Persian pontoon bridge (5th century BC)

Persian pontoon bridge (5th century BC)

King Darius as well as Xerxes built pontoon bridges across the Bosphorus for the Persian army.

History

Keywords

raft bridge, Persian Empire, Bosphorus, Darius I, Xerxes, pontoon bridge, Europe, Asia Minor, galley, continent, Herodotus, war, Hellespont, Dardanelles, strait, military campaign, warfare, antiquity

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Narration

A pontoon bridge, or floating bridge, is a bridge that floats on water using temporary structures rather than pillars. 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.

If the pontoon bridge is made up of boats, it is called a bridge of boats. Pontoon bridges have been constructed since ancient times, especially in wartime. The Greek historian Herodotus also described these constructions in his Histories.
The best examples of pontoon bridges are those of Xerxes, which were built across the Hellespont during the Persian invasion of Greece.

The Hellespont, known today as the Dardanelles, is a strait connecting the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara in present-day Turkey. The strait is 61 kilometers (37.9 miles) long and 1,200 to 6,000 meters (3,937 to 19,690 feet) wide. It is the geographical divide between Europe and Asia.

According to various sources, in 480 BC, the Persian army lashed together 600 galleys with ropes and joists. Wooden planks were laid across the joists then covered with soil to create a bridge deck. The sides of the planks were covered with brushwood to make the crossing safer and easier for animals.

According to legend, Poseidon, the ‘God of the Sea,’ sent a storm that destroyed Xerxes’ first pontoon bridge. The enraged Xerxes ordered the sea to be whipped and had a second bridge constructed. After the second bridge was built, his army successfully crossed the Hellespont, but the campaign was eventually lost, as the Persian army could not conquer Greece.

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