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A pontoon bridge: a row of boats with planks laid over them to cross a river

A pontoon bridge from the Column of Marcus Aurelius, in Rome

A pontoon bridge is a temporary bridge that you make by lining up a lot of boats crossways across the river, and then putting wooden planks over the boats to make a bridge. You can see one in the picture.

It’s a fast way to make a bridge so that you can get an army, or a lot of refugees, or any other group across a river quickly without too much trouble.

Famous uses of pontoon bridges in antiquity include Xerxes crossing the Hellespont in the Second Persian War and the one pictured above, Marcus Aurelius fighting the Marcomanni in the Roman Empire.

Learn by doing: build a pontoon bridge across a creek or your bathtub
More about the Column of Marcus Aurelius
More about Roman boats and ships

Bibliography and further reading about ancient technology:


More about Marcus Aurelius
More about Xerxes home