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This account of the bridges is full of unsolved difficulties. It is impossible to describe mechanism intelligibly without diagrams, as is shown by the obscurities in Caesar's account of his bridge over the Rhine (B. G. iv. 17). Further, since the bridges had long since perished, H. had to rely on hearsay, supplemented perhaps by inspection of the remains of the cables at Athens (§ 3; cf. ix. 121). He adds to the difficulties of the description by attempting to give us the actual process of construction in four stages:

(1) ‘The putting of the bridge together.’ It is significant that of this, the really important operation, he gives no account (§ 1).

(2) The securing of the bridge by anchors (§ 2).

(3) The stretching cables across to form the support of the roadway (§ 3).

(4) The making of the roadway (§§ 4, 5).

Cf. further Macan, ii, App. II, p. 142 f.


τοῖσι ... τιμή: a periphrasis for executioners; cf. ch. 39. 3, 238. 2; iii. 29. 2.

ἄλλοι ἀρχιτέκτονες. The bridge-builder is said to have been Harpalus (Diels, Laterculi Alexandrini, p. 8, Abh. Berlin. Akad. 1904).

συνθέντες (cf. § 2): not fastening the ships together as in a pontoon, but ‘so placing them, that, while each of them was held in position by its own anchors, they lay in a line under the cables, near enough together to support them, and far enough apart to keep clear of each other in a high sea’. Arrian (Anab. v. 7) describes the operation as carried out by the Romans, contrasting their method with that described by H. The varying number of vessels used in the two bridges is due to the varying breadth of the straits (cf. 34 n.). H. does not mean that one bridge was built of triremes and the other of penteconters, but that both triremes and penteconters were used in both bridges, the triremes being used where the current flowed strongest, while differences in height above the water could be met by differences in loading.

ὑπὸ μὲν τήν (sc. γέφυραν). H. regards the cables with the roadway as the true bridge.

τὴν ἑτέρην: the bridge towards the Aegean as distinct from that nearer the Euxine.

ἐπικαρσίας (cf. i. 180. 3; iv. 101. 3 n.), ‘at an angle’, and properly at a right angle (L. & S.).

The passage is taken in two completely different ways:

(1) The whole of it is referred to both bridges (Grote, v. 362 f.; Rawlinson, Macan). ‘The boats, which are parallel to the stream of the Hellespont (κατὰ ῥόον), are at a right angle to the Pontus.’ The Hellespont in general is of course not at a right angle to the Euxine, or to the Propontis, if the Pontus includes that (cf. ch. 95 n.), though the portion between Abydos and Madytus (but not that between Abydos and Sestos) is. But H., who is often loose in his orientation, may well have believed the Hellespont to be at right angles to the Pontus. (Schweig. thinking the Pontus too remote, conjectured πόρου.) On this interpretation H. states rather loosely an obvious fact.

(2) Stein (cf. also Grundy, p. 215; Hauvette, p. 295) takes ἐπικαρσίας as referring to the upper (NE.) bridge, and κατὰ ῥόον to the lower (SW.) one. He takes ἐπικαρσίας to mean ‘athwart the current’, and believes that H. has misunderstood or misreported his informants. He thinks the passage refers to the peculiarity of the local currents reported by Strabo (591). The current is not parallel to the banks, but a little south of Sestos, near the tower of Hero, runs right across the strait to Abydos (cf. Polyb. xvi. 29), so that if you want to cross from Sestos to Abydos you row down to the tower of Hero and then are carried across by the current; if from Abydos to Sestos, you row a mile along the Asiatic shore before crossing, so as to avoid meeting the current full. The landing-place near Sestos was called Ἀπόβαθρα, and here, by the Ἀκτὴ Σεστίας καθ᾽ ἣν τὸ Ξέρξου ζεῦγμα, was the end of the north-east bridge (Strabo 331, fr. 55). Hence the ships of the north-east bridge would have been ‘oblique’ to the direction of the straits, because their prows were turned to face the strong local crosscurrent, while those of the south-west bridge would be strictly parallel to the banks of the Hellespont.

The objections to this interpretation are (1) the inferior meaning given to ἐπικαρσίας and the extreme difficulty of separating it from κατὰ ῥόον; (2) the improbability that H., who ignores the current, should thus indirectly and obscurely allude to its action.

ἀνακωχεύῃ (sc. γέφυρα): so that the bridge (i. e. here the moored ships) might give the strained cables support (abstract for concrete; cf. § 4 and ix. 118. 1). Bähr, however, thinks the cables are those of the anchors mentioned in the next line, and that the current ( ῥόος) was to ‘keep these taut’.


τῆς δὲ ἑτέρης: short for τὰς δὲ τῆς ἑτέρης. Clearly each row of ships must have had anchors on both sides to keep it in place. H. is either stating this imperfectly or altogether omits these ordinary anchors in his anxiety to draw attention to those of special size and strength on the side of exposure. The north-east bridge would feel the gales from the Euxine, the south-west one those from the Aegean.

ἑσπέρης. The Hellespont just below Abydos runs north and south, but the opening to the Aegean is nearly due west, so H. here lays stress on this aspect, but rightly mentions the south as well as the west wind.

διέκπλοον ... ὑπόφαυσιν, ‘an opening or passage through,’ clearly in both bridges available for small craft, which could ship their masts and pass under the cables.

τριχοῦ: three openings are unlikely, though two might be useful. Hence the emendation τριηρέων (with or without διχοῦ) seems necessary.


ὄνοισι. They made and kept the cables taut ‘by wooden capstans’ on either shore. If H. means that the cables were all in one piece, he is of course wrong, as the weight would be too great; doubtless each was made in eight or ten pieces; the length of modern cables is 720 feet.

οὐκέτι, ‘not again,’ the failure of the first bridge being ascribed to the weakness of the cables.

κατὰ λόγον, ‘proportionately’ (i. 134. 2). The four byblos ropes were absolutely heavier than the two esparto-grass.

τάλαντον: probably the talent of commerce weighing 138/100 of the Attic coinage standard, i. e. according to Hultsch (Metrol.2 135) 36˙15 Kilo, roughly 80 lb., or, according to Gardner, 37˙7 Kilo nearly 84 lb. For the cubit cf. i. 178. 3 n.


κόσμῳ (cf. ii. 52. 1). ‘They arranged the planks evenly so as to form a flat surface and then fastened them together above by crossbeams’ (cf. ii. 96. 2).

ὕλην: probably brushwood, though Stein (on the ground of κόσμῳ θέντες) construes ‘timber’.

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