Where is the Oldest Bridge in the World?

An illustration of the world's oldest bridge in Turkey.
An illustration of the world's oldest bridge in Turkey.

Bridges are structures that provide passage over numerous obstacles like roads, a body of water, and valleys by spanning over them without obstructing the way beneath them. There are multiple types of bridges, including the truss, arch, suspension, tied arch, cantilever, beam, and moveable bridges among others. These structures vary in design depending on materials used, the terrain, and the function of the bridge. Bridges were initially used in Mesopotamia during ancient times, and since then the design of bridges has evolved and spread to other parts of the world. According to the Guinness World Records, the oldest bridge in the world that is still in use to date is the Caravan Bridge in Izmir, Turkey. 

A Brief History of Bridges

Initially, bridges were simple structures constructed using accessible materials such as dirt, stone, and wooden logs. These structures could only span over short distances. Bridge construction evolved when the Romans discovered that ground volcanic rocks could be used to make mortar. The discovery of mortar made it possible for the Romans to build larger and sturdier structures.

Another defining success of the Roman bridge design was the discovery of arches. Arches made it possible for people to produce lighter, cheaper, and more powerful bridges using local materials with the only thing imported from Italy being mortar dust. Currently, bridges are made using a combination of cables, iron, and concrete. They are built from small sizes to an incredible length which can span over an entire sea, lake or a mountain. The architects of the eighteenth century built their bridges using cast iron. Iron ore made it possible for them to invent new bridge designs like truss systems.

The Oldest Bridge in the World 

The oldest bridge in the world is a single arch slab-stone bridge that spans over Meles River in Izmir, Turkey, previously known as Smyrna. The simple bridge has been in continuous use since it was built in 850 BC. The 3,000-year-old bridge is the oldest manmade structure in use as well as the oldest standing bridge in the world. The bridge was made using stones, and it was crossed by Saint Paul and Homer.

The site served as a custom gate of Smyrna, and all the travelers stopped on the bridge to rest and enjoy the scenery. There are numerous remnants of the Mycenaean bridge which still exists to date in Mycenae, Greece which spans over River Havoc. These bridges are believed to have been constructed back in 1600 BC.

River Meles is a famous stream that is associated with the birthplace and work of Homer. The river flowed through the city of Smyrna. Homer is a legendary poet who wrote "The Odyssey" and "The Iliad". Homer’s mother named him Melesigenes after she gave birth to him on River Meles’s banks. The Caravan Bridge and River Meles featured in Homer’s poem. Homer’s figure is found on some of the ancient Smyrna coins. The cave where Homer composed his poems was near the source of Meles River while his temple was erected on its banks.


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