URBEM FECISTI - ROMAN ROADS | Bed and Rome and Breakfast

lunedì 26 dicembre 2016

URBEM FECISTI - ROMAN ROADS

Appian Way
The modern civilization, especially the West, is in credit with the ancient Greeks for everything related to the development of philosophy, literature, geometry and more. It was instead the ancient Romans who created social infrastructure and legislation on which still underlie our society. Already in the I century AD Strabo and Pliny the Elder, observed that the Greeks missed to work on three essential pillars of the society: water supply, sewers and roads.
Water supply and sewers are essential for the growth of a town, roads are essential for the development of an organized state and for the growth of trades and of the economy and therefore of the propsperity of the populations.


The network of main roads, the consular ones, named after the consul that had taken care or the construction, was approximately 100000 km long. For comparison, it has to be considered that it is more than the network of main roads in the USA today, Interstate Highway System, although the extension of th Roman empire was approximately 60 % of the size of the USA and the population only 20 %.

A very goo map of the roman road system may be found here.  It can be easily seen that the today's road network is essentially the same that was created by the Romans.
In addition to the main roads, called Viae, that were paved and large enough to allow the passage of two carriages, one in bth directions, there were also 150000 km of secondary roads normally covered with clay that were used to reach minor destinations but still large enough to allow the passage of carriages and a moltitude of smaller roads that could be used only by pedestrians and animals.
Layrs - strata - of a roman road
The italian word strada, the english street, the german strasse, are all derived fro the construction technique of the roman roads. The roads were built digging a ditch that had a depth between 60 cm and 2 mt and filling it with layes, strata, of different materials.
The road was finally covered with a layer of perfectly polished stones and stuck between them. The cutting of the stones was irregular to prevent it would create fracture lines as a result the stresses to which the road was subjected. The construction technicque was such that roads required very little maintenace. That is witnessed by the fact that nowadays there are still long stretch of usable roads although, after the fall of the empire, there was no maintenance at all for centuries.
The road was not flat but higher at the center to allow water flow to the sides. The different size of the materials used for the layers allowed an easy drainage.
One major characteristic of the roman roads is that they were essentially straight, the shortes possible way between two places.
Furlo tunnel
Natural obstacles, e.g. rivers and hills, were overtaken by the construction of bridges and tunnels. Among the tunnels, an absolutely remarkable one is the Furlo tunnel, built under emperor Vespasianus in the I century AD, that is still in use after almost 2000 years. It is located along the Via Flaminia.
A stretch of more than 60 km along the Appian Way is still the longest straight one in Europe.
The success of the road system was not due only to thei perfect construction but to all the organization. In other words, travelling was not something so hard as one could expect considering that it had to be made walking or on animals or carriages.
First of all milestones were placed all along the roads to indicate the distances among the various sites and from Rome. The zero milestone, the Miliarum Aureum (glden mileston) was placed in the Roman Forum as a reference point. That's why All roads lead to Rome. The word mile comes from milia passuum (one thousand steps) that was the measurement unit that was used by the Romans.
Travelers had also the possibility to rest along the way.
Taberna
There were diffent levels of comfort in the places offering hospitality
  • Mansiones were kept by the government, that were used by public officers, politicians and everyone who was travelling for official reasons. They were charactecterized by a high level of luxury. Often they were also connected to a military camp
  • Tabernae and cauponae were used by private travelers. The first ones provided a high standard of service for the rich people, while the other ones were used by the simple people
  • Mutationes were horses change stations providing also all the services for the animals and the carriges. They were located every 12-18 miles. Thanks to those Emperor Tiberius was able to travel for 500 miles in a day to go to visit his dying brother.
Thanks to the quality of the roads, the distance that a normal person conver in a day was about 150 - 200 km. Reaching Naples was a one day trip, reeaching Milan a three days trip.

The best example of a roman road is the Appian Way, the Regina Viarum (Queen of the roads) that was connecting Rome to Brindisi, in southeastern Italy, the port from wich all the ships to Greece, Middle East and Egypt were sailing. The first miles of the Appian Way are within the urban part of the city of Rome and are part of an archeological park, with the remains of ancient villas and tombs of aristocratic people.

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