world!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.