Monday, June 8, 2009

Resilient Structures

Even in these technologically advanced times, the massive Roman structures of the first century impress. Perhaps the Romans' most astounding feats were related to their ability to move water. After the fall of the Empire, it would take Western Civilization a thousand years match the Roman understanding of hydrology and sanitation. One important aqueduct of southern France brought fresh spring water nearly 50km from northern highlands to Nîmes. On the way the ancient engineers had to build a 300 yard long bridge over the Gardon River.

In the middle ages, the Pont du Gard served as a pedestrian bridge across the river bed. At one point in history, the middle level of arches were chiseled back to provide a wider platform for horse cart traffic. Fortunately, the bridge has survived that defacement and centuries of forceful river surges. Making the story of its original engineering even more incredible is the fact that it was constructed without the use of mortar. Click here for more photos of the Pont du Gard.
Water carried across the Pont du Gard helped Nîmes become a thriving city, large enough to warrant its own amphitheater for gladiatorial entertainment. Remarkably, the amphitheater of Nîmes is still used today for entertainment. On the day we visited, the stadium was packed to watch bull fighting. Later this summer we may be able to catch Franz Ferdinand in concert there. Click here for more photos of Nîmes.
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This work by Ken Maschke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.