Roman Roads

The immense complex of roads built by the Romans represents an extraordinary engineering feat. With a total length of 100,000 kilometers, they are undoubtedly the longest surviving monument and Rome's greatest contribution to the development of civilization. The roads were a fundamental and indispensable tool for Rome's expansion and control of the empire. These long arteries, almost always straight, often following ancient routes, such as the Via Salaria, the road used for salt transportation, were traversed not only by armies but also by merchants, messengers, and ordinary travelers.

The Roman roads are among the most durable works of Roman civilization. They were typically three to four meters wide and composed of different layers, reaching a depth of about one and a half meters. The lower layer consisted of large pebbles that allowed for water drainage. On top of that, there was an intermediate layer of sand and gravel, and finally, a row of polished stones laid on a sandy bed formed the surface. This top layer had a convex profile to facilitate the runoff of rainwater along the side edges.

The entire empire was crisscrossed by a stable and efficient paved road network that maintained a straight direction, often continuing on bridges, viaducts, through cuttings, and tunnels. The Roman roads extended beyond the borders of Italy: the Via Ignazia started from Apulia and reached Constantinople. The Via Domizia crossed the Pyrenees and reached Spain, while the Via Augusta connected the Spanish coasts to North Africa, reaching as far as Alexandria in Egypt.

The most important and prestigious among the great consular roads that originated from Rome was the Appian Way, also known as the "Queen of Roads." It was commissioned in 312 BC by the censor Appius Claudius Caecus to directly connect Rome to Capua. As Rome expanded into the South, the road was extended multiple times until it reached Brind isi in the 2nd century BC, becoming a major transportation route to the East. In total, it covered 365 miles, approximately 540 kilometers. The entire journey took 13-14 days, during which travelers could stop at numerous post stations to change horses, often equipped with refreshment and lodging facilities.

Created: 09 Aug 2013
Last update: 17 Jun 2023

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