Trajan's Bridge

See also: Roman Dacia
Trajan's Bridge
Serbian: Trajanov most/ Трајанов мост
Romanian: Podul lui Traian

Am artist's interpretation of Trajan's Bridge depicted upon a light brown surface, with bridge stretching from near shore of river on the bottom left and the far shore in the top right.

Artistic reconstruction (1907)
Coordinates 44°37′26″N 22°40′01″E / 44.623769°N 22.66705°E / 44.623769; 22.66705Coordinates: 44°37′26″N 22°40′01″E / 44.623769°N 22.66705°E / 44.623769; 22.66705
Crosses Danube
Locale East of the Iron Gates, in Drobeta-Turnu Severin (Romania) and near the city of Kladovo (Serbia)
Heritage status Monuments of Culture of Exceptional Importance, and Archaeological Sites of Exceptional Importance,  Serbia
Material Wood and Stone
Total length 1,135 m (3,724 ft)
Width 15 m (49 ft)
Height 19 m (62 ft)
Number of spans 20 masonry pillars
Architect Apollodorus of Damascus
Construction begin 103 A.D.
Construction end 105 A.D.
Collapsed Superstructure destroyed by Aurelian

Trajan's Bridge (Serbian: Трајанов мост, Trajanov Most; Romanian: Podul lui Traian ) or Bridge of Apollodorus over the Danube was a Roman segmental arch bridge, the first bridge to be built over the lower Danube. Though it was only functional for a few decades, for more than 1,000 years it was the longest arch bridge in both total and span length.[1]

The bridge was constructed in 105 AD by instruction of Emperor Trajan by Greek architect Apollodorus of Damascus for the deployment of Roman troops during the conquest of Dacia.


Relief of the bridge on Trajan's Column showing the unusually flat segmental arches on high-rising concrete piers; in the foreground emperor Trajan sacrificing by the Danube

The bridge was situated East of the Iron Gates, near the present-day cities of Drobeta-Turnu Severin in Romania and Kladovo in Serbia. Its construction was ordered by the Emperor Trajan as a supply route for the Roman legions fighting in Dacia.

The structure was 1,135 m (3,724 ft) long (the Danube is now 800 m (2,600 ft) wide in that area), 15 m (49 ft) wide, and 19 m (62 ft) high, measured from the surface of the river. At each end was a Roman castrum, each built around an entrance, so that crossing the bridge was possible only by walking through the camps.

The bridge's engineer, Apollodorus of Damascus, used wooden arches, each spanning 38 m (125 ft), set on twenty masonry pillars made of bricks, mortar, and pozzolana cement.[2][3] It was built unusually quickly (between 103 and 105), employing the construction of a wooden caisson for each pier.[4]

Tabula Traiana

Photo of Tabula Traiana near Kladovo, Serbia.

A Roman memorial plaque ("Tabula Traiana"), 4 metres wide and 1.75 metres high, commemorating the completion of Trajan's military road is located on the Serbian side facing Romania near Ogradina. In 1972, when the Iron Gate I Hydroelectric Power Station was built, the plaque was moved from its original location, and lifted to the present place. It reads:

SVBLAT(i)S VIA(m) F(ecit)

The text was interpreted by Otto Benndorf to mean:

Emperor Caesar son of the divine Nerva, Nerva Trajan, the Augustus, Germanicus, Pontifex Maximus, invested for the fourth time as Tribune, Father of the Fatherland, Consul for the third time, excavating mountain rocks and using wood beams has made this road.

The Tabula Traiana was declared a Monument of Culture of Exceptional Importance in 1979, and is protected by the Republic of Serbia.

Destruction/erosion and remains

The ruins at the beginning of the 20th century, Romania.
The ruins in 2009, surrounded by a square concrete compound which was built to protect the monument from the rise of the water level following the construction of the Iron Gate I dam, Romania.

The wooden superstructure of the bridge was dismantled by Trajan's successor, Hadrian, in order to protect the empire from barbarian invasions from the North.[5]

The twenty pillars were still visible in 1856, when the level of the Danube hit a record low.

In 1906, the Commission of the Danube decided to destroy two of the pillars that were obstructing navigation.

In 1932, there were 16 pillars remaining underwater, but in 1982 only 12 were mapped by archaeologists; the other four had probably been swept away by water. Only the entrance pillars are now visible on either bank of the Danube.[6]

In 1979, Trajan's Bridge was added to the Monument of Culture of Exceptional Importance, and in 1983 on Archaeological Sites of Exceptional Importance list, and by that it is protected by Republic of Serbia.

Comparison of the side elevations of the Trajan's Bridge and some notable bridges at the same scale. (click for interactive version)

See also

The remains of the Drobeta fort on the left/north bank of the Danube (Romania), which secured access to Trajan's bridge. On the right/south bank of the Danube (Serbia) are the remains of the Pontes castrum, which served the same purpose.


  1. The bridge seems to have been surpassed in length by another Roman bridge across the Danube, Constantine's Bridge, a little-known structure whose length is given at 2,437 m (Tudor 1974b, p. 139; Galliazzo 1994, p. 319).
  2. The earliest identified Roman caisson construction was at Cosa, a small Roman colony north of Rome, where similar caissons formed a breakwater as early as the 2nd century BC: International Handbook of Underwater Archaeology, 2002.
  3. Fernández Troyano, Leonardo, "Bridge Engineering - A Global Perspective", Thomas Telford Publishing, 2003
  4. In the first century BC, Roman engineers had employed wooden caissons in constructing the Herodian harbour at Caesarea Maritima: Carol V. Ruppe, Jane F. Barstad, eds. International Handbook of Underwater Archaeology, 2002, "Caesarea" pp505f.
  5. Opper, Thorsten (2008), Hadrian: Empire and Conflict, Harvard University Press, p. 67, ISBN 9780674030954
  6. Romans Rise from the Waters

Further reading

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