Battle at the Milvian Bridge | Milvian Bridge
Name: The Milvian Bridge is now known as Ponte Molle or Ponte Milvio. In ancient Rome, it was known as the Pons Milvius or Mulvius.
Location: The Milvian Bridge was part of the road from Rome to Florence on the Via Flaminia. It crossed the Tiber River about two miles from the Roman gate called the Porta Flaminia and was the principal approach to the city of Rome from the north. It was the junction between the Via Flaminia, Via Cassia, Via Clodia and Via Veientana. [See Bridges Across the Tiber.]
Date: We don't know when it was first built, but it appears to have been reconstructed in 109 B.C. Watchtowers were added in the 15th century and a triumphal arch was added in 1805. After Garibaldians damaged the bridge in 1849, it was restored a year later. Three of its arches are original -- or at least ancient.
Claim to Fame: While the Milvian Bridge was mentioned various times throughout Roman history, its importance lies in relationship to Constantine and the battle he waged there, under the aegis of Jesus Christ, against Maxentius. The story of the triumph of Constantine following the Milvian Bridge battle is told on a Vatican fresco, possibly designed by Raphael, but painted by Giulio Romano and Pierino del Vaga. The Roman Senate commemorated the victory by erecting the Arch of Constantine.
Significance: As a result of and in the wake of the victory, Constantine united the Roman Empire. The victory also led to the rise of Christianity.
Historical References to the Milvian Bridge: The Milvian Bridge is first mentioned in connection with the Second Punic War, by Livy (xxvii 51), who says people went to it to meet messengers bringing news of the defeat of Hasdrubel, in 207 B.C.
"Then, indeed, people of all ages ran to meet them, each man being eager to be the first to receive an assurance of such joyful tidings, by the evidence of his eyes and ears. One continued train extended as far as the Mulvian bridge. "
Titus Livius (Livy), The History of Rome, Book 27 Cyrus Evans, Ed.
Aurelius Victor (De Vir. Illustr 72) says Aemilius Scaurus built the bridge during his censorship in 110 B.C. During the conspiracy of Catiline, the Milvian Bridge was where the Allobroges ambassadors were arrested on Cicero's orders (Sallust Cat. 45)
"When arrangements had been thus perfected and the night for the departure appointed, Cicero, who had been informed of everything through the envoys, ordered the praetors Lucius Valerius Flaccus and Gaius Pomptinus to lie in wait for the Allobroges and their company at the Mulvian Bridge and arrest them."
LacusCurtius translation of Sallust
"The Mulvian bridge was then a famous haunt of nightly profligacy, and Nero used to go there that he might take his pleasures more freely outside the city. "
Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb translation of the Annals
"Maxentius, while engaged against Constantine, hastening to enter from the side a bridge of boats constructed a little above the Milvian Bridge, was plunged into the depth when his horse slipped; his body, swallowed up by the weight of his armor, was barely recovered."
Aurelius Victor Caesar 40
"Constantine, however, in the fifth year of his reign, commenced a civil war with Maxentius, routed his forces in several battles, and at last overthrew Maxentius himself (when he was spreading death among the nobility by every possible kind of cruelty,81) at the Milvian bridge, and made himself master of Italy. "
Eutropius x. 4
"Both being thus prepared, Maxentius threw a bridge over the Tiber which was not of one entire piece, but divided into two parts, the centre of the bridge being made to fasten with irons, which might be drawn out upon occasion. He gave orders to the workmen, that as soon as they saw the army of Constantine upon the juncture of the bridge, they should draw out the iron fastenings, that the enemy who stood upon it might fall into the river. "
"At length Constantine, with steady courage and a mind prepared for every event, led his whole forces to the neighbourhood of Rome, and encamped them opposite to the Milvian bridge."
Lactantius Chap. xvliv
- Constantine the Great: The union of the state and the church, by Edward Lewes Cutts
- Rome: its rise and fall: a text-book for high schools and colleges, by Philip Van Ness Myers
- Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography
- The midsummer of Italian art: containing an examination of the works of Fra Angelico, Michel Angelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael Santi, and Correggio, by Frank Preston Stearns (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1895)
- Rome Tour