The Roman bridge aqueduct was built around AD 60 and is considered a masterpiece of Roman engineering. It is part of the 50 km long aqueduct that once supplied Nîmes, the ancient Nemausus, with drinking water. With a length of 275 m and a height of almost 50 m, the Pont du Gard impressively spans the deep rock valley. The construction consists of three floors, the uppermost of which carried the actual water pipe.
Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard: facts
|Official title:||Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard|
|Cultural monument:||at a height of 49 m a 275 m long three-storey aqueduct over the Gardon valley, “basement” with six 15 to 24 m wide arches, “middle” with eleven arches and “upper storey” with 35 small arches that support the aqueduct; Covered water channel 1.45 m deep and 1.22 m wide|
|Location:||northeast of Nîmes|
|Meaning:||a masterpiece of Roman engineering|
Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard: history
|1st century BC Chr.||Construction on behalf of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, son-in-law of the Emperor Augustus and administrator of Gaul|
|5th century||partial decay|
|Middle of the 18th century||Widening of the »basement« and use as a viaduct|
|19th century||Restoration under Napoleon III.|
The most beautiful »aqueduct« in the world
“The soul sees itself in a long and deep astonishment; I don’t think I even thought I was dreaming like this in front of the Colosseum in Rome, «wrote the essayist and novelist Stendhal – now regarded as the most influential French author of the 19th century – after a tour of the Pont du Gard. Deeply impressed, he noted in his travel diary: “Nothing distracts the mind. So all attention is inevitably directed to this work of the royal people that stands before you. It seems to me that this building looks like sublime music. It is an experience for a chosen few spirits; the others just think in admiration of the sums of money he must have cost. ”
Exactly how much money went into the construction of the Pont du Gard is not known, only what is known is that a total of 1,000 people were employed for three years to complete this imposing Roman aqueduct. Three rows of arcades span the Gardon river at a height of almost 49 meters. The ashlar stones used for the construction, weighing up to six tons, were cut so precisely that they could be joined together by mutual pressure without mortar. The different widths of the arches, decreasing from the center, make the structure more stable; In addition, the aqueduct describes a slight curve so that it can better withstand the water masses of the Gardon, which swell in spring.
According to ethnicityology, The Pont du Gard is only part of a 50-kilometer-long aqueduct that supplied the Roman metropolis of Nîmes with the drinking water that is now known as the »Perrier«. It comes from the Eure spring, which rises near Uzès. To properly appreciate this unique engineering achievement, one has to know that the Romans used a gradient with this building that is only 17 meters between the spring on the edge of the Cevennes and Nîmes; that’s only a 34 centimeter gradient per kilometer. In order to maintain the gradient, mountains had to be bypassed and in some cases tunneled under, and a total of seven river valleys had to be overcome. It was particularly difficult to lead the water pipe over the deeply cut valley of the Gardon.
At that time, more than 20,000 cubic meters of water could be brought in every day to supply thermal baths, private baths and public cisterns; it was not until the beginning of the 20th century that Nîmes received a similarly powerful aqueduct. “In matters to which the Greeks paid little attention, such as the construction of roads, aqueducts and sewers, the Romans showed wise foresight,” wrote the well-traveled Greek historian and geographer Strabo. In view of the Pont du Gard, one has to agree with the author of the “Geographica”, a multi-volume edition of travelogues from Germany, Britain, Asia and Africa at the time of antiquity.
The numerous stone protrusions prove that the Pont du Gard was a purely functional building despite its aesthetic appeal; they were used to secure the scaffolding and were not removed for later necessary repairs. One looks in vain for various decorations, friezes and inscriptions. The aqueduct underwent a structural change in the first half of the 18th century, when the lower floor was widened in order to be able to use it as a bridge for carts. Fortunately, this conversion did not damage the visual effect of the Pont du Gard. The arcades shimmer golden yellow in the afternoon sun, as if the Romans had just finished their work.