The research team, coordinated by prof. Ioan Carol Opriș, PhD, teaching staff at the Faculty of History of the University of Bucharest
New data on one of the longest bridges of antiquity, the bridge over the Danube built by Emperor Constantine the Great between Oescus (Ghighen, Bulgaria) and Sucidava (Celei, Corabia), have recently been published in an interdisciplinary study.
During the research, 27 possible traces (pillars) of the Bridge of Constantine the Great built between Oescus and Sucidava were initially identified and, subsequently, another 7 anomalies (pillars) due to the Constantinian bridge, over a length of about 210 m.
Specifically, as part of this complex research, the specialists carried out bathymetric measurements with multibeam sonar in 2017, identifying 27 possible traces (pillars) of the Bridge of Constantine the Great built between Oescus and Sucidava. The traces of the pillars are clearly distinguishable on the bottom of the Danube, along a linear route of 820 m, with an average distance of about 30 m in between them. The data available until now are thus far outdated: Grigore Tocilescu learned from local fishermen about the existence of “7 vâltori” in 1893, while a first bathymetry of the Romanian Hydraulic Service in 1933 had detected only three of the pillars.
In addition, the complementary magnetometry investigations, carried out in the fall of 2022, starting from the northern portal of the bridge (known archaeologically since the 19th century by Cezar Bolliac and Grigore Tocilescu) towards the left bank of the Danube, have identified other 7 anomalies (pillars) due to the Constantinian bridge, over a length of about 210 m. Their alignment with the northern portal and the masonry piles highlighted by the bathymetry carried out through Danube is rigorous. Likewise, the distance between the piers was found to be identical to the rhythm revealed by bathymetry. The recent magnetometry measurements were financed by the thematic project 41PFE/30.12.2021 – “Cluster of excellence for interdisciplinary research of tangible and intangible heritage within the University of Bucharest” (ACCENT).
Based on both ancient literary sources and sources resulting from successive archaeological excavations (from 1869 until today), including numismatic (coins, medallions), epigraphic (inscriptions), cartographic and ethnographic sources, the research of archival funds, the study brings together in a critical sense the entire acknowledged historical documentation on the bridge built in the summer of 328. At the same time, the study is based on the use of the results of modern measurement methods: bathymetry, carried out in 2017 through the Danube, and geo-magnetometry, carried out in 2022 in the meadow area from the left bank of the river, today communal grassland.Bathymetry, as a method, is both a branch of hydrometry, because it deals with measuring the depth of water in seas, lakes, rivers; in the current case, as well a set of technical methods for determining the depth and flow speed of a water course. As for magnetometry, it aims at another type of investigation, this time for land, and involves the characterization of the subsoil by studying the local variation of the magnetic field.
The magnetic method highlights the magnetic anomalies (magnetic contrasts) that the archaeological materials resulting from human action generate. Soil affected by habitation and human activities is generally more magnetic.Due to the flow speed and low visibility in the water of the Danube, very high-resolution bathymetry is currently the only suitable method for running waters and in particular for the metrological and integrity investigation of the components of the ancient ensemble of universal value from Oescus-Sucidava. Spectacular and efficient, in line with the spirit of modern research, these new methods and increasingly efficient, non-invasive technologies prove to be essential for underwater archaeological research in the inland rivers and the Danube, or for objectives on the continental highland of Black Sea. Moreover, the researchers within the project intend to continue and diversify scientific investigations, in the direction of exhaustive knowledge and documentation, aimed at protecting and exploiting the submerged heritage.The research team, coordinated by prof. Ioan Carol Opriș, PhD, teaching staff at the Faculty of History of the University of Bucharest, included several established researchers, mostly alumni of the University of Bucharest, who are active today in Marine Research, PhD students and other specialists from the Museum of National History of Romania – Limes National Program, “Lucian Blaga” University in Sibiu or the Museum of National History and Archeology in Constanța. The documentation was supported by the Manuscripts and Rare Book Section of the Library of the Romanian Academy.
The inauguration of the bridge (Pons per Danuvium Ductus) built in 328 will have happened, very probably, on July 5, 328, when the emperor’s presence at Oescus is mentioned by ancient literary sources. The bridge stretched across the Danube bed and over the meadow in front of Sucidava for a distance of over 2400 m.The steps in the near future will be a new bathymetry at Sucidava, with a sediment scan using state-of-the-art instruments, the sampling of the submerged piers of the bridge and the resumption of the magneto-metric investigation in the previously inaccessible area to document the entire route of the Constantinian bridge.A similar approach will be applied in 2023 to the exhaustive redocumentation of Traian’s bridge between Pontes – Drobeta. It was built between 103-105 by the architect Apollodorus of Damascus, strategically supporting the bellum Dacicum Traiani.The first results of the recently completed research can be found in the journal Cercetări Archeologice no. 29/2, 2022, published under the auspices of the National History Museum of Romania: Ioan Carol OPRIȘ1, Alexandru Dan IONESCU2, Adrian Constantin SURLEANU2, Andrei Eugen STĂNIȘTEANU2, Mihai DRAGOMIR2, Cătălin George SIMION2, Alexandru Ioan CERCEL2, Vicentiu SPERIATU3, Cătălin DOBRINESCU4, Adrian ȘERBĂNESCU1, Vlad CĂLINA5 – Pons per Danuvium ductus. New data on the bridge of Constantine the Great between Oescus and Sucidava, Archaeological Research, 29.2, 2022, p. 631-664, https://doi.org/10.46535/ca.29.2.11/.
1. University of Bucharest
2. SC Marine Research SRL, Bucharest
3. “Lucian Blaga” University, Sibiu
4. Constanța National History and Archeology Museum
5. National History Museum of Romania – LIMES National Program
The full study can also be accessed here.