The Alcantara Bridge in the Extremadura region of Spain is one of the oldest structures extant whose architect is known by name. It spans the Tagus River near the modern-day border of Spain and Portugal. Its construction, during the reign of emperor Trajan, was led by Gaius Julius Lacer, who is thought to have been a military engineer. The work was completed in 106 AD.

There is a small temple next to the bridge which serves as the final resting place of the architect. The inscription on this building reads in part:

pontem perpetui mansurum in saecula mundi / fecit divina nobilis arte Lacer

On the internet I can find various translations, many of which seem questionable if not downright unusable. See the article on the bridge in the English Wikipedia that I linked above for an example of the latter. I took five years of Latin in high school, but that was forty years ago, so my knowledge of Latin is extremely rusty. My best efforts at translating the above have resulted in this:

"The renowned Lacer, with divine art, built this bridge to persist throughout the ages of the world"

I used the Oxford Latin Dictionary for help with vocabulary, but the recognition of grammatical constructs is often crucial for the correct translation of Latin, and I am afraid I might have fallen short on that account. I am looking for corrections and / or improvements to the translation here.

1 Answer 1


I think your translation is spot on. The way I read it, I would parse the words like so:

"The famous Lacer (nobilis Lacer) with divine art (divina arte) made the bridge (fecit pontem) to last into the ages (mansurum in saecula) of the everlasting world (perpetui mundi)."

EDIT May 2023

So looking back, I see another possible parsing of these same words, which seems to be at least as likely as the one above:

"Lacer (Lacer), famous for divine art (divina nobilis arte), made the bridge (fecit pontem) to last into the ages (mansurum in saecula) of the everlasting world (perpetui mundi)."

Also note that perpetui mundi, which I have translated as modifying saecula, might just as easily be made to modify divina arte. So:

"Lacer (Lacer), famous for divine art (divina nobilis arte) of the perpetual world (perpetui mundi) made the bridge (fecit pontem) to last into the ages (mansurum in saecula)".

I like this last parsing the best, because it contrasts divine art with the practical art of bridge-building, and because even though the subject of divine art is the perpetuus mundus, the art of the bridge may last, though not perpetuus, yet still in saecula, for a very long time.

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    I actually parsed: (perpetui mansurum) continuously persisting; (saecula mundi) ages of the world. This differs from your parsing. Could you add a brief explanation how your parsing is motivated by the grammatical elements? I started with Lacer (nom.) ... fecit ... pontem (acc.), then started fitting in the other pieces. E.g. nobilis is nom. so matches up with Lacer, thus nobilis Lacer.
    – njuffa
    Commented Sep 9, 2021 at 6:09
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    @njuffa The only difference seems to be that you parsed perpetui as the adverb, which it is not. (The usual classical form is perpetuo; perpetue exists in Late Latin.) It can only be an adjective, so it stands to reason it modifies mundi. Commented Sep 9, 2021 at 17:33
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    @njuffa As Sebastian pointed out, perpetui is an adjective. It looks like it might be a nominative masculine plural, but that can't be it because the only finite verb in the sentence, fecit, is singular. So it must be a genitive masculine or neuter. O look! There's a masculine genitive mundi right there in the sentence. Maybe it modifies that noun. The only other option is that it's a neuter substantive (perpetui = of a perpetual thing), but I don't see anything that clues me in to what that "perpetual thing" may be. So I'm stuck with the genitive of perpetuus mundus.
    – Figulus
    Commented Sep 10, 2021 at 2:45
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    @Figulus Allow me to point out that connecting bridge building with the divine had a long tradition in the Roman world, thus the office of pontifex maximus, with many scholar opining that the word pontifex quite literally originated as "bridge builder". That makes me somewhat doubtful of the alternate parsing you utilized for the update.
    – njuffa
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 5:23
  • @njuffa Good point!
    – Figulus
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 22:23

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