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Apollodorus of Damascus

Apollodorus of Damascus

Expertise

Bridges, Construction

Location

Italy
Career highlights

Designed the Trajan bridge over the Danube

Designed the Ulpia Basilica in Rome

Designed Trajan’s column and market

Why you might have heard of me

Apollodorus of Damascus was a Greek engineer and architect who is credited with the design of some of the most imperious buildings erected under Roman emperor Trajan (ruled 98-117AD).

This includes the Roman baths, the Forum, Trajan’s Column and market, as well as Ulpia Basilica in Rome. He is known for Trajan’s Bridge, the impressive and enormous structure that crossed the Danube river and pioneered many of the civil engineer techniques employed over the years to come.

Career

According to Jona Lendering, “It is likely that Apollodorus started his career in the army, where he met Trajan, who took him to Rome, and asked him to build a bridge across the Danube.”

Trajan’s arched bridge, also known as Pontes Traiani, stretched a length of 1135m. It was made of wood and stone, joined by two ‘iron gates’ at both ends, which served as fortresses. Only parts of the bridge survive today, but depictions of the bridge in all its glory can be seen on coins and reliefs.

After the Dacian wars (101-102, 105-106AD), Apollodorus constructed Trajan’s baths, which included a gymnasium, auditoriums, libraries, and an artificial cistern, for water storage.

Then, between 107 and 113AD, Apollodorus built the Forum of Trajan. The forum featured multiple buildings: some markets, archives, and two libraries, one Latin and one Greek.

The forum also hosts several temples for Athena, Venus, Mars, and of course, Trajan. This forum is regarded as one of Apollodorus’ greatest architectural endeavours, ‘featuring incredible technological craftsmanship’.

Some believe that Apollodorus was also responsible for one of the most well-preserved pieces of architecture in Rome: the Pantheon.

Built around 123AD, it was dedicated to all the Roman gods. However, there’s not enough evidence to confirm that Apollodorus was responsible.

He is, however, credited for the enormous Ulpian Basilica, which commemorated the emperor’s victory in the Dacian wars. The forum was dedicated to administering justice, commerce, and the emperor’s presence.

Apollodorus is also credited for building Trajan’s Column, located in the basilica. The column features carvings that tell the tale of Trajan’s Dacian campaigns.

Personal life

It’s believed that Apollodorus was sentenced to death by Trajan’s successor, emperor Hadrian, over some ‘misdemeanour’.

According to historians, the true reason was that at a time when Hadrian was consulting Trajan on some buildings, Apollodorus said, “Be off, and draw your gourds. You don’t understand any of these matters.”

It’s understood that Hadrian held a grudge.

Sources

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Apollodorus-of-Damascus

https://www.livius.org/articles/person/apollodorus-of-damascus/

https://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/imperialfora/trajan/apollodorus.html

https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095419245

https://greatestgreeks.wordpress.com/2020/10/17/apollodorus-of-damasc/

https://artsandculture.google.com/entity/basilica-ulpia/m0bv055?categoryid=place

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/trajan-column/article.html

Image Credit

Profile image:Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany

Banner image: Rapsak/Wikimedia Commons (Licensed)

Fascinating facts

It’s rumoured that Apollodorus wrote several treatises in his lifetime, but only the Poliorcetica (100 AD), a treatise on siege machines, survives as it was preserved in the corpus about the art of conducting and resisting sieges in the Byzantine era.

Notable projects

  • Trajan’s Forum
  • Trajan’s Market
  • Basilica Ulpia
  • Trajan’s Column
  • The Baths of Trajan
  • Possibly the Pantheon (later rebuilt by emperor Hadrian)
  • The Poliorcetica (100 AD) – a treatise on siege machines