Eighteen years before the Christian era, Marcus Agrippa, the son-in-law of the Emperor Augustus, ordered his soldiers to supply the city of Nimes with water from two copious springs twenty-five miles away. The Pont du Gard itself is, therefore, only a fragment of the whole canal of solid masonry through which the water came; for the entire conduit was twenty-five miles long, and after spanning valleys, tunneling rocks, surmounting hills, and even passing for long distances underground, poured forth at last the water which it had conveyed, now through the earth, and now among the clouds.
The Fountain At Nimes.
The Pont Du Gard.
We climbed the hill, and stood upon the highest bar of this leviathan of masonry, and here, within the very channel where for sixteen hundred years the water flowed unchecked to Nimes, we walked from cliff to cliff! For it is still a perfectly preserved canal, no less than seven feet in height and four in breadth, and lined on both sides with a calcareous deposit, six inches thick, left atom by atom by the water as it flowed along for hundreds of years after the Roman Empire itself had passed away. We lingered here until the sun went down in majesty behind the lonely hills. Before it disappeared, however, it seemed to pause and turn on this gigantic framework of the Past an ardent, lingering gaze, which flooded it with glory. I shall never forget how beautiful this multitude of noble arches looked, as the western sky grew golden, and these massive bars stood out in picturesque relief against the radiant light. Towering above the desolate river which was dark with shadows, the mighty structure seemed the soul of the whole landscape; and as I gazed upon the highest arch, which had for centuries held within its breast a crystal artery of life, pulsating ceaselessly beneath a subtle force born in the mountains far away, time seemed for a moment to have been annihilated, and once again in this small corner of the Roman empire, and after nearly two millenniums of history, the Pont du Gard bore splendid testimony to the power of the Eternal City, proclaiming it to be still, as in the days of Augustus, Mistress of the World.
The Roman Aqueduct.