The world is full of highways that run over rivers or valleys. For centuries, they have been made passable by bridges. There are tens of thousands in America, from 17th-century ones in New England to colossal ones like the Golden Gate Bridge. As is true with most things, American bridges are new by global and historic measures.
When people began building bridges, civilization took a giant leap forward. The construction of bridges represented mobility, increased awareness of other cultures and offered commercial opportunity. They helped make possible mega-cities in the ancient world in China and the Roman Empire.
The oldest bridges are marvels because of their use of local materials, curved arches and sophisticated engineering techniques, and also the fact that they have borne witness to so much history. Unfortunately, others have been lost to natural disasters, such as floods and some of the worst earthquakes of all time, or to wars.
The oldest bridges are found in China and areas of the former Roman Empire, such as Turkey, Greece and Spain. You will not find any bridges from the United States on the list. The oldest bridge in the United States is the Frankford Avenue Bridge, also known by other names, which was erected in 1697 in northeast Philadelphia.
24/7 Tempo picked the oldest bridges still in use. Some bridges that are hundreds of years old are actually newer versions of even older structures that span gorges, estuaries, inlets and rivers. Virtually all the bridges we considered are well known and have had some kind of reconstruction work.
The oldest bridge in the world is Arkadiko Bridge. Here are the details:
- When built: c. 1300 to 1190 BCE
- Location: Argolis, Greece
- Who built it: Mycenaean Greeks
- Length: 72 feet
Even something ancient can still be useful. The Mycenaean Bridge at Kazarma was built more than 3,000 years ago during the Bronze Age and is still used by modern Greeks. The arch bridge is an impressive feat of engineering, as it does not use any binding agent to hold itself together. It also was built with curbs, presumably to keep speeding chariots from falling off. Moreover, the bridge was wider than the roads of the time to accommodate chariots.
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