YES! JOIN FOR FREE!
Enter your address below to receive free email alerts when a new comic or a blog post is published:
You may unsubscribe easily at any time & your email will never be shared with anyone!
SHARE
FOLLOW
SEARCH
EAGANBLOG ARCHIVE
Explore the current collection.

Leave a Comment in Response to:

What Lasts
Pont du Gard is truly a wonder. If you’ve never been there, look up “aqueduct” in your 28-volume Encyclopedia Brittanica. Or just Google it. Among the images connected to your search will be a picture of this stunning piece of Roman engineering.

It was part of a water system that once extended over 31 miles through the rolling hills of what is now southern France, but the image that persists is of the massive structure that crosses the Gardon River at Pont du Gard. It rises 140 feet above the river and spans a distance of over 900 feet. The aqueduct, despite having been built with only crude tools, is still standing after almost two millennia, and it is beautiful. The arches and columns formed by thousands of stacked limestone blocks (no mortar was used in its construction) seem unperturbed by the passage of time. It projects a calm, solid, almost serene presence. At its base by the river, giving testimony as to the enduring character of the place, a thousand-year-old olive tree still thrives.

Augustus Caesar ordered the project to supply Nemausus (now Nimes), an ancient metropolis of 50,000 citizens, with water for their homes, their fountains, their luxurious public baths. By today’s standards, the levels of water usage per resident were almost sinfully high, but the world they lived in must have been a watery paradise.

The Roman aqueduct in Segovia has a less certain lineage. Unlike the city of Nimes, which rests at the edge of a broad plain, the original second-century core of this city — the intended target of the water — sits on a high outcropping. It is the kind of place that would be easily defensible along all of its sides, a place safe from the threat of marauders. That is how it was used by the Iberians who lived here before the Romans came. While the history of the French aqueduct is well-documented, the story behind this Spanish structure is largely a mystery. No records exist of the city’s name at that time, the number and descriptions of the people there, the uses to which the encampment was put, or the rationale for the structure. All that is known is that it was ordered by the Emperor Domitian in the first century AD — about fifty years after the work at Pont du Gard.

There are physical differences as well. The edifice in Spain consists of only two levels of arches instead of three, and although the columns supporting them are quite tall, the highest point is only 90 feet above the ground. Like its French cousin, it is unmortared, but composed of granite rather than limestone. And most noticeably, it stands at the very center of the modern city of Segovia — a sharp contrast from the remote and peaceful Pont du Gard.

Despite the differences, both are beautiful. They have long since stopped serving their original purposes, but the confidence and grace of their ancient ingenuity can still stun us today. I find that deeply comforting, though I’m not sure why.

Perhaps I want to see them as a hopeful a metaphor for our lives here and now. If something we create, whether as real as stone or as ephemeral as an idea or a feeling, can still persist a thousand years from now — and be seen as something good — that would be a worthy epitaph for our existence. Even if our motives are mundane and the rationale for the thing is long forgotten, with luck, the spirit of the creation itself might end up being what matters most.

Please Note: Tim Eagan will read your comments but he is currently not publishing them.

image
Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon