Adana: town in Cilicia.

Adana, bust of Hadrian

Originally, Adana used to be less important a city than nearby Tarsus, which had been the capital of Cilicia for times immemorial. In the Seleucid age, it was briefly called Antiochia. According to the later historian Appian, the Roman general Pompey the Great settled Cilician pirates at Adana,note which now started to grow. It was situated on a fertile plain and controlled the roads from Cilicia to Antioch and Cappadocia. The city was sacked in 260 by the Sasanian king Sapor I, who considered this important enough to boast of it in his list of achievements.note

The bridge across the river Sarus (modern Seyhan) was probably constructed during the reign of the emperor Hadrian (117-138). The 300 meters long and 13 meters high construction was erected by an engineer named Auxentius and restored by the Byzantine emperor Justinian (below). The monument was again restored by the Abbasid caliph al-Ma'mun in the ninth century, and several times under Ottoman rule. It is still in use, and the only archaeological monument in the city.

Procopius on the Adana bridge

The bridge of Adana
The bridge of Adana

Beyond it there is a certain city named Adana, on the eastern side of which the Sarus river flows, coming down from the mountains of Armenia. The Sarus is navigable and quite impossible for men on foot to ford. So in ancient times an enormous and very notable bridge was constructed here. It was built in the following fashion. At many points in the river piers of massive blocks of stone were reared upon its bed, built to a great thickness and forming a line extending across the entire width of the stream and in height rising far above high water. Above each pair of piers spring arches which rise to a great height, spanning the open space between them. The portion of this masonry 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.

Adana, bridge
Adana, bridge

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.note

This page was created in 2003; last modified on 6 August 2020.