We can’t talk about Rome without bringing up the Tiber, a river that is a sign of the city and that had a huge impact on the Roman Empire. Because of its significance, the Tiber River is often at the center of interesting anecdotes and myths about ancient Rome and the Romans. Read on so we can find out more information about them.
The Tiber River, also known as Fiume Tevere in Italian, is a historic river in Europe and the second-longest river in Italy (behind the Po). It begins on the slope of Monte Fumaiolo, a significant peak of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines.
The Tiber is 405 kilometers (252 miles) long. It flows through Rome before turning generally southerly via a number of picturesque gorges and wide valleys until meeting the Tyrrhenian Sea of the Mediterranean close to Ostia Antica.
The Chiascio, Nestore, Paglia, Nera, and Aniene are some of its principal tributaries. The Tiber divides into a delta below Rome, with the Fiumara serving as the main channel and the Fiumicino acting as a distributary branch on the north side.
According to some ancient sources, it was originally called Albula (referring to its waters’ whiteness), but it was changed to Tiberis after Tiberinus, a king of Alba Longa (a region centered on Lake Albano, south of Rome), who died there.
The city of Rome and the Tiber River are intricately intertwined. East of the river was where you’d find the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Forum. Located on the western bank of the Tiber, Castel Sant’Angelo is the mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian’s family. The ancient Romans relied on the Tiber as a source of potable water for themselves, their livestock, and their crops.
While there are undoubtedly many factors at play, one of the most important was Rome’s physical location. Location on the Tiber was advantageous economically, culturally, and tactically for Rome as it grew from a little town to the heart of a great empire.
The ancient Romans placed a high value on the Tiber, so much so that it was mentioned prominently in the legend of the city’s founding.
History of River Tiber
Although the Romans attempted to control the lower course of the river, their lack of understanding of hydraulic principles prohibited the creation of sufficient flood defenses.
The Tiber has only recently flowed through Rome between tall stone embankments. Although the river’s depth ranges from 7 to 20 feet, there is some indication that grain trading was important even in the 5th century BCE because of the upstream passage to the Val Tiberina. Later, it became crucial to shipbuilding stone and timber. Vegetables grown in the gardens of riverbank villas were the primary source of food for ancient Rome at its height.
When Ostia became a naval station during the Punic Wars in the third century BCE, the significance of the lower Tiber was first realized. Later, it developed into a hub for the trade of wheat, oil, and wine from the Mediterranean.
The processes of silting and the deposition of sandbars at the river mouths defeated successive attempts to sustain Ostia, on the Fiumara, and the port of the emperors Claudius and Trajan, on the Fiumicino. Later popes attempted to enhance lower Tiber traffic, and ports were constructed in Rome in 1692, 1703, and 1744.
When additional dredging was done on the lower channel in the late 18th and mid-19th centuries, navigation and trade on the lower Tiber once again flourished.
However, silting persisted for another century until the only place the Tiber could be navigated was at Rome. In the meantime, the Tiber Delta had moved two miles closer to the sea since Roman times.
Geography of River Tiber in Italy
The northwest Italian Apennine Mountains are the source of the Tiber River. In the middle of the peninsula, it passes through Rome before continuing south to meet the Aniene River and finally the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Two distinct springs on Mount Fumaiolo, 1,268 miles above sea level, merge into an underground aquifer to supply the river with water.
The Tiber is the third-longest river in Italy, with 252 miles in length. It has an area that is 6,709 square miles in size. From 7 to 20 feet, the river’s depth varies. There are around 15 miles of land between the mouth of the Tiber and the Tyrrhenian Sea, where Rome is located.
East of Trastevere and west of the Forum is where you’ll find Tiber Island, right in the midst of the river. Before bridges were built across the river, this island served as a vital crossing point and trading post for those living on opposite banks.
Sources of River Tiber
Two springs on Mount Fumaiolo, about 33 feet (10 meters) apart from one another, formed the headwaters of the Tiber. Le Vene is the name of these thermal waters. The springs can be found in a beech forest at an elevation of 1,268 meters (4,160 feet).
Bridges located on the Tiber River
Rome’s left and right banks are linked by a total of 26 bridges across the Tiber. Some of the older bridges have also been maintained alongside the newer ones.
In order to extend the Via Flaminia (an ancient Roman road) and link Rome with Ariminum (modern Rimini), the Milvian Bridge (Italian: Ponte Molle or Ponte Milvio) was built in the 1st century BC.
The Ponte Sisto is a bridge that connects Trastevere to the right bank of the Tiber. In the distance, the medieval stone bridge honoring Pope Sixtus IV enhances the picturesque scene at the historic waterfront. Piazza Trulissa, on the left bank just across the bridge, is a favorite gathering spot for Romans and tourists alike in Trastevere.
The origins of the bridge known as Ponte Sant’Angelo (Hadrian’s Bridge) can be traced back to the second century AD. This path is only used for strolls. Since Emperor Hadrian oversaw its construction, the ancient span bears his name.
The little but historically significant Tiber Island is located right in the middle of Rome. There are two bridges that go to it from either side of the Tiber River, connecting the neighborhoods of Trastevere and Campo Marzio. The island has a long and illustrious history, making it significant for both spiritual and medical reasons.
The San Giovanni Calivita Hospital, founded in the sixth century, is the island’s most famous landmark. It has been in continuous use for well over a thousand years, making it one of the world’s oldest hospitals. The hospital was a haven for pilgrims visiting Rome and provided cutting-edge medical care and facilities even back in the Middle Ages. The hospital was expanded and modernized in the nineteenth century, making it one of the best in all of Italy.
The former San Giovanni Caribita Hospital has been transformed into a museum chronicling the development of healthcare in ancient Rome. Visitors can explore the historic structures, learn about the evolution of medical practices, and see displays detailing the hospital’s long history of patient care. The museum welcomes visitors and provides informative displays on medical history. The 10th-century San Bartolomeo Isola Church stands next to the Tiber Hospital. This church was constructed on the site of an even older temple to Asclepius, the Greek deity of health and healing. The church is an excellent example of medieval architecture, having undergone numerous renovations over the ages. Tours of the church allow guests to take in the structure’s many works of art, including priceless frescoes and sculptures.
Tiber’s central location, in addition to its historical and cultural offerings, makes it a popular tourist site. Some of Rome’s most historic and culturally significant neighborhoods, including Trastevere, Campo Marzio, and the Jewish Ghetto, surround the island. Travelers can enjoy the local eateries, shops, and attractions by exploring these areas.
In conclusion, Tiber Island is a fantastic destination for tourists in Rome. Its central location, gorgeous architecture, and significant cultural significance make it an interesting and unusual tourist attraction. The Tiber Island will leave an indelible mark on the minds of those who are interested in the development of medicine and medieval architecture, as well as those who just wish to immerse themselves in the beating heart of Rome.
Since the days of the Great Empire, the Tiber River (Latin: Tiberius; Tevere) has been a symbol of Rome. The picturesque Trastevere district of the Italian capital is framed by the winding river that circles the city’s iconic hills.
Many historic and medieval landmarks can be seen from the river’s reflective surface. The romantic beauty of Rome’s sceneries is due in large part to the dozens of bridges that span the river Tiber and connect the city’s two banks.