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Old 24th April 2022, 04:53 AM   #1
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Caesar's Rhine bridges

Casting a skeptical eye to history, what evidence exists that Caesar actually built bridges across the Rhine? The claims are quite extraordinary: That Caesar's army built a bridge across the Rhine in just 10 days using nothing more than local timber (which had to be cut down first).

Oh, BTW, he had the bridges dismantled afterwards so the "bad guys" couldn't use it, so you just have to take Caesar's word for it that he really built them.

I seems to be taken at face value by most historians that this actually happened. Given the fact Caesar wasn't exactly immune to exaggerating his accomplishments for political advantage, how can we be sure this ever really happened? Especially in 10 days! It just seems absurd.

I am more than happy to be proven wrong, because I am genuinely interested in finding out how we know this is true, but I can never really come up with anything beyond "someone said so".
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Old 24th April 2022, 05:25 AM   #2
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I thought the Romans transported engineering materials like timbers pre-cut to build standard structures. So is the historical claim that they built a bridge from scratch in 10 days using local materials or could they have taken 10 days constructing a bridge after spending considerably longer bringing up supplies of parts?

I only vaguely remember the story. Is there more to it than the basic claim they built a bridge in that time?
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Old 24th April 2022, 05:31 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Jack by the hedge View Post
or could they have taken 10 days constructing a bridge after spending considerably longer bringing up supplies of parts?
Every telling of the story I have heard/read is that it was from scratch in 10 days using local timber. This is what is always exclaimed to be the "extraordinary" (with no hint of skepticism) part of the story.
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Old 24th April 2022, 06:59 AM   #4
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The alternative is that Caesar got his army to swim across the Rhine. I find that significantly less plausible.
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Old 24th April 2022, 07:26 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Cosmic Yak View Post
The alternative is that Caesar got his army to swim across the Rhine. I find that significantly less plausible.
More plausible would be that he did nothing. His visits across the Rhine were brief, and had no significant result.

He may have also used boats, which apparently were available.
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Old 24th April 2022, 08:11 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by qarnos View Post
Every telling of the story I have heard/read is that it was from scratch in 10 days using local timber. This is what is always exclaimed to be the "extraordinary" (with no hint of skepticism) part of the story.
He did have some 8 legions under his command. That’s at least 24,000 able bodied laborers. Even accounting for the need for patrols, foraging, it doesn’t seem that odd. He could have the heavy labor working round the clock once the engineers set things in place.
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Old 24th April 2022, 08:53 AM   #7
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Doesn’t sound too far-fetched to me. I’m not familiar with the details of the historical story, but nothing in the time frame suggests impossibility.

First, keep in mind that a temporary bridge is a far thing from a full-on bridge. Building it to last a few days or weeks is much easier than building one to last years.

Second, having been a military combat engineer, we used to put up Bailey bridges or pontoon bridges in a matter of hours. And that’s with a handful of people. While those used pre-formed modern materials, the same concepts could be adapted to older materials and methods. The Bailey bridge is basically build on land then pushed out over rollers to extend over the water. A pontoon bridge needs only a few boats and some planks.

I’d want more details, but the time frame seems feasible. Especially with the manpower he had available.


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Old 24th April 2022, 09:40 AM   #8
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The single source appears to be Julius Caesar's own commentary on the Gallic Wars (written in the third person). Project Gutenberg provides a translation, from which this paragraph seems to be the entire description of the first bridge being built:

Quote:
XVII.—Caesar, for those reasons which I have mentioned, had resolved to cross the Rhine; but to cross by ships he neither deemed to be sufficiently safe, nor considered consistent with his own dignity or that of the Roman people. Therefore, although the greatest difficulty in forming a bridge was presented to him, on account of the breadth, rapidity, and depth of the river, he nevertheless considered that it ought to be attempted by him, or that his army ought not otherwise to be led over. He devised this plan of a bridge. He joined together at the distance of two feet, two piles, each a foot and a half thick, sharpened a little at the lower end, and proportioned in length to the depth of the river. After he had, by means of engines, sunk these into the river, and fixed them at the bottom, and then driven them in with rammers, not quite perpendicularly, like a stake, but bending forward and sloping, so as to incline in the direction of the current of the river; he also placed two [other piles] opposite to these, at the distance of forty feet lower down, fastened together in the same manner, but directed against the force and current of the river. Both these, moreover, were kept firmly apart by beams two feet thick (the space which the binding of the piles occupied), laid in at their extremities between two braces on each side; and in consequence of these being in different directions and fastened on sides the one opposite to the other, so great was the strength of the work, and such the arrangement of the materials, that in proportion as the greater body of water dashed against the bridge, so much the closer were its parts held fastened together. These beams were bound together by timber laid over them in the direction of the length of the bridge, and were [then] covered over with laths and hurdles; and in addition to this, piles were driven into the water obliquely, at the lower side of the bridge, and these serving as buttresses, and being connected with every portion of the work, sustained the force of the stream: and there were others also above the bridge, at a moderate distance; that if trunks of trees or vessels were floated down the river by the barbarians for the purpose of destroying the work, the violence of such things might be diminished by these defences, and might not injure the bridge.
And Caesar's claim of 10 days flat, using local materials is the very next sentence:
Quote:
XVIII.—Within ten days after the timber began to be collected, the whole work was completed, and the whole army led over.

Last edited by Jack by the hedge; 24th April 2022 at 09:43 AM.
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Old 24th April 2022, 10:28 AM   #9
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They would have cut the timber as they needed it but think of it being built with logs in the round, not reduced to planks etc.

Roman legions were used for engineering when they weren't fighting. They were skilled at building earthworks, stone walling and timber construction. It was the legionaries that built Hadrian's Wall and all the forts along it.

8 Legions would have included hundreds of specialist engineers to do the 'technical' work with many tens of thousands of legionaries to do the physical stuff. Every legionary had a Dolabra axe as part of his kit. one side of the head was an entrenching tool, the other a sharp woodcutting axe, they would have made short work of timber for a bridge.

Iron spikes, brackets and miles of rope were part of a legions baggage train, ready for building fortifications and bridges where they were needed. There was also a lot of preformed timbers in the baggage ready to use in any construction.
There are the remains of several roman bridges near where I live, including a wooden and later stone Roman bridges across the Tees at Piercebridge. Some of the timbers that formed the piles of one of the wooden bridge can still be seen in the river bed.
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Old 24th April 2022, 09:56 PM   #10
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There are bridges and there are bridges.

Roman armies would build and use pontons to move across rivers when on campaign.
That way, a Legion could cross a large river in only 10 days.

Once they had pacified the place, they would build solid bridges for travel.

i think this is where the confusion comes from.
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Old 25th April 2022, 12:58 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Jack by the hedge View Post
The single source appears to be Julius Caesar's own commentary on the Gallic Wars (written in the third person). Project Gutenberg provides a translation, from which this paragraph seems to be the entire description of the first bridge being built:

Quote:
Quote:
XVII.—Caesar, for those reasons which I have mentioned, had resolved to cross the Rhine; but to cross by ships he neither deemed to be sufficiently safe, nor considered consistent with his own dignity or that of the Roman people. Therefore, although the greatest difficulty in forming a bridge was presented to him, on account of the breadth, rapidity, and depth of the river, he nevertheless considered that it ought to be attempted by him, or that his army ought not otherwise to be led over. He devised this plan of a bridge. He joined together at the distance of two feet, two piles, each a foot and a half thick, sharpened a little at the lower end, and proportioned in length to the depth of the river. After he had, by means of engines, sunk these into the river, and fixed them at the bottom, and then driven them in with rammers, not quite perpendicularly, like a stake, but bending forward and sloping, so as to incline in the direction of the current of the river; he also placed two [other piles] opposite to these, at the distance of forty feet lower down, fastened together in the same manner, but directed against the force and current of the river. Both these, moreover, were kept firmly apart by beams two feet thick (the space which the binding of the piles occupied), laid in at their extremities between two braces on each side; and in consequence of these being in different directions and fastened on sides the one opposite to the other, so great was the strength of the work, and such the arrangement of the materials, that in proportion as the greater body of water dashed against the bridge, so much the closer were its parts held fastened together. These beams were bound together by timber laid over them in the direction of the length of the bridge, and were [then] covered over with laths and hurdles; and in addition to this, piles were driven into the water obliquely, at the lower side of the bridge, and these serving as buttresses, and being connected with every portion of the work, sustained the force of the stream: and there were others also above the bridge, at a moderate distance; that if trunks of trees or vessels were floated down the river by the barbarians for the purpose of destroying the work, the violence of such things might be diminished by these defences, and might not injure the bridge.
A couple of things.

1. The "engines" he speaks of were piledrivers like these, which drive the piles at an angle as described



2. Caesar had 40,000 troops to call on. I have little doubt that a well-organised well-led group of 40,000 men could plausibly have built a bridge in 10 days.
.
.
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Old 25th April 2022, 01:25 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post
There are bridges and there are bridges.

Roman armies would build and use pontons to move across rivers when on campaign.
That way, a Legion could cross a large river in only 10 days.

Once they had pacified the place, they would build solid bridges for travel.

i think this is where the confusion comes from.
Firstly, I doubt a wooden pontoon bridge, made with essentially just logs, would be feasible on the Rhine. Its a wide, fast moving river, particularly where they were reputed to have been built (near where the town of Urmitz stands today). They would need to be in the order of 200m long. Sure, the US Army built pontoon bridges to cross the Rhine...



... but they were not made of unmilled logs. They used prefabricated steel pontoon boats similar to this....



Secondly, a pontoon bridge does not match the method of construction posted by Jack by the hedge
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Old 25th April 2022, 01:56 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
More plausible would be that he did nothing. His visits across the Rhine were brief, and had no significant result.
The result was that the Germanic tribes did not venture across the Rhine to attack Rome for centuries afterwards.
It also gave Caesar added glory, so there was a benefit for him too.

Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
He may have also used boats, which apparently were available.
The point was to demonstrate Roman power and technological prowess. He was making a statement.
As a general point, Caesar's chronicles, whilst obviously self-aggrandising, do seem to be reasonably historically accurate. I see no reason to dispute them on this matter. Happy to be corrected on this, as ever.
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Old 25th April 2022, 02:19 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by smartcooky View Post
Firstly, I doubt a wooden pontoon bridge, made with essentially just logs, would be feasible on the Rhine. Its a wide, fast moving river, particularly where they were reputed to have been built (near where the town of Urmitz stands today). They would need to be in the order of 200m long. Sure, the US Army built pontoon bridges to cross the Rhine...

https://www.dropbox.com/s/x02xcgnn6x...idge.png?raw=1

... but they were not made of unmilled logs. They used prefabricated steel pontoon boats similar to this....

https://www.dropbox.com/s/bw757q1dbk...boat.jpg?raw=1

Secondly, a pontoon bridge does not match the method of construction posted by Jack by the hedge
But the Romans were not crossing with tanks, they were men on foot and only needed it to stand for one season.

Rome built wooden bridges in other locations at similar river crossings.
As a temporary structure it would be fine.

At Piercebridge on the Tees there are the remains of two Roman bridges, one stone based with wooden decking and an earlier all wooden bridge. Bases of wooden piles can still be seen on the river bed from the earlier bridge. It was washed away regularly by winter floods and boulders being washing down against it.
Time Team did a dig there in one of their episodes. They also did one on the first bridge across the Thames at London, that was wooden too.

Point is the Romans had a large workforce to build wooden bridges quickly.
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Old 25th April 2022, 03:25 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Captain_Swoop View Post
But the Romans were not crossing with tanks, they were men on foot and only needed it to stand for one season.

Rome built wooden bridges in other locations at similar river crossings.
As a temporary structure it would be fine.

At Piercebridge on the Tees there are the remains of two Roman bridges, one stone based with wooden decking and an earlier all wooden bridge. Bases of wooden piles can still be seen on the river bed from the earlier bridge. It was washed away regularly by winter floods and boulders being washing down against it.
Time Team did a dig there in one of their episodes. They also did one on the first bridge across the Thames at London, that was wooden too.
Firstly, the point I was making is that a pontoon bridge across the Rhine would be unlikely (and as I said earlier, it does not match the construction description given by Jack by the Hedge). That is not to say the Romans didn't build and use pontoon bridges - they did as shown in this woodcut of Roman Legionnaires crossing the River Ister (Danube) during one of the campaigns of Marcus Aurelius in the Marcomannic Wars from about 162 to 180AD.



The problem is that the Rhine is quite a fast flowing river, and in Caesar's time, it was wide where he wanted to cross it; over 400m. Building a pontoon bridge on a wide fast flowing river is a considerable engineering challenge.

Secondly, it wasn't just footsoldiers that the Romans would have to take across the bridges. They were in Germania for 18 days, so they would have needed a supply line. There were pack animals such as mules and asses, and they also drove cattle on the hoof for slaughter to feed the soldiers. Then there are the supply wagons for materiel - the plaustrum, a two-wheeled wagon drawn by oxen, the carpentum, a two-wheeler drawn by mules and the carrus, a four-wheeler either drawn by mules or draught horses in teams of two or four depending on the weight being drawn.

Originally Posted by Captain_Swoop View Post
Point is the Romans had a large workforce to build wooden bridges quickly.
Yes, I think I said 40,000 troops in the case in question.
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Old 25th April 2022, 04:40 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by smartcooky View Post
Building a pontoon bridge on a wide fast flowing river is a considerable engineering challenge.
It's not if your bridge doesn't need to really exist and you just want to convince people it did
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Old 25th April 2022, 04:46 AM   #17
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I was under the impression that Roman legions were famous for their skill in rapidly building things in the field.
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Old 25th April 2022, 04:53 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by SuburbanTurkey View Post
I was under the impression that Roman legions were famous for their skill in rapidly building things in the field.
Building a Castra, which you came prepared to do to a standardised plan, is a completely different thing to building a makeshift bridge over a span of river you have never encountered and had not planned for.

Why is everyone being so defensive? It's not like I insulted yo mama! It's a very interesting question to ponder over, especially since this is supposedly a skeptics forum. There is literally no evidence for this apart from Caesar's own word! JFC.
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Old 25th April 2022, 04:59 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by qarnos View Post
Building a Castra, which you came prepared to do to a standardised plan, is a completely different thing to building a makeshift bridge over a span of river you have never encountered and had not planned for.

Why is everyone being so defensive? It's not like I insulted yo mama! It's a very interesting question to ponder over, especially since this is supposedly a skeptics forum. There is literally no evidence for this apart from Caesar's own word! JFC.
I don't mean to come across as defensive. It's an interesting question, and the point that Caesar is the source for these self-serving tales of adventuring abroad in bandit country is well taken.

I would just point out that legions who are famous for quickly slapping up fortifications probably are very good builders. Even using a standardized plan requires general building/carpentry skills. These are soldiers who have had building efficiently drilled into them as a matter of military training. It doesn't strike me as totally implausible that they could put together a temporary bridge so quickly.

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Old 25th April 2022, 05:03 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by smartcooky View Post
Firstly, the point I was making is that a pontoon bridge across the Rhine would be unlikely (and as I said earlier, it does not match the construction description given by Jack by the Hedge). That is not to say the Romans didn't build and use pontoon bridges - they did as shown in this woodcut of Roman Legionnaires crossing the River Ister (Danube) during one of the campaigns of Marcus Aurelius in the Marcomannic Wars from about 162 to 180AD.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/uvcicvnqfz...dcut.jpg?raw=1

The problem is that the Rhine is quite a fast flowing river, and in Caesar's time, it was wide where he wanted to cross it; over 400m. Building a pontoon bridge on a wide fast flowing river is a considerable engineering challenge.

Secondly, it wasn't just footsoldiers that the Romans would have to take across the bridges. They were in Germania for 18 days, so they would have needed a supply line. There were pack animals such as mules and asses, and they also drove cattle on the hoof for slaughter to feed the soldiers. Then there are the supply wagons for materiel - the plaustrum, a two-wheeled wagon drawn by oxen, the carpentum, a two-wheeler drawn by mules and the carrus, a four-wheeler either drawn by mules or draught horses in teams of two or four depending on the weight being drawn.



Yes, I think I said 40,000 troops in the case in question.
Rhine wasn't as fast flowing 'back then' though, as you say it was wider, the land around was not 'improved' or drained like it is today and forced in to a narrower channel.
It was the same with the Thames, when the first wooden bridge was put across at London the river was wider but slower. Marshy ground either side was crossed by a causeway.
Time Team did a dig on the Thames foreshore at the site of the original bridge.
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Old 25th April 2022, 05:05 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by qarnos View Post
Building a Castra, which you came prepared to do to a standardised plan, is a completely different thing to building a makeshift bridge over a span of river you have never encountered and had not planned for.

Why is everyone being so defensive? It's not like I insulted yo mama! It's a very interesting question to ponder over, especially since this is supposedly a skeptics forum. There is literally no evidence for this apart from Caesar's own word! JFC.
Building a bridge was as much planned for as building a marching camp or fort. Engineers with the legion would have plans, tools and materials for it. They practiced building standardised stuff. They didn't just arrive at a river crossing and then ad-lib.
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Old 25th April 2022, 07:48 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by qarnos View Post
Building a Castra, which you came prepared to do to a standardised plan, is a completely different thing to building a makeshift bridge over a span of river you have never encountered and had not planned for.

Why is everyone being so defensive? It's not like I insulted yo mama! It's a very interesting question to ponder over, especially since this is supposedly a skeptics forum. There is literally no evidence for this apart from Caesar's own word! JFC.
Why are you being so aggressive?

We have more than Caesar's own words. We know from other sources that the Romans were skilled and thoughtful engineers, and that road-building and other construction work was a core part of the Roman legion's portfolio.

What makes you think the bridge was "makeshift", rather than being one of several possible designs the Romans already had plenty of experience with?

Also, Caesar may have been a newcomer to the Rhine, but it's not like the Legions had never encountered rivers before. It's absurd of you to assume that a military expedition into unknown territory would have no plans at all for the rivers that would inevitably cross their path from time to time.

You try to make it sound like Caesar got to the Rhine and said, "crap! I thought the Rubicon was the only river ever! Guess I was wrong! Time to start covering my ass!" And then complain about people being defensive when they suggest maybe you should slow your roll a bit.
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Old 25th April 2022, 09:14 AM   #23
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A quick search for the word "bridge" in his commentary indicates that both building and tearing down of bridges were not rare events in the campaign.

It's possible this event was just bluster and never happened, but he does go into some specifics of what he did across the Rhine; destroyed the villages and crops of one troublesome tribe, the Sigambri, and learned from a friendly tribe, the Ubii, that another, the Suevi, had retreated into their own lands to await battle with Caesar.

At that point he decided he'd done enough to satisfy honour; shown the Sigambri who was boss and driven off the Suevi from the Ubii's lands, so it was time to go back.

That reads like hefty spin to me (he threw his weight around a bit but then withdrew without any battle) but it's specific enough that I'm not sure it was entirely made up. If two hostile tribes had indeed withdrawn when Caesar arrived on the other side of the Rhine, then a small reconnaissance/raiding party crossing by boats could have burned the Sigambri's farms, job done. Don't know. I could be persuaded either way.
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Old 26th April 2022, 03:49 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Why are you being so aggressive?
Sorry, I did not mean to come across as being aggressive. I was just getting frustrated in the direction the thread was taking.

Quote:
What makes you think the bridge was "makeshift", rather than being one of several possible designs the Romans already had plenty of experience with?
This is a reasonable question. My main objection is the fact it is done in 10 days and pulled down afterwards so no-one else could see it. On top of that, there is no archaeological evidence (such as a region of the banks with trees all "born" about the same time). I'm sure this is primarily because no one cares enough to bother checking but do you not agree this gives us good reason to be skeptical?

Quote:
You try to make it sound like Caesar got to the Rhine and said, "crap! I thought the Rubicon was the only river ever! Guess I was wrong! Time to start covering my ass!" And then complain about people being defensive when they suggest maybe you should slow your roll a bit.
Again, it's not the bridge - it's the speed. 10 days? To build the pile-driver and all? really?

No-one takes Plato seriously over his Atlantis story... it's just allegory. How could this not be the same?

It's at least worth considering.
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Old 26th April 2022, 04:30 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by qarnos View Post
Sorry, I did not mean to come across as being aggressive. I was just getting frustrated in the direction the thread was taking.



This is a reasonable question. My main objection is the fact it is done in 10 days and pulled down afterwards so no-one else could see it. On top of that, there is no archaeological evidence (such as a region of the banks with trees all "born" about the same time). I'm sure this is primarily because no one cares enough to bother checking but do you not agree this gives us good reason to be skeptical?



Again, it's not the bridge - it's the speed. 10 days? To build the pile-driver and all? really?

No-one takes Plato seriously over his Atlantis story... it's just allegory. How could this not be the same?

It's at least worth considering.
The questions I'm curious about are:

1) did he need to have crossed the river for any other historic event that we have independent evidence for? For example was there a battle we know he was involved in on t'other side of the river around that time?
2) how long did they usually take to build such bridges?

If we have 1) and 2) is at variance to what he said wouldn't the sound assumption be that he talked up the 10 days? It may have taken 3 months preparation and then 10 days for the actual build. Or it may have taken a month he was bragging.

Don't see how it is comparable to allegories such as Atlantis?
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Old 26th April 2022, 04:33 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by qarnos View Post
Sorry, I did not mean to come across as being aggressive. I was just getting frustrated in the direction the thread was taking.



This is a reasonable question. My main objection is the fact it is done in 10 days and pulled down afterwards so no-one else could see it. On top of that, there is no archaeological evidence (such as a region of the banks with trees all "born" about the same time). I'm sure this is primarily because no one cares enough to bother checking but do you not agree this gives us good reason to be skeptical?



Again, it's not the bridge - it's the speed. 10 days? To build the pile-driver and all? really?

No-one takes Plato seriously over his Atlantis story... it's just allegory. How could this not be the same?

It's at least worth considering.

Well, we know that the Legions built bridges elsewhere quickly when they were on campaign, they practiced it and had standard designs and carried tools and materials for doing it.
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Old 26th April 2022, 04:58 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by qarnos View Post
This is a reasonable question. My main objection is the fact it is done in 10 days and pulled down afterwards so no-one else could see it.
I don't know if Caesar built the bridge or not.

However, his army did know that.

Are there any contemporary sources where Caesar's opponents accuse him of lying about the bridge? Because surely someone would have found out that it is a blatant lie if it, indeed, was a blatant lie.

In particular I'm thinking about Marcus Tullius Cicero who left behind perhaps the largest surviving body of work from Caesar's time and who absolutely hated Caesar's guts during his later life. Cicero would have been in a real good position to find out about Caesar's lies because his brother Quintus Tullius Cicero served as a legate in Caesar's army.

Does Cicero say anything about the bridge or a lack of it?

Quote:
On top of that, there is no archaeological evidence (such as a region of the banks with trees all "born" about the same time).
I have a hard time seeing why you would expect to find such a region of trees from the banks. Caesar lived over 2000 years ago, the trees have regrown and been cut down again 20 times since that.

Last edited by Marras; 26th April 2022 at 06:12 AM.
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Old 27th April 2022, 12:10 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by qarnos View Post
No-one takes Plato seriously over his Atlantis story... it's just allegory. How could this not be the same?
The difference is that Julius Caesar didn't write Comentarii de Bello Gallico as an allegory, the way Plato did De Republica. He wrote it as an account of his achievements. While there are scholars and historians who say that some of his claims might have been exaggerated for propaganda purposes, most agree that the events it describes are basically a reliable historical record.

So, the claim that Caesar built a bridge over the Rhine is probably truthful, as is the method described. As others have stated, the Romans were renowned for remarkable feats of engineering prowess in the field. There is reason to think that the 10-day timeframe might be an exaggeration, but given the Romans' well-established reputation as military engineers and the labour force available, such a timeframe would probably not be impossible.

And yes, it is definitely well worth the time to examine claims like this, even though as a historical event it is hard to ascertain the absolute truth of the matter. Furthermore, it's interesting. I read from the Comentarii when I was studying Latin in high school - it was the first Latin text that I could read without having to painstakingly translate every word individually - so I have a passing familiarity with it, even though that was longer ago than I like to think about.
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Old 27th April 2022, 12:17 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
More plausible would be that he did nothing. His visits across the Rhine were brief, and had no significant result.

He may have also used boats, which apparently were available.
Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Why are you being so aggressive?

We have more than Caesar's own words. We know from other sources that the Romans were skilled and thoughtful engineers, and that road-building and other construction work was a core part of the Roman legion's portfolio.

What makes you think the bridge was "makeshift", rather than being one of several possible designs the Romans already had plenty of experience with?

Also, Caesar may have been a newcomer to the Rhine, but it's not like the Legions had never encountered rivers before. It's absurd of you to assume that a military expedition into unknown territory would have no plans at all for the rivers that would inevitably cross their path from time to time.

You try to make it sound like Caesar got to the Rhine and said, "crap! I thought the Rubicon was the only river ever! Guess I was wrong! Time to start covering my ass!" And then complain about people being defensive when they suggest maybe you should slow your roll a bit.
Ok…
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Old 28th April 2022, 04:03 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Captain_Swoop View Post
Rhine wasn't as fast flowing 'back then' though, as you say it was wider, the land around was not 'improved' or drained like it is today and forced in to a narrower channel.
It was the same with the Thames, when the first wooden bridge was put across at London the river was wider but slower. Marshy ground either side was crossed by a causeway.
Time Team did a dig on the Thames foreshore at the site of the original bridge.
That was my first idea also. The Rhine used to meander quite a bit in the olden times, which reduces slope and flow speed. Meandering involves water being quite shallow on the outside of a curve, and the river was probably nowhere as deep as it is today, where it is being actively maintained for some minimum draft of larger ships.
Even possible that the river would split into two or more arms, making each one easier to cross with a bridge than a single main river bed.

Do we know the season or month that this bridge was reportedly built? And enough about climate 2070 years ago made for more or less water drained by the Rhine during the course of the year?
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Old 28th April 2022, 05:20 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by zooterkin View Post
Ok…
Looks ok to me, too!
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Old 29th April 2022, 04:05 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by Marras View Post
Originally Posted by qarnos View Post
This is a reasonable question. My main objection is the fact it is done in 10 days and pulled down afterwards so no-one else could see it.
I don't know if Caesar built the bridge or not.

However, his army did know that.

Are there any contemporary sources where Caesar's opponents accuse him of lying about the bridge? Because surely someone would have found out that it is a blatant lie if it, indeed, was a blatant lie.

In particular I'm thinking about Marcus Tullius Cicero who left behind perhaps the largest surviving body of work from Caesar's time and who absolutely hated Caesar's guts during his later life. Cicero would have been in a real good position to find out about Caesar's lies because his brother Quintus Tullius Cicero served as a legate in Caesar's army.

Does Cicero say anything about the bridge or a lack of it?

Quote:
On top of that, there is no archaeological evidence (such as a region of the banks with trees all "born" about the same time).
I have a hard time seeing why you would expect to find such a region of trees from the banks. Caesar lived over 2000 years ago, the trees have regrown and been cut down again 20 times since that.

Further to your points.

The technique is plausible, and such structures would also serve to demonstrate the power of Rome to the tribes as they wouldn't have been able to bridge the river - just as the roads also were a symbol of power.

Also, taking down the bridge afterwards makes the point even better.

"We're so powerful that we can put a bridge across the Rhine and regard it as a temporary structure"

Also as it'd have been lashed together, cutting the ropes holding it together wouldn't be that time consuming.
------------------------
There will also have been storms and floods and the river will have changed its course slightly, all of which would have been likely to hide any such evidence of an event
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Old 29th April 2022, 05:10 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by jimbob View Post
Further to your points.

The technique is plausible, and such structures would also serve to demonstrate the power of Rome to the tribes as they wouldn't have been able to bridge the river - just as the roads also were a symbol of power.

Also, taking down the bridge afterwards makes the point even better.

"We're so powerful that we can put a bridge across the Rhine and regard it as a temporary structure"

Also as it'd have been lashed together, cutting the ropes holding it together wouldn't be that time consuming.
------------------------
There will also have been storms and floods and the river will have changed its course slightly, all of which would have been likely to hide any such evidence of an event
They would have taken it down to recover the ropes and iron work used in it's construction so they could be used again. They were part of the legions equipment.
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Old 29th April 2022, 05:12 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Captain_Swoop View Post
They would have taken it down to recover the ropes and iron work used in it's construction so they could be used again. They were part of the legions equipment.
Even better point.

Am I remembering correctly that you do Roman era re-enactments?
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Old 29th April 2022, 05:32 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by jimbob View Post
Even better point.

Am I remembering correctly that you do Roman era re-enactments?
I used to be involved a number of years ago.
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Old 29th April 2022, 06:56 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by qarnos View Post
Casting a skeptical eye to history, what evidence exists that Caesar actually built bridges across the Rhine? The claims are quite extraordinary: That Caesar's army built a bridge across the Rhine in just 10 days using nothing more than local timber (which had to be cut down first).

Oh, BTW, he had the bridges dismantled afterwards so the "bad guys" couldn't use it, so you just have to take Caesar's word for it that he really built them.

I seems to be taken at face value by most historians that this actually happened. Given the fact Caesar wasn't exactly immune to exaggerating his accomplishments for political advantage, how can we be sure this ever really happened? Especially in 10 days! It just seems absurd.

I am more than happy to be proven wrong, because I am genuinely interested in finding out how we know this is true, but I can never really come up with anything beyond "someone said so".
Well, in the first place, I doubt that you or anyone else will ever find any evidence of temporary wood bridge that was built over 2000 years ago.

However, I do find it plausible that some 40,000 Roman troops could have build such a bridge in ten days.
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Old 29th April 2022, 07:34 AM   #37
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It depends how much wood was left behind.
There are the remains of pilings driven in to the bed of the Tees at Piercebridge where the old wooden Roman bridge used to be.
Time Team cut a section from one and got a dendrochronology date that put it as part of the bridge.
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Old 29th April 2022, 07:34 AM   #38
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Old 29th April 2022, 08:10 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by Captain_Swoop View Post
It depends how much wood was left behind.
There are the remains of pilings driven in to the bed of the Tees at Piercebridge where the old wooden Roman bridge used to be.
Time Team cut a section from one and got a dendrochronology date that put it as part of the bridge.
The Piercebridge was a designed to be used for a long time use whereas the Rhine bridge that is being discussed in this thread was designed to be for a temporary use.

As such, I would not be surprised to learn if the temporary Rhine bridge did not use any sorts of pilings which would remain behind after the bridge served its purpose.
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Old 29th April 2022, 08:28 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by Crossbow View Post
The Piercebridge was a designed to be used for a long time use whereas the Rhine bridge that is being discussed in this thread was designed to be for a temporary use.

As such, I would not be surprised to learn if the temporary Rhine bridge did not use any sorts of pilings which would remain behind after the bridge served its purpose.
Piercebridge was washed away a number of times and replaced with a stone pier bridge with wooden decking a few hundred yards downstream. Since then the river has changed course at that point and the bases of the stonework are now south of the river in a field.

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