[FOUNTAIN]Italians bridging historyOdysseus was the ruler of the island of Ithaca who led the Greeks to victory over the city of Troy. But he incurred the enmity of Poseidon, the god of the sea, and was condemned to wander the ocean for 10 years. On the long journey back to his beloved wife Penelope, he arrived at a narrow and rough strait, where he encountered Scylla, a monster with 6 dog heads and 12 feet, and Charybdis, a dreadful whirlpool, to whom he lost six men and ship, forcing Odysseus to continue alone.
That fateful strait, which was described by Homer in "The Odyssey," his heroic epic about Odysseus's journey, was the Strait of Messina. The strait lies between the Italian Peninsula and Sicily.
Last week, the Italian government announced that it would build the world's longest suspension bridge across the strait, connecting the Italian Peninsula and Sicily. Steel towers, 376 meters in height, will be placed on both sides of the strait, and the 3.3 kilometer-long bridge will hang from 1.2-meter thick steel cables connecting the two towers. If completed, the bridge would be far longer than the longest suspension bridge in existence today, the 2-kilometer long Akasi Bridge in Japan. Two railways and a six-lane highway will be built on the bridge, which will be designed to sustain 216-kilometer-per-hour winds and an earthquake that measures seven on the Richter scale. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2004 and last seven years.
The biggest hurdle to the construction project is the phenomenal cost: as much as 5.7 billion euros ($ 6.5 billion). Italy hopes to attract either private investments or support from the European Union.
The Italian government said it expected the bridge to contribute to narrowing the chronic economic gap between the southern and northern parts of Italy. In Italy, the average income of the industrialized north is four times that of the south, which includes Sicily.
The Strait of Messina was the starting point of the Roman Empire. About 2,200 years ago, Rome waged the first Punic War against Carthage over control of the Mediterranean Sea. Roman armies crossed the strait and conquered Sicily. Rome planted the roots of its empire with its victory in the first Punic War.
Nanami Shiono, a Japanese writer, wrote that "the thoughts that filled the minds of Romans gazing at Sicily, the island that seemed so close, were the origin of the Punic War," in her book "Tales of Romans."
Will the Messina bridge be the first step to reviving the glory of the Roman Empire?
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Sohn Byoung-soo