Weakened the Minoan empire. There was no necessity for this configuration: the space between the ships being only three meters, the gap could easily have been bridged by the logs put from one ship to the next and parallel to the ropes. A pontoon bridge was constructed in 480 bc by Persian engineers to transport Xerxes’ invading army across the Hellespont (Dardanelles). The bridges were described by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus in his Histories, but little other evidence confirms Herodotus' story in this respect. 239-40), in about 513 Darius crossed the Bosporus into Europe (Shahbazi, 1982, pp. [43] The stamped earth must have had a thickness of at least 20 cm, otherwise it would have been broken up immediately under the horses' hooves. 232-35), marching over a pontoon bridge built by his Samian engineer, Mandrocles. One may question whether at that time it would have been possible to manufacture such huge amounts within a relatively short time. In the same way, part of the pontoon-bridge over the Danube, described also as a 'raft' (iv 97.1 and 98.3 xe56ftr), was removed and later replaced (iv 139.1 and 141). More modern armies, such as Napoleon’s, carried prefabricated pontoons of wood, copper, or other material either closed or open. In his writings, he describes the work of Persian Emperor, Darius, who built a 2 km pontoon bridge to cross the Bosphorus. A bridge deck of 3.60 m, ships with a beam of 4 m and a gap of 3 m to the next ship result in a surface area of 3.6 x 7 = 25.2 m2 to be borne by each ship. Jake Nabel In 39 CE, Caligula built a three-mile-long pontoon bridge in the Bay of Naples and rode back and forth over it in a procession lasting two days. Similar to ramps leading up to higher bridge decks the cables would have been lifted by racks fitted to the triremes and gradually increasing in height. This may lead to the assumption that the bridges told to have been destroyed by a storm were used by Herodotus only as a pretext for his vivid description in all details of an outburst of rage of the great king Xerxes and even to quote his furious speech in full. The crossing of the Hellespont took seven days and nights, the army using the northeasterly bridge and the huge crowd of attendants and baggage animals the southwesterly bridge. [42] In certain densely forested parts of the US and of Canada, however, wooden roads have been covered by a layer of earth to protect the wood from deteriorating, which appears to have provided some comfort for the horses and carriages. Mandrocles of Samos engineered a floating bridge for the Persian King Darius, in 513 BC for the expedition against the Scythes which accorded a Persian army of 700,000 safe passage over the Black Sea at the Bosphorus Straits.. Darius would take the empire to its greatest extent, but before he could accomplish that, he needed to establish his connection to the family. [9], After Herodotus hardly indicated the location of the pontoon bridge across the Bosphorus built some 30 years earlier by Xerxes' father Darius I, but did not provide any specific information about that bridge, the wealth of details given for the bridges across the Hellespont is astonishing and, upon cursory reading, seems to provide a clear picture. The surface current to the Mediterranean flows at an average speed of 1 1/2 knots but varies according to wind directions which may also cause the water level to rise by some 60 cm (2.0 ft). After the baggage train and beasts of burden, the rest of the host marched. The water buoyancy supports the boats, limiting the maximum load to the total and point buoyancy of the pontoons or boats.The supporting boats or floats can be open or closed, temporary or permanent in installation, and made of rubber, metal, wood, or concrete. A Ionian Greek in his army, Coes of Mytilene, objects to this and suggests not to cut off a possible line of retreat. However, upon closer examination, almost every detail of the bridges is the subject of discussions, doubts and questions. [8], After the crossing, the bridges were left behind. He is then said to have thrown fetters into the strait, given it three hundred whiplashes, and branded it with red-hot irons as the soldiers shouted at the water.[4]. Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree.... Pontoon bridge over the Martwa Vistula, Poland. Ships carrying a bridge should all have the same height in order to provide a flat bridge deck and thus, one may assume that the bridge consisted only of penteconters (if not of commercial ships) and that the larger and higher triremes were only used on either side of the passageways. After crossing the Hellespont on a pontoon bridge, the Persian army fought the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. The lowest oar ports of a trireme were about 30 cm above the waterline and were normally fitted with leather sleeves,[18] an aspect which does not really qualify them as a bridge carrier. That alone is sufficient to discard the occasional opinion that the ropes had been produced and delivered in manageable lengths and had been spliced together on the spot.[35]. A pontoon bridge is a collection of specialized, shallow draft boats or floats, connected together to cross a river or canal, with a track or deck attached on top. ATOSSA: From shore to shore he bridged the Hellespont. The total length of the Bosphorus bridge is 1560 m.The total length of the proposed bridge over Hellespont is 2196 m.Even if there's a point on the Hellespont where the distance between the two sides is shorter than the shortest distance between the Bosphorus, considering the turbulent waters of the Hellespont, why didn't Xerxes chose Bosphorus over Hellespont to make the crossing? This results in the length of these cables exceeding 2,200 m (2,400 yd). Xerxes was born about 518–519 BCE, the eldest son of Darius the Great (550 BCE–486 BCE) and his second wife Atossa. A canal crossing the Athos peninsula was constructed. Although earlier temporary ponto… Darius reorganized Persia into ___ _____ Persepolis. In addition, this setup would not have allowed to have a flat and even bridge deck. [6] Three openings were provided for the passage of small boats. If such ropes never had been produced, it is more than unlikely that the Persian general staff would have relied on a totally unknown method of production to be executed on swaying ships to build bridges of vital importance for the whole campaign, in particular since everybody involved was aware that any failure could result in his being beheaded. This crossing was named by Aeschylus in his tragedy The Persians as the cause of divine intervention against Xerxes. The Persian Emperor Darius used a 2 km pontoon bridge to cross the Bosphorus and Emperor Caligula built a 2 mi bridge at Baiae in 37 AD. Darius was the fourth king of the Achaemenid empire, but not directly descended from the founder Cyrus II (~600–530 BCE). A gap of 3 m seems to be reasonable. If they could not be kept in position by anchors because of the depth of the strait, they must have been held by cables reaching from shore to shore (no matter whether by a single long cable or by a series of cables). Because they obstruct navigation, floating bridges are limited in nonmilitary applications, yet several long-span floating bridges have been built in modern times. Herodotus' narrative should, perhaps, not be taken as … The decking may be temporary or permanent, and constructed out of wood, modular metal, o… At an average specific weight of 0.5 t/m3, this corresponds to a total weight of 855 tonnes. Most modern historians accept the building of the bridges as such, but practically all details related by Herodotus are subject to doubt and discussion. In addition, the anchorage is not safe: the long ropes cannot prevent the ships from swinging and colliding, in particular when eddies add to the confusion and long ropes get entangled. The actual weight of a talent and length of a cubit varied from place to place and during time, and there are different views of historians, but it may be taken as 26 kg/46 cm. When the Persian army has crossed into what is now Rumania, the king orders the bridge to be destroyed. It is left to speculation whether and to what extent ships, cables, ropes and logs were recovered, saved, repaired and reused. One assumes the width of Greek roads to have measured between 2.7 and 3.6 m (8.9 and 11.8 ft)[28] Thus, the width of the bridge can be taken as 3.6 m, allowing four soldiers abreast or two horsemen side by side. In order to avoid entangling, these ropes (like the parallel wires in the main cables of modern suspension bridges) might have been wrapped by some sort of sheets or ropes. The length of anchor ropes must be several times the depth of water in order to prevent damage to the ship caused by a jerking anchor rope and to prevent the anchor from dragging along the seabed. In ancient China, the Zhou Dynasty Chinese text of the Shi Jing (Book of Odes) records that King Wen of Zhou was the first to create a pontoon bridge in the 11th century BC. Darius threw similar bridges across the Bosphorus and the Danube in his war against the Scythians, and the Ten Thou sand employed a bridge of boats to cross the river Tigris in their retreat from Persia. The screens which Herodotus tells us to have been set up on either side of the bridge to block the horses' view on the water are imagined to have been 2.74 m (9.0 ft) tall, constructed out of tree limbs and with smaller limbs and other plants woven through these poles in order to make a solid wall. The location of the bridges between Abydos and near Sestos on the opposite shore, as indicated by Herodotus, is accepted by many historians. For this reason it is most likely that no one has ever tried to splice ropes of that diameter, so that it is not even known whether the idea would be feasible. Mycenaean. [7] Screens were put up on either side of the bridges to prevent the horses and other animals from panicking at the sight of the sea below. However, the shore at Abydos would not have been wide enough to accommodate two such bridges. In this context it does not matter whether a length of rope just extended from one ship to the next one or whether it reached across several ships. The modern trade offers Manila ropes of 200 m and a diameter of 60 mm with a weight of 2.49 kg/m or hemp ropes of 40 mm and 0.56 kg/m, whose breaking loads are 22 tonnes and 10 tonnes, respectively. Pontoon bridge, floating bridge, used primarily but not invariably for military purposes. [2], During the time Xerxes and his huge army were marching from Sardes to Abydos, then an important harbour on the Hellespont, two bridges were built from there to the opposite side near Sestos over a distance of seven stadia (some 1,300 m or 1,400 yd), but were destroyed by a storm before the army arrived. There is a further technical point: The addition of anchors and of cables reaching from shore to shore provides added holding power to the ships only in theory, i.e. Details in the play The Persians by Aeschylus, written in 472, less than a decade after the bridge is said to have been built, tend to corroborate the idea of it. The earliest types historically were pontoon bridges—. Sailors carefully prevent ropes from chafing or from being pressed by hard objects and thus try to avoid early deterioration of the ropes. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). In recent modern times, a mere wooden bridge deck on a pontoon bridge was considered perfectly satisfactory. The weight of a square meter is made up of 50 kg of logs and 360 kg of earth[44] adding up to 410 kg[45] As a result, each ship had to carry 25.2 m2 x 410 kg/m2 = 10,332 kg plus the weight of 4 x 7 = 28 Persons with luggage adding up to 2,520 kg, thus a total weight of some 13 tonnes which appears to be a reasonable load for the ships of that time. [32] Cables weighing that much cannot be handled, it is almost impossible to bend cables with such a diameter or to reel them on a cable drum - which probably did not yet exist at that time - or to put them into any other transportable condition. The strategic importance of pontoon bridges continued into the second half of the 20th Century, too. Darius had to commission a temporary one, a pontoon bridge of many boats - likewise, the bridge whereby he crossed the Ister (Danube) later on in the same campaign. Alexander the Great is said to have crossed the Oxus by rafts made of his soldiers’ tents of hide stuffed with straw. The presently narrowest part at Çanakkale appears to be beyond all question. Fol and Hammond, pp. Furthermore, large pontoonbridges appear to roll more distinctly than narrow ones and the horses, nervous from the outset, get even more frightened. Thus, there appears to be no alternative but to assume that the ships have been moored one to the other in a long curve by a number of ropes of normal, commercial quality as usually produced at that time, and that gaps of some 3 meters have been left between the ships. When a part of the Persian army later retreated to the Hellespont, they only found the debris of the bridges destroyed by another storm. A pontoon bridge was constructed in 480 bc by Persian engineers to transport … Darius reaches the Danube, where the allied Ionian Greeks have already built a bridge. On top, the earth would have accumulated in the center of the sags and thus increased the local load on the ropes. 232-35), marching over a pontoon bridge built by his Samian engineer, Mandrocles. There are shoals to the south and to the west of Nara Point, but the depth in the center of the strait is as much as 103 m (338 ft). 239-40), in about 513 Darius crossed the Bosporus into Europe (Shahbazi, 1982, pp. The preparation of the bridges lasted months, if not years. It connected the two shores of the Bosphorus at the narrowest point, where the width of the Bosphorus did not exceed 660 meters. Pontoon bridges across rivers are usually held in position by anchors fastened to the bow and stern of each boat[19] and thus, at a first glance, Herodotus' description appears to be correct. Abydos, the town mentioned by Herodotus, was north of Çanakkale on the Asiatic shore near Nara Burnu (formerly Nagara) (40°11′47″N 26°24′52″E / 40.19639°N 26.41444°E / 40.19639; 26.41444). Pontoon Bridges Built For Civilian Use . Pontoon bridges placed by Union forces across the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg in December 1862. Hammonds (p.99) uses a cubit of 52,7 cm and a practical rule of thumb taken from Robert Chapman, Hammond (p. 101) describes the mooring by way of an. [3] Xerxes was enraged and had those responsible for building the bridges beheaded. In front, from left: Henry Hunt, Winfield Hancock, Darius Couch, Burnside, Orlando Willcox, and John Buford. Although Herodotus appears to be clear in saying that the initial bridges were destroyed by a storm,[50] very little information can be derived from this phrase. and Ohio R.R. However, the depth of the strait is not mentioned at all in his Histories. Built the first pontoon bridge. The British Major-General Frederick Barton Maurice, on a visit to the area in 1922, considered a beach further north to be the only acceptable location for a bridge from a military point of view; but there, the distance across is more than 3 km (3,280 yards). No sooner the first bridges are mentioned in a single short phrase than they are told to have been destroyed, whereas the construction of the replacement bridges is reported almost in every little detail, but without a word about the time consumed in this exercise. According to Herodotus, the bridge was made of 676 ships stationed in two parallel rows with their keels in the direction of the current. Barker, p. 30; Hammond, p. 93 in the little chart, Barker (p. 34) talks about large blocks of stone, This is not the place to discuss the different types of stadia and the various views on their length. If this had been a cabled bridge, the cables would have been left in position. However, the historian Joseph Needham has pointed out that in all likely scenarios, the temporary pontoon bridge was invented during the 9th or 8th century BC in China, as this part was perhaps a later addition to the book (considering how the book had been edited up until the Han Dynasty, 202 BC – 220 AD). The three openings for the passage of small ships probably have been made by inserting higher triremes into the line of penteconters or commercial vessels. This article was most recently revised and updated by, https://www.britannica.com/technology/pontoon-bridge. being on the left, or Virginia shore. After Herodotus hardly indicated the location of the pontoon bridge across the Bosphorus built some 30 years earlier by Xerxes' father Darius I, but did not provide any specific information about that bridge, the wealth of details given for the bridges across the Hellespont is astonishing and, upon cursory reading, seems to provide a clear picture. Pontoon bridge, floating bridge, used primarily but not invariably for military purposes. In that play, Atossa, the mother of Xerxes, learns of what a disaster her son's invasion of Greece has been. Ships in the center of the strait would thus have had to use anchor ropes with a length of several hundred meters each. New bridges were constructed by lashing penteconters and triremes together. Notable examples are concrete-pontoon bridges over Lake Washington (Seattle, Wash.), 6,560 feet (2,000 m) long; over the Derwent (Tasmania), 3,165 feet (965 m) long; and over the Golden Horn (Istanbul), 1,500 feet (460 m) long. if the ships' tension on the anchor ropes and on the cables is exactly equal, but in practice, it is not possible to tune them to such a degree, especially not under the influence of changing winds, currents, eddies and undercurrents. only naval vessels, were used for the bridges. Herodotus is clear in telling us that only penteconters and triremes, i.e. "The construction of Xerxes' bridge over the Hellespont", https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Xerxes%27_Pontoon_Bridges&oldid=989827242, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 21 November 2020, at 07:32. Wooden planks were laid across the cables, and brushwood and soil used to cover the planks and form a dirt roadway. A pontoon bridge, or floating bridge, is a bridge that floats on water using temporary structures rather than pillars. Only when he describes the bridges rebuilt after the storm he gives a single indication saying that the weight of the cables made of white flax was one talent per cubit what roughly translates into 26 kg/46 cm[30] or 56.5 kg per meter. [34], Since such cables or ropes cannot be handled and, therefore, have no practical field of application, it cannot be assumed that any ropemaker in antiquity has ever produced such a cable. It was dangerous to cross the strait by boat because of heavy fog and treacherous currents, so Darius lashed boats together until he had made a floating pontoon bridge 3,000 feet [900 m] long. Today, you don’t have to go to as much trouble as Darius did to cross the strait. Even if iron anchors existed already then,[22][23] it is unlikely that the iron manufacturing was capable to produce some 183 tonnes of iron anchors. Omissions? But when more than half of this rather motley assemblage had passed, the truly Persian troops started to appear. For Emperor Darius I The Great of Persia (522 BC–485 BC), the Greek Mandrocles of Samos once engineered a pontoon bridge that stretched across the Bosporus, linking Asia to Europe, so that Darius could pursue the fleeing Scythians as well as move his army into position in the Balkans to overwhelm Macedon. [26] Similar to the curves of the main cables in modern suspension bridges, the cables would have been some 5 to 10% longer than the distance between the shores - plus some lengths for fastening them on shore and on the ships. [33] Herodotus appears to talk about undivided cables reaching from shore to shore. If the beam of a penteconter is taken to be 4 m (13 ft),[22] the bridge consisting of 314 ships spread across 2,200 m would show gaps of some 3 m (9.8 ft), if the openings made by triremes are disregarded. - Couch, Darius Nash--Military service ... and the Pontoon bridge, is taken some two miles above Harpers Ferry, the Balt. The length of seven stadia or some 1,300 m[24] as indicated by Herodotus is too short in any event. The Greek engineer Mandrocles, a native of the island of Samos, built a floating pontoon bridge on behalf of the Persian king Darius the First (552–485 BC). This would have given them the appearance of one extremely thick and heavy cable as described in the Histories. The idea of the cables having been produced on the ships already lined up for the bridge[36] does not appear to be feasible, either. The U.S. Army in the 19th century experimented with pneumatic rubber pontoons and discarded them as less serviceable than wood or metal but returned to their use in an improved form serviced by air compressors during World War II. At present, the narrowest part of the Dardanelles between Çanakkale and Kilitbahir (.mw-parser-output .geo-default,.mw-parser-output .geo-dms,.mw-parser-output .geo-dec{display:inline}.mw-parser-output .geo-nondefault,.mw-parser-output .geo-multi-punct{display:none}.mw-parser-output .longitude,.mw-parser-output .latitude{white-space:nowrap}40°8′38.32″N 26°23′23.45″E / 40.1439778°N 26.3898472°E / 40.1439778; 26.3898472) is about 1.4 km (1,530 yards) wide and has a maximum depth of 91 m (299 ft). The bridge consists of various elements joined together; it is anchored to the shore and often fixed at several points to the bed as well.. [47] Pontoon bridges of the last centuries have shown that it is entirely sufficient to have simple guardrails made of wooden lattices or ropes in order to keep the horses on the bridge.[48]. Anchors were lowered at either end of the boats to keep them in place and cables, alternatively made of white flax and papyrus, were stretched from shore to shore to hold the boats together and were tightened by large winches. Hoyer (p.390) recommends for the sake of stability that gaps should not exceed 6 m even if strong and thick boards are used. Minos. This would have been a better basis for the road and would not have had any bad influence on the ropes. The city maintained independence as a city-state until it was annexed by Darius I in 512 BC into the Persian Empire, who saw the site as the optimal location to construct a pontoon bridge crossing into Europe as Byzantium was situated at the narrowest point … It also does not matter whether it was sufficient to do the mooring by using just one rope at the bow and at the stern. [29], The orders made in the preparatory phase to produce cables for the bridges are mentioned by Herodotus in a rather casual way like orders for larger quantities of standard merchandise. The Persian Emperor Darius used a 2-kilometre (1.2 mi) pontoon bridge to cross the Bosphorus and Emperor Caligula built a 2-mile (3.2 km) bridge at Baiae in 37 AD. Last, but not least, it seems to be impossible to find the right points for dropping the anchors so that their long lines would hold the ships properly lined up across the strait. As the ships could easily unstep their masts, a clearance of about 2 meters above the water level should have been sufficient for merchant ships to pass underneath. Questions about the bridges are summarized by N.G.L. Ring in the new year with a Britannica Membership - Now 30% off. The total of 674 ships would not only have required 1348 heavy anchors,[21] but also some 300 km of anchor ropes. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. This corresponds to a total weight of 855 tonnes Bosphorus did not yet exist, the Persian fought... Placed by Union forces across the cables of such enormous lengths by windlasses as described by.. Ponto… the strategic importance of pontoon bridges placed by Union forces across the cables of is. Bridges continued into the second half of the sags and thus increased the load... Play, Atossa, the depth of the Black Sea Pilot, p. 30: River... 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