Home / Stone Bridge

Stone Bridge

Taşköprü (English: Stone Bridge) is a Roman bridge spanning the Seyhan River in Adana that was probably built in the first half of the second century AD. The bridge was a key link in ancient trade routes from theMediterranean Sea to Anatolia and Persia. Until its closure in 2007, it was one of the oldest bridges in the world open to motorized vehicles. Since 2007 it has only carried foot traffic, and now hosts social and cultural events.

Among the names used for the bridge during its history are the Saros Bridge, the Bridge of Justinian, the al-Walid Bridge and Taşköprü.

Taşköprü carries traces of additions and restorations by several civilizations. The Hittite king Hattusili I is reported to have built a bridge in Adana en route to a military campaign in Syria, although it is not clear whether this was Adana's first bridge across the Seyhan River (then known as the Sarus)

Victor Langlois, who visited Adana in 1852-1853, attributes the current bridge to the Emperor Hadrian, who ruled from 117 to 138 AD and traveled through Anatolia from 120 to 135 AD, commissioning buildings in many places. Langlois reported that the bridge had borne an inscription with Hadrian's name until about twenty years before his visit.[2]

Some accounts trace the construction to a late 4th-century Roman architect named Auxentius, who also built a bridge in Rome in 384 AD. This attribution is based on an inscription in Greek that served for a while as the altar of Adana's Greek church and is now in the Adana Archeological Museum collection of stone carvings. The 12-line inscription is written on a slab 122 cm high, 93 cm wide and 12 cm thick. However, a full reading appears to link this inscription to an aqueduct feeding waterwheels and not to the construction of the bridge.

The historian Procopius of Caesarea records in the Buildings of Justinian, written in about 557 AD, that Justinian I, who ruled 527–565, ordered the rebuilding of the bridge:

The portion of this masonry [of the piers] which chanced to be below the water and so was constantly battered by its powerful current had, in a space of time beyond reckoning, come to be mostly destroyed. So the whole bridge appeared likely after no long time to fall into the river. It had come to be always the prayer of each man who crossed the bridge that it might remain firm if only during the moment of his crossing. But the Emperor Justinian dug another channel for the river and forced it to change its course temporarily; and then getting the masonry which I have just mentioned free from the water and removing the damaged portions, he rebuilt them without any delay and then returned the river to its former path, which they call the "bed". Thus then were these things done.

The bridge has been restored many times over the centuries. After a restoration in 742, during the Umayyad period, it was renamed Jisr al-Walid after the ruling caliphal-Walid II. There was another restoration in 840, during the reign of Caliph al-Mu'tasim. Other sources report work undertaken under caliphs Harun al-Rashid and al-Ma'mun.[1] There is no written record of another restoration until the 17th century.

The bridge was repaired several times during the Ottoman period. The oldest recorded Ottoman repair was during the reign of Ahmet III in 1713.[1] An edict issued by Osman Pasha, the governor of Adana under Ahmet III, commanding the repair of the older parts of the bridge survives in the records of the Adana Shari'a Court.

Adana Ethnography Museum houses an inscription (Inventory Nos. 505 and 506) placed on the bridge after restoration work in 1847, during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Abdülmecid I. This states that the bridge needed rebuilding after being in bad condition for a long while.[1] Further restoration work was commissioned by Governor Osman Pasha during the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid II, as recorded by an inscription at the Adana Archeological Museum (Inventory No. 2469). A salname (official yearbook) from the reign of Abdülhamid II explains the status of the bridge and the restorations:

On the mentioned Seyhan River, there is a large, solidly built, orderly bridge of 22 arches. This bridge is a rare sample of elegance and over the course of time had its sidewalks and some of its arches worn out, thus a neat sidewalk with walls has been built to prevent people and animals from falling and being killed. The arches have also been carefully renovated.

When cotton cultivation expanded following Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt's rule over the Çukurova region in the mid 19th-century, migrant workers would gather on Taşköprü for a weekly labor market during the spring months to be hired by overseers for casual labor in the region's fields. This made the bridge so crowded that Adana residents were unable to cross it.