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Tiber Island

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Tiber Island
Tiber Island | Author: Roughneck / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

The Tiber Island (Insula Tiberina) is the only island located on the Tiber in Rome. The island is 270 meters long and 67 meters wide. Its shape for centuries meant that it was compared to a large boat. Currently, it is connected with left-bank Rome by the Fabrizius bridge, and with the right bank by the Cestius bridge, both of which date back to Roman times.

  • Fabricius’ Bridge (Pons Fabricius) has two spans and was built in 62 BCE at the behest of the road administrator (curator viarum) – Lucius Fabricius. The facility was renovated in 23 BCE as evidenced by the memorial inscription on the bridge. The bridge connected the island with the Field of Mars.
  • Cestius’ Bridge (Pons Cestius) has three spans and was probably built in the 1st century BCE. It was rebuilt many times, including in the 2nd, 4th or 19th century

Due to the connection of the island by two bridges, the Romans used to call it Insula Inter-Duos-Pontes, meaning “the island between two bridges”. Fragments of the third Roman bridge have also survived to our times – the Emilius’ Bridge (Pons Aemilius), which, however, collapsed after the flood in the 16th century. It was the oldest bridge that was built on the order of censor Marcus Emilius Lepidus in 179 CE. Also called Ponte Rotto (“collapsed bridge”), due to frequent collapses, it connected both banks of the Tiber, and its remains are located near the Tiber Island.

Temple of Aesculapius and others

The Tiber Island is famous for the legend of the temple of Aesculapius (Greek Asclepius), the god of medicine and healing, being built on it. In 293 BCE Rome was struck by a severe plague; the priests picked up the Sibylline books, which ordered a message to be sent to the shrine of Asclepius in Epidaurus, in the Greek Peloponnese. They wanted to bring a healing serpent to Rome to stop the plague. After bringing the beast to the Field of Mars, the serpent crawled into the Tiber and swam to the Tiber Island pointing to the place where the god’s abode was built. In 289 BCE the construction of the Temple of Aesculapius was completed. Since then, the island has been associated with medicine and healing. To this day, there is a hospital here. The reason for choosing the island as a place of isolation and treatment was probably the desire to separate the sick from the rest of Rome so that a possible plague did not spread throughout the city. In addition to the temple of Aesculapius, other places of worship have arisen on the Island: Jupiter, Gaia, Faunus, Tiberinus or Bellona.

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