The first thing I want to say: sorry. Sorry because it’s a long time since I’ve written my last article about the ancient Roman culture. I had many exams to do at university and I moved to Vancouver, where I’m going to stay until September. I promise that I’ll write every week! 🙂
Today I am going to speak about a very strange topic: roads. Romans were not only brave warriors, smart generals and cunning politicians. They were also builders and they left to us many buildings like forums, temples and… roads. Yes. Romans needed roads, not only to improve trades, but also to move troops quickly from a region to another. But let’s talk from the beginning.
At first roads were built spontaneously and they were called for their city of destination (via Ardeatina), for the function (via Salaria, which was used to sell the marine salt) or the population interested by the road (via Latina). In the V century BC there were built new roads, in order to sustain the Roman expansion in Italy. These roads were called by the name of the magistrate who wanted them (via Appia, which took its name from the consul Appius Claudius). When Romans started to conquer the regions outside Italy, the first thing they did was building roads. Why? Because they could move their army quickly in case of rebellion, especially where Romans were just arrived. Roads were built by soldiers, and thanks to them the empire experienced a very long period of peace and prosperity.
How did they built roads? Into a ditch was dumped large amounts of rubble, gravel, sand and stone. When it came to within 1 m or so of the surface it was covered with gravel and tamped down, a process called pavire, or pavimentare. The flat surface was then the pavimentum. It could be used as the road, or additional layers could be constructed. A statumen or “foundation” of flat stones set in cement might support the additional layers.
The final steps utilized concrete, which the Romans had discovered. They seem to have mixed the mortar and the stones in the ditch. First a small layer of coarse concrete, the rudus, then a little layer of fine concrete, the nucleus, went onto the pavement or statumen. Into or onto the nucleus went a course of polygonal or square paving stones, called the summa crusta. The crusta was crowned for drainage. The roads were about 6 m large, in order to let
These buildings were thought to last for a long time, and today is possible to see many roads throughout Europe. Romans preferred to engineer solutions to obstacles rather than circumvent them. In fact they were able to built bridges, tunnels and roads on swamps. Some of these buildings are so well – built that they are used still nowadays.
I would like to finish with an explanation of a proverb: “all roads lead to Rome“. Is that true? Yes, for sure, because, thanks to these roads, Romans were able to reach the capital city wherever. The empire had in fact more than 80.000 km of roads, from Britain to the Middle East, from Egypt to Germany. They were not only safe, because they were always patrolled by soldiers, but also fast to go through, because they were covered by stone and there were also mail stations, in which travellers could have a rest and change their horses.
To conclude, Roman roads are one of the most significant heritage from the classical world. They were used for millennia and nowadays a lot of modern roads simply cover the previous Roman track.