Roman roads (Latin: viae Romanae; singular: Via Romana meaning Roman
way) were physical infrastructure vital to the maintenance and
development of the Roman state, and were built from about 300 BC
through the expansion and consolidation of the
Roman Republic and the
Roman Empire. They provided efficient means for the overland
movement of armies, officials, and civilians, and the inland carriage
of official communications and trade goods.
Roman roads were of
several kinds, ranging from small local roads to broad, long-distance
highways built to connect cities, major towns and military bases.
These major roads were often stone-paved and metaled, cambered for
drainage, and were flanked by footpaths, bridleways and drainage
ditches. They were laid along accurately surveyed courses, and some
were cut through hills, or conducted over rivers and ravines on
bridgework. Sections could be supported over marshy ground on rafted
or piled foundations.
At the peak of Rome's development, no fewer than 29 great military
highways radiated from the capital, and the late Empire's 113
provinces were interconnected by 372 great roads. The whole
comprised more than 400,000 kilometres (250,000 miles) of roads, of
which over 80,500 kilometres (50,000 mi) were stone-paved.
Gaul alone, no less than 21,000 kilometres (13,000 mi) of
roadways are said to have been improved, and in Britain at least 4,000
kilometres (2,500 mi). The courses (and sometimes the
surfaces) of many
Roman roads survived for millennia; some are
overlaid by modern roads.
1 Roman systems
2 Laws and traditions
3.1 Viae publicae, consulares, praetoriae and militares
3.2 Viae privatae, rusticae, glareae and agrariae
3.3 Viae vicinales
3.4 Governance and financing
3.5 Costs and civic responsibilities
3.6 Official bodies
3.7 Augustus' changes
3.8 Other curatores
4 Construction and engineering
4.1 Practices and terminology
4.2 Materials and methods
4.2.1 Via terrena
4.2.2 Via glareata
4.2.3 Via munita
4.3 Obstacle crossings
4.4 Bridges and causeways
5 Military and citizen utilization
5.1 Milestones and markers
5.2 Itinerary maps and charts
5.3 Vehicles and transportation
5.4 Way stations and traveler inns
5.5 Post offices and services
6.1 Italian areas
6.2 Other areas
7.2 General information
7.3 Primary sources
8 Further reading
9 External links
"The extraordinary greatness of the
Roman Empire manifests itself
above all in three things: the aqueducts, the paved roads, and the
construction of the drains."
Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Ant. Rom. 3.67.5
Livy mentions some of the most familiar roads near Rome, and the
milestones on them, at times long before the first paved road—the
Appian Way. Unless these allusions are just simple anachronisms,
the roads referred to were probably at the time little more than
levelled earthen tracks. Thus, the Via Gabina (during the time of
Porsena) is mentioned in about 500 BC; the
Via Latina (during the time
of Coriolanus) in about 490 BC; the
Via Nomentana (also known as "Via
Ficulensis"), in 449 BC; the
Via Labicana in 421 BC; and the Via
Salaria in 361 BC.
In the Itinerary of Antoninus, the description of the road system,
after the death of
Julius Caesar and during the tenure of Augustus, is
"With the exception of some outlying portions, such as Britain north
of the Wall, Dacia, and certain provinces east of the Euphrates, the
whole Empire was penetrated by these itinera (plural of iter). There
is hardly a district to which we might expect a Roman official to be
sent, on service either civil or military, where we do not find roads.
They reach the Wall in Britain; run along the Rhine, the Danube, and
the Euphrates; and cover, as with a network, the interior provinces of
A road map of the empire reveals that it was generally laced with a
dense network of prepared viae. Beyond its borders there were no
paved roads; however, it can be supposed that footpaths and dirt roads
allowed some transport. There were, for instance, some pre-Roman
ancient trackways in Britain, such as the Ridgeway and the Icknield
For specific roads, see Roman road locations below.
Laws and traditions
The Laws of the Twelve Tables, dated to about 450 BC, required that
any public road (
Latin via) be 8 Roman feet (perhaps about 2.37
m) wide where straight and twice that width where curved. These were
probably the minimum widths for a via; in the later Republic, widths
of around 12 Roman feet were common for public roads in rural regions,
permitting the passing of two carts of standard (4 foot) width without
interference to pedestrian traffic. Actual practices varied from
this standard. The Tables command Romans to build public roads and
give wayfarers the right to pass over private land where the road is
in disrepair. Building roads that would not need frequent repair
therefore became an ideological objective, as well as building them as
straight as possible in order to build the narrowest roads possible,
and thus save on material.
Roman law defined the right to use a road as a servitus, or liability.
The ius eundi ("right of going") established a claim to use an iter,
or footpath, across private land; the ius agendi ("right of driving"),
an actus, or carriage track. A via combined both types of servitutes,
provided it was of the proper width, which was determined by an
arbiter. The default width was the latitudo legitima of 8 feet.
Roman law and tradition forbade the use of vehicles in urban areas,
except in certain cases. Married women and government officials on
business could ride. The
Lex Iulia Municipalis restricted commercial
carts to night-time access in the city within the walls and within a
mile outside the walls.
Roman roads varied from simple corduroy roads to paved roads using
deep roadbeds of tamped rubble as an underlying layer to ensure that
they kept dry, as the water would flow out from between the stones and
fragments of rubble, instead of becoming mud in clay soils. According
to Ulpian, there were three types of roads:
Viae publicae, consulares, praetoriae or militares
Viae privatae, rusticae, glareae or agrariae
Viae publicae, consulares, praetoriae and militares
The first type of road included public high or main roads, constructed
and maintained at the public expense, and with their soil vested in
the state. Such roads led either to the sea, or to a town, or to a
public river (one with a constant flow), or to another public road.
Siculus Flaccus, who lived under
Trajan (98-117), calls them viae
publicae regalesque, and describes their characteristics as
They are placed under curatores (commissioners), and repaired by
redemptores (contractors) at the public expense; a fixed contribution,
however, being levied from the neighboring landowners.
These roads bear the names of their constructors (e.g. Via Appia,
Roman roads were named after the censor who had ordered their
construction or reconstruction. The same person often served
afterwards as consul, but the road name is dated to his term as
censor. If the road was older than the office of censor or was of
unknown origin, it took the name of its destination or of the region
through which it mainly passed. A road was renamed if the censor
ordered major work on it, such as paving, repaving, or rerouting. With
the term viae regales compare the roads of the Persian kings (who
probably organized the first system of public roads) and the King's
highway. With the term viae militariae compare the Icknield Way
(e.g., Icen-hilde-weg, or "War-way of the Iceni").
However, there were many other people, besides special officials, who
from time to time, and for a variety of reasons, sought to connect
their names with a great public service like that of the roads.
Gaius Gracchus, when Tribune of the People (123-122 BC), paved or
gravelled many of the public roads, and provided them with milestones
and mounting-blocks for riders. Again, Gaius Scribonius Curio, when
Tribune (50 BC), sought popularity by introducing a Lex Viaria, under
which he was to be chief inspector or commissioner for five years. Dio
Cassius mentions as one of the forcible acts of the triumvirs of 43 BC
(Octavianus, Antony, and Lepidus), that they obliged the senators to
repair the public roads at their own expense.
Viae privatae, rusticae, glareae and agrariae
The second category included private or country roads, originally
constructed by private individuals, in whom their soil was vested, and
who had the power to dedicate them to the public use. Such roads
benefited from a right of way, in favor either of the public or of the
owner of a particular estate. Under the heading of viae privatae were
also included roads leading from the public or high roads to
particular estates or settlements. These
Ulpian considers to be public
roads in themselves.
Features off the via were connected to the via by viae rusticae, or
secondary roads. Both main or secondary roads might either be
paved, or left unpaved, with a gravel surface, as they were in North
Africa. These prepared but unpaved roads were viae glareae or
sternendae ("to be strewn"). Beyond the secondary roads were the viae
terrenae, "dirt roads".
The third category comprised roads at or in villages, districts, or
crossroads, leading through or towards a vicus or village. Such
roads ran either into a high road, or into other viae vicinales,
without any direct communication with a high road. They were
considered public or private, according to the fact of their original
construction out of public or private funds or materials. Such a road,
though privately constructed, became a public road when the memory of
its private constructors had perished.
Siculus Flaccus describes viae vicinales as roads "de publicis quae
divertunt in agros et saepe ad alteras publicas perveniunt" (which
turn off the public roads into fields, and often reach to other public
roads). The repairing authorities, in this case, were the magistri
pagorum or magistrates of the cantons. They could require the
neighboring landowners either to furnish laborers for the general
repair of the viae vicinales, or to keep in repair, at their own
expense, a certain length of road passing through their respective
Governance and financing
With the conquest of Italy, prepared viae were extended from Rome and
its vicinity to outlying municipalities, sometimes overlying earlier
roads. Building viae was a military responsibility and thus came under
the jurisdiction of a consul. The process had a military name, viam
munire, as though the via were a fortification. Municipalities,
however, were responsible for their own roads, which the Romans called
viae vicinales. The beauty and grandeur of the roads might tempt us to
believe that any Roman citizen could use them for free, but this was
not the case. Tolls abounded, especially at bridges. Often they were
collected at the city gate. Freight costs were made heavier still by
import and export taxes. These were only the charges for using the
roads. Costs of services on the journey went up from there.
Financing road building was a Roman government responsibility.
Maintenance, however, was generally left to the province. The
officials tasked with fund-raising were the curatores viarum. They had
a number of methods available to them. Private citizens with an
interest in the road could be asked to contribute to its repair. High
officials might distribute largesse to be used for roads. Censors, who
were in charge of public morals and public works, were expected to
fund repairs suâ pecuniâ (with their own money). Beyond those means,
taxes were required.
A via connected two cities. Viae were generally centrally placed in
the countryside.[clarification needed] The construction and care of
the public roads, whether in Rome, in Italy, or in the provinces, was,
at all periods of Roman history, considered to be a function of the
greatest weight and importance. This is clearly shown by the fact that
the censors, in some respects the most venerable of Roman magistrates,
had the earliest paramount authority to construct and repair all roads
and streets. Indeed, all the various functionaries, not excluding the
emperors themselves, who succeeded the censors in this portion of
their duties, may be said to have exercised a devolved censorial
Costs and civic responsibilities
The devolution to the censorial jurisdictions soon became a practical
necessity, resulting from the growth of the Roman dominions and the
diverse labors which detained the censors in the capital city. Certain
ad hoc official bodies successively acted as constructing and
repairing authorities. In Italy, the censorial responsibility passed
to the commanders of the Roman armies, and later to special
commissioners – and in some cases perhaps to the local magistrates.
In the provinces, the consul or praetor and his legates received
authority to deal directly with the contractor.
The care of the streets and roads within the Roman territory was
committed in the earliest times to the censors. They eventually made
contracts for paving the street inside Rome, including the Clivus
Capitolinus, with lava, and for laying down the roads outside the city
with gravel. Sidewalks were also provided. The aediles, probably by
virtue of their responsibility for the freedom of traffic and policing
the streets, co-operated with the censors and the bodies that
It would seem that in the reign of
Claudius (AD 41-54) the quaestors
had become responsible for the paving of the streets of Rome, or at
least shared that responsibility with the quattuorviri viarum. It
has been suggested that the quaestors were obliged to buy their right
to an official career by personal outlay on the streets. There was
certainly no lack of precedents for this enforced liberality, and the
change made by
Claudius may have been a mere change in the nature of
the expenditure imposed on the quaestors.
The official bodies which first succeeded the censors in the care of
the streets and roads were two in number. They were:
Quattuorviri viis in urbe purgandis, with jurisdiction inside the
walls of Rome;
Duoviri viis extra urbem purgandis, with jurisdiction outside the
Both these bodies were probably of ancient origin, but the true year
of their institution is unknown. Little reliance can be placed on
Pomponius, who states that the quattuorviri were instituted eodem
tempore (at the same time) as the praetor peregrinus (i.e. about 242
BC) and the
Decemviri litibus iudicandis (time unknown). The
first mention of either body occurs in the Lex Julia Municipalis of 45
BC. The quattuorviri were afterwards called Quattuorviri viarum
curandarum. The extent of jurisdiction of the
Duoviri is derived from
their full title as
Duoviri viis extra propiusve urbem Romam passus
mille purgandis. Their authority extended over all roads
between their respective gates of issue in the city wall and the first
In case of an emergency in the condition of a particular road, men of
influence and liberality were appointed, or voluntarily acted, as
curatores or temporary commissioners to superintend the work of
repair. The dignity attached to such a curatorship is attested by a
passage of Cicero. Among those who performed this duty in connection
with particular roads was Julius Caesar, who became curator (67 BC) of
the Via Appia, and spent his own money liberally upon it. Certain
persons appear also to have acted alone and taken responsibility for
In the country districts, as has been stated, the magistri pagorum had
authority to maintain the viae vicinales. In Rome itself each
householder was legally responsible for the repairs to that portion of
the street which passed his own house. It was the duty of the
aediles to enforce this responsibility. The portion of any street
which passed a temple or public building was repaired by the aediles
at the public expense. When a street passed between a public building
or temple and a private house, the public treasury and the private
owner shared the expense equally. No doubt[speculation?], if only to
secure uniformity, the personal liability of householders to execute
repairs of the streets was commuted for a paving rate payable to the
public authorities who were responsible from time to time.
The governing structure was changed by Augustus. In the course of his
reconstitution of the urban administration he created new offices in
connection with the public works, streets, and aqueducts of Rome. He
found[clarification needed] the quattuorviri and duoviri forming part
of the body of magistrates known as vigintisexviri. These he
reduced from 26 to 20 members (vigintiviri), but retained the
quattuorviri among them. The latter were certainly still in existence
Augustus abolished the duoviri, no doubt
because the time had come to deal comprehensively with the
superintendence of the roads which connected Rome with Italy and the
Dio Cassius relates that
Augustus personally accepted the
post of superintendent. In this capacity he represented the
paramount authority which belonged originally to the censors.
Moreover, he appointed men of praetorian rank to be road-makers,
assigning to each of them two lictors. He also made the office of
curator of each of the great public roads a perpetual magistracy,
instead of a special and temporary commission, as had been the case
In Augustus' capacity as supreme head of the public road system, he
converted the temporary cura of each of the great roads into a
permanent magistracy. The persons appointed under the new system were
of senatorial or equestrian rank, according to the relative importance
of the roads respectively assigned to them. It was the duty of each
curator to issue contracts for the maintenance and repairs of his
road, and to see that the contractor who undertook the work performed
it faithfully, as to both quantity and quality. Moreover, he
authorized the construction of sewers and removed obstructions to
traffic, as the aediles did in Rome. It was in the character of an
imperial curator, though probably of one armed with extraordinary
Corbulo (as has been already mentioned) denounced the
magistratus and mancipes of the Italian roads to Tiberius. He
pursued them and their families with fines and imprisonment for 18
years (AD 21-39), and was rewarded with a consulship by Caligula, who
was himself in the habit of condemning well-born citizens to work on
the roads. It is noticeable that
Corbulo to justice,
and repaid the money which had been extorted from his victims.
Special curatores for a term seem to have been appointed on occasion,
even after the institution of the permanent magistrates bearing that
title. The Emperors who succeeded
Augustus exercised a vigilant
control over the condition of the public highways. Their names occur
frequently in the inscriptions to restorers of roads and bridges.
Thus, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, Trajan, and
Septimius Severus were
commemorated in this capacity at Emérita. The Itinerary of
Antoninus, which was probably a work of much earlier date, republished
in an improved and enlarged form, under one of the Antonine emperors,
remains as standing evidence of the minute care which was bestowed on
the service of the public roads.
Construction and engineering
See also: History of infrastructure
Ancient Rome boasted impressive technological feats, using many
advances that would be lost in the Middle Ages. These accomplishments
would not be rivaled until the Modern Age. Many practical Roman
innovations were adopted from earlier designs. Some of the common,
earlier designs incorporated arches.
Road construction on Trajan's Column
Practices and terminology
Main article: Roman engineering
Roman road builders aimed at a regulation width (see Laws and
traditions above), but actual widths have been measured at between 3.6
feet (1.1 metres) and more than 23 feet (7.0 metres). Today, the
concrete has worn from the spaces around the stones, giving the
impression of a very bumpy road, but the original practice was to
produce a surface that was no doubt much closer to being flat. Many
roads were built to resist rain, freezing and flooding. They were
constructed to need as little repair as possible.
Roman construction took a directional straightness. Many long sections
are ruler-straight, but it should not be thought that all of them
were. Some links in the network were as long as 55 miles (89 km).
Gradients of 10%–12% are known in ordinary terrain, 15%–20% in
mountainous country. The Roman emphasis on constructing straight roads
often resulted in steep slopes relatively impractical for most
commercial traffic; over the years the Romans themselves realized this
and built longer, but more manageable, alternatives to existing roads.
Roman roads generally went straight up and down hills, rather than in
a serpentine pattern.
As to the standard Imperial terminology that was used, the words were
localized for different elements used in construction and varied from
region to region. Also, in the course of time, the terms via munita
and vía publica became identical.
See also: Roman military engineering
Materials and methods
Viae were distinguished not only according to their public or private
character, but according to the materials employed and the methods
followed in their construction.
Ulpian divided them up in the
Via terrena: A plain road of leveled earth.
Via glareata: An earthed road with a graveled surface.
Via munita: A regular built road, paved with rectangular blocks of
the stone of the country, or with polygonal blocks of lava.
The Romans, though certainly inheriting some of the art of road
construction from the Etruscans, borrowed the knowledge of
construction of viae munitae from the Carthaginians according to
Isidore of Sevilla.
The Viae terrenae were plain roads of leveled earth. These were mere
tracks worn down by the feet of humans and animals, and possibly by
The Viae glareatae were earthed roads with a graveled surface or a
gravel subsurface and paving on top.
Livy speaks of the censors of his
time as being the first to contract for paving the streets of Rome
with flint stones, for laying gravel on the roads outside the city,
and for forming raised footpaths at the sides. In these roads, the
surface was hardened with gravel, and although pavements were
introduced shortly afterwards, the blocks were allowed to rest merely
on a bed of small stones. An example of this type is found on
the Praenestine Way. Another example is found near the Via Latina.
The best sources of information as regards the construction of a
regulation via munita are:
The many existing remains of viae publicae. These are often
sufficiently well preserved to show that the rules of construction
were, as far as local material allowed, minutely adhered to in
The directions for making pavements given by Vitruvius. The pavement
and the via munita were identical in construction, except as regards
the top layer, or surface. This consisted, in the former case, of
marble or mosaic, and, in the latter, of blocks of stone or lava.
A passage in
Statius describing the repairs of the Via Domitiana, a
branch road of the Via Appia, leading to Neapolis.
After the civil engineer looked over the site of the proposed road and
determined roughly where it should go, the agrimensores went to work
surveying the road bed. They used two main devices, the rod and a
device called a groma, which helped them obtain right angles. The
gromatici, the Roman equivalent of rod men, placed rods and put down a
line called the rigor. As they did not possess anything like a
transit, a civil engineering surveyor tried to achieve straightness by
looking along the rods and commanding the gromatici to move them as
required. Using the gromae they then laid out a grid on the plan of
The libratores then began their work using ploughs and, sometimes with
the help of legionaries, with spades excavated the road bed down to
bed rock or at least to the firmest ground they could find. The
excavation was called the fossa, the
Latin word for ditch. The depth
varied according to terrain.
The general appearance of such a metalled road and footway is shown in
an existing street of Pompeii.
(A). Native earth, leveled and, if necessary, rammed tight.
(B). Statumen: stones of a size to fill the hand.
(C). Audits: rubble or concrete of broken stones and lime.
(D). Nucleus: kernel or bedding of fine cement made of pounded
potshards and lime.
(E). Dorsum or agger viae: the elliptical surface or crown of the road
(media stratae eminentia) made of polygonal blocks of silex (basaltic
lava) or rectangular blocks of saxum qitadratum (travertine, peperino,
or other stone of the country). The upper surface was designed to cast
off rain or water like the shell of a tortoise. The lower surfaces of
the separate stones, here shown as flat, were sometimes cut to a point
or edge in order to grasp the nucleus, or next layer, more firmly.
(F). Crepido, margo or semita: raised footway, or sidewalk, on each
side of the via.
(G). Umbones or edge-stones.
The method varied according to geographic locality, materials
available and terrain, but the plan, or ideal at which the engineer
aimed was always the same. The roadbed was layered. The road was
constructed by filling the ditch. This was done by layering rock over
Into the ditch was dumped large amounts of rubble, gravel and stone,
whatever fill was available. Sometimes a layer of sand was put down,
if it could be found. When it came to within 1 yd (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 lime-based 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
An example is found in an early basalt road by the
Temple of Saturn
Temple of Saturn on
the Clivus Capitolinus. It had travertine paving, polygonal basalt
blocks, concrete bedding (substituted for the gravel), and a
The remains of Emperor Trajan's route along the
Danube (see Roman
Roman auxiliary infantry crossing a river, probably the Danube, on a
pontoon bridge during the emperor Trajan's Dacian Wars (101–106)
Romans preferred to engineer solutions to obstacles rather than
circumvent them. Outcroppings of stone, ravines, or hilly or
mountainous terrain called for cuttings and tunnels. An example of
this is found on the Roman road from Cazanes near the Iron Gates. This
road was half carved into the rock, about 5 ft. to 5 ft. 9
in. (1.5 to 1.75 m), the rest of the road, above the Danube, was made
from wooden structure, projecting out of the cliff. The road
functioned as a towpath, making the
Danube navigable. Tabula Traiana
memorial plaque in
Serbia is all that remains of the now-submerged
Bridges and causeways
Main article: Roman bridge
See also: List of Roman bridges
Roman bridges, built by ancient Romans, were the first large and
lasting bridges built. River crossings were achieved by bridges, or
pontes. Single slabs went over rills. A bridge could be of wood,
stone, or both. Wooden bridges were constructed on pilings sunk into
the river, or on stone piers. Larger or more permanent bridges
required arches. These larger bridges were built with stone and had
the arch as its basic structure (see arch bridge). Most also used
concrete, which the Romans were the first to use for bridges. Roman
bridges were so well constructed that a number remain in use today.
Causeways were built over marshy ground. The road was first marked out
with pilings. Between them were sunk large quantities of stone so as
to raise the causeway to more than 5 feet (1.5 metres) above the
marsh. In the provinces, the Romans often did not bother with a stone
causeway, but used log roads (pontes longi).
Military and citizen utilization
The public road system of the Romans was thoroughly military in its
aims and spirit. It was designed to unite and consolidate the
conquests of the Roman people, whether within or without the limits of
Italy proper. A legion on the march brought its own baggage train
(impedimenta) and constructed its own camp (castra) every evening at
the side of the road.
Milestones and markers
Main article: Milestone
Milestones divided the via Appia even before 250 BC into numbered
miles, and most viae after 124 BC. The modern word "mile" derives from
Latin milia passuum, "one thousand paces", which amounted to 4,841
feet (1,476 metres). A milestone, or miliarium, was a circular column
on a solid rectangular base, set for more than 2 feet (0.61 metres)
into the ground, standing 5 feet (1.5 metres) tall, 20 inches (51
centimetres) in diameter, and weighing more than 2 tons. At the base
was inscribed the number of the mile relative to the road it was on.
In a panel at eye-height was the distance to the
Roman Forum and
various other information about the officials who made or repaired the
road and when. These miliaria are valuable historical documents now.
Their inscriptions are collected in the volume XVII of the Corpus
Examples of Roman Milestones
Rome, Campidoglio: the Miliarium (milestone), point of departure of
the consular roads by Lalupa
Turda, Romania: 1993 copy of the Milliarium of Aiton, dating from 108
and showing the construction of the road from
Potaissa to Napoca built
by Cohors I Hispanorum miliaria in Roman Dacia, by demand of the
Remains of the miliarium aureum in the Roman Forum
A provincial Roman milestone, at Alto Rabagão, Portugal (road from
Bracara Augusta to Asturias)
The Romans had a preference for standardization wherever possible, so
Augustus, after becoming permanent commissioner of roads in 20 BC, set
up the miliarium aureum ("golden milestone") near the Temple of
Saturn. All roads were considered to begin from this gilded bronze
monument. On it were listed all the major cities in the empire and
distances to them. Constantine called it the umbilicus Romae ("navel
of Rome"), and built a similar—although more complex—monument in
Constantinople, the Milion.
Milestones permitted distances and locations to be known and recorded
exactly. It was not long before historians began to refer to the
milestone at which an event occurred.
Itinerary maps and charts
Main article: Itinerarium
Tabula Peutingeriana' (Southern Italy centered).
Combined topographical and road-maps may have existed as specialty
items in some Roman libraries, but they were expensive, hard to copy
and not in general use. Travelers wishing to plan a journey could
consult an itinerarium, which in its most basic form was a simple list
of cities and towns along a given road, and the distances between
them. It was only a short step from lists to a master list, or a
schematic route-planner in which roads and their branches were
represented more or less in parallel, as in the Tabula Peutingeriana.
From this master list, parts could be copied and sold on the streets.
The most thorough used different symbols for cities, way stations,
water courses, and so on. The Roman government from time to time would
produce a master road-itinerary. The first known were commissioned in
44 BC by
Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Three Greek geographers,
Zenodoxus, Theodotus and Polyclitus, were hired to survey the system
and compile a master itinerary; the task required over 25 years and
the resulting stone-engraved master itinerary was set up near the
Pantheon. Travelers and itinerary sellers could make copies from it.
Vehicles and transportation
Roman carriage (reconstruction)
Outside the cities, Romans were avid riders and rode on or drove quite
a number of vehicle types, some of which are mentioned here. Carts
driven by oxen were used. Horse-drawn carts could travel up to 40 to
50 kilometres (25 to 31 mi) per day, pedestrians 20 to 25
kilometres (12 to 16 mi). For purposes of description, Roman
vehicles can be divided into the car, the coach, and the cart. Cars
were used to transport one or two individuals, coaches were used to
transport parties, and carts to transport cargo.
Of the cars, the most popular was the carrus, a standard chariot form
descending to the Romans from a greater antiquity. The top was open,
the front closed. One survives in the Vatican. It carried a driver and
a passenger. A carrus with two horses was a biga; three horses, a
triga; and four horses a quadriga. The tyres were of iron. When not in
use, its wheels were removed for easier storage.
A more luxurious version, the carpentum, transported women and
officials. It had an arched overhead covering of cloth and was drawn
by mules. A lighter version, the cisium, equivalent to a gig, was open
above and in front and had a seat. Drawn by one or two mules or
horses, it was used for cab work, the cab drivers being called
cisiani. The builder was a cisarius.
Of the coaches, the mainstay was the raeda or reda, which had four
wheels. The high sides formed a sort of box in which seats were
placed, with a notch on each side for entry. It carried several people
with baggage up to the legal limit of 1000 Roman librae (pounds),
modern equivalent 328 kilograms (723 pounds). It was drawn by teams of
oxen, horses or mules. A cloth top could be put on for weather, in
which case it resembled a covered wagon.
The raeda was probably the main vehicle for travel on the roads.
Raedae meritoriae were hired coaches. The fiscalis raeda was a
government coach. The driver and the builder were both referred to as
Of the carts, the main one was the plaustrum or plostrum. This was
simply a platform of boards attached to wheels and a cross-tree. The
wheels, or tympana, were solid and were several centimetres (inches)
thick. The sides could be built up with boards or rails. A large
wicker basket was sometimes placed on it. A two-wheel version existed
along with the normal four-wheel type called the plaustrum maius.
The military used a standard wagon. Their transportation service was
the cursus clabularis, after the standard wagon, called a carrus
clabularius, clabularis, clavularis, or clabulare. It transported the
impedimenta (baggage) of a military column.
Way stations and traveler inns
See also: Mansio
Non-military officials and people on official business had no legion
at their service and the government maintained way stations, or
mansiones ("staying places"), for their use.
Passports were required
for identification. Mansiones were located about 25 to 30 kilometres
(16 to 19 mi) apart. There the official traveller found a
complete villa dedicated to his use. Often a permanent military camp
or a town grew up around the mansio. For non-official travelers in
need of refreshment, a private system of "inns" or cauponae were
placed near the mansiones. They performed the same functions but were
somewhat disreputable, as they were frequented by thieves and
prostitutes. Graffiti decorate the walls of the few whose ruins have
Genteel travelers needed something better than cauponae. In the early
days of the viae, when little unofficial provision existed, houses
placed near the road were required by law to offer hospitality on
demand. Frequented houses no doubt became the first tabernae, which
were hostels, rather than the "taverns" we know today. As Rome grew,
so did its tabernae, becoming more luxurious and acquiring good or bad
reputations as the case may be. One of the best hotels was the
Tabernae Caediciae at
Sinuessa on the Via Appia. It had a large
storage room containing barrels of wine, cheese and ham. Many cities
of today grew up around a taberna complex, such as
Rheinzabern in the
Saverne in Alsace.
A third system of way stations serviced vehicles and animals: the
mutationes ("changing stations"). They were located every 20 to 30
kilometres (12 to 19 mi). In these complexes, the driver could
purchase the services of wheelwrights, cartwrights, and equarii
medici, or veterinarians. Using these stations in chariot relays, the
Tiberius hastened 296 kilometres (184 mi) in 24 hours to
join his brother, Drusus Germanicus, who was dying of gangrene
as a result of a fall from a horse.
Post offices and services
Two postal services were available under the empire, one public and
one private. The Cursus publicus, founded by Augustus, carried the
mail of officials by relay throughout the Roman road system. The
vehicle for carrying mail was a cisium with a box, but for special
delivery, a horse and rider was faster. On average, a relay of horses
could carry a letter 80 kilometres (50 mi) in a day. The
postman wore a characteristic leather hat, the petanus. The postal
service was a somewhat dangerous occupation, as postmen were a target
for bandits and enemies of Rome. Private mail of the well-to-do was
carried by tabellarii, an organization of slaves available for a
The Roman empire in the time of
Hadrian (ruled 117–138), showing the
network of main Roman roads.
There are many examples of roads that still follow the route of Roman
Italian and Sicilian roads in the time of ancient Rome.
Via Aemilia, from
Rimini (Ariminum) to Placentia
Via Appia, the Appian way (312 BC), from Rome to Apulia
Via Aurelia (241 BC), from Rome to France
Via Cassia, from Rome to Tuscany
Via Flaminia (220 BC), from Rome to
Via Raetia, from
Verona north across the Brenner Pass
Via Salaria, from Rome to the
Adriatic Sea (in the Marches)
Via Aemilia Scauri (109 BC)
Via Aquillia, branches off the Appia at
Capua to the sea at Vibo
Via Amerina, from Rome to Amelia and Perusia
Via Canalis, from Udine,
Gemona and Val Canale to
Villach in Carinthia
and then over Alps to
Salzburg or Vienna
Via Claudia Julia Augusta
Via Claudia Julia Augusta (13 BC)
Via Claudia Nova (47 AD)
Via Clodia, from Rome to
Tuscany forming a system with the Cassia
Via Domitiana, coast road from Naples to Formia
Via Flavia, from
Trieste (Tergeste) to Dalmatia
Via Gemina, from
Trieste through the
Karst to Materija,
Obrov, Lipa and Klana, from where, near Rijeka, descending towards
Trsat (Tersatica) to continue along the Dalmatian coast
Via Julia Augusta
Via Julia Augusta (8 BC), exits Aquileia
Via Labicana, southeast from Rome, forming a system with the
Via Ostiensis, from Rome to Ostia
Via Postumia (148 BC), from
Verona across the
Apennines to Genoa
Via Popilia (132 BC), two distinct roads, one from
Capua to Rhegium
and the other from
Ariminum through the later
Via Praenestina, from Rome to Praeneste
Via Schlavonia, from
Aquileia across northern Istria to Senj and into
Terracina to Ostia
Via Tiburtina, from Rome to Aternum
Via Traiana Nova
Via Traiana Nova (Italy), from Lake
Bolsena to the Via Cassia. Known
by archaeology only
Roman roads in Africa
Main road: from
Sala Colonia to
Carthage to Alexandria.
In Egypt: Via Hadriana
Mauretania Tingitana from
Tingis southward (see:
Roman roads in
A road in
Histria (Sinoe) presumed to be of Roman origin (the
rectangular blocks are not true Roman construction)
Republic of Macedonia
Republic of Macedonia /
Greece / Turkey
Via Egnatia (146 BC) connecting Dyrrhachium (on Adriatic Sea) to
Byzantium via Thessaloniki
Bulgaria / Turkey
Via Militaris (Via Diagonalis, Via Singidunum), connecting Middle
Europe and Byzantium
Roman road in Cilicia
Roman road in Cilicia in south Turkey
In France, a Roman road is called voie romaine in vernacular language.
Via Aquitania, from Narbonne, where it connected to the Via Domitia,
to the Atlantic Ocean across
Toulouse and Bordeaux
Via Domitia (118 BC), from
Nîmes to the Pyrenees, where it joins to
Via Augusta at the Col de Panissars
Voie romaine, extending from Dunkirk to Cassel in Nord Département
Roman roads in Germania Inferior
Germania Inferior (Germany, Belgium, Netherlands)
Via Belgica (Boulogne-Cologne)
Lower Limes Germanicus
Interconnections between Lower
Limes Germanicus and Via Belgica
Via Traiana Nova
Road 1st century Petra, Jordan
Roman roads along the Danube
Trajan's bridge and
Iron Gates road.
Via Traiana: Porolissum Napoca
Potaissa Apulum road.
Caput Stenarum Apulum Partiscum
Romania / Bulgaria
Roman roads in Hispania, or Roman Iberia
Roman road in the urban fabric of
Tarsus, Mersin Province in Turkey
Spain and Portugal
Iter ab Emerita Asturicam, from
Sevilla to Gijón. Later known as Vía
de la Plata (plata means "silver" in Spanish, but in this case it is a
false cognate of an Arabic word balata), part of the fan of the Way of
Saint James. Now it is the A-66 freeway.
Via Augusta, from
Cádiz to the Pyrénées, where it joins to the Via
Domitia at the Coll de Panissars, near La Jonquera. It passes through
Tarragona (anciently Tarraco), and Barcelona.
Camiño de Oro, ending in Ourense, capital of the Province of Ourense,
passing near the village of Reboledo.
Antioch and Chalcis.
Strata Diocletiana, along the Limes Arabicus, going through Palmyra
and Damascus, and south to Arabia.
These roads connected modern Italy and Germany
Via Claudia Augusta
Via Claudia Augusta (47) from
Altinum (now Quarto d'Altino) to
Augsburg via the Reschen Pass
Via Mala from
Lindau via the San Bernardino Pass
Hispania and Gallia:
Ab Asturica Burdigalam
High Street, a fell in the English Lake District, named after the
Roman road which runs over the summit, is the highest Roman road in
Roman roads in Britain
London-West of England Roman Roads
Stane Street (Chichester)
Stane Street (Colchester)
^ Forbes, Robert James (1993). Studies in ancient technology, Volume
2. Brill. p. 146. ISBN 978-90-04-00622-5.
^ Kaszynski, William. The American Highway: The History and Culture of
Roads in the United States. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2000. Page 9
^ a b c Bailey, L. H., and Wilhelm Miller. Cyclopedia of American
Horticulture, Comprising Suggestions for Cultivation of Horticultural
Plants, Descriptions of the Species of Fruits, Vegetables, Flowers,
and Ornamental Plants Sold in the United States and Canada, Together
with Geographical and Biographical Sketches. New York [etc.]: The
Macmillan Co, 1900. Page 320.
^ Corbishley, Mike: "The Roman World", page 50. Warwick Press, 1986.
^ Duducu, Jem (2015). The Romans in 100 Facts. GL5 4EP UK: Amberley
Publishing. ISBN 9781445649702.
^ Gabriel, Richard A. The Great Armies of Antiquity. Westport, Conn:
Praeger, 2002. Page 9.
^ Michael Grant, History of Rome (New York: Charles Scribner, 1978),
^ Quilici, Lorenzo (2008): "Land Transport, Part 1: Roads and
Bridges", in: Oleson, John Peter (ed.): The Oxford Handbook of
Engineering and Technology in the Classical World, Oxford University
Press, New York, ISBN 978-0-19-518731-1, pp. 551–579 (552)
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae
af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq Smith (1890).
^ Timothy Darvill, Oxford Archaeological Guides: England (2002) pp.
^ Laurence, Ray (1999). The roads of Roman Italy: mobility and
cultural change. Routedge. pp. 58–59.
^ The ten men who judge lawsuits.
^ Subordinate officers under the aediles, whose duty it was to look
after those streets of Rome which were outside the city walls.
^ also, glarea strata
^ also lapide quadrato strata or sílice strata
^ a b Great Britain, and Royal Engineers' Institute (Great Britain).
Professional Papers of the Corps of Royal Engineers: Royal Engineer
Institute, Occasional Papers. Chatham: Royal Engineer Institute, 1877.
^ Graham, Alexander. Roman Africa; An Outline of the History of the
Roman Occupation of North Africa, Based Chiefly Upon Inscriptions and
Monumental Remains in That Country. London: Longmans, Green, and co,
1902. Page 66.
^ a b Ancient Roman Street re-emerges close to Colleferro.
thinkarchaeology.net. October 10, 2007.
^ de Camp, L. Sprague (1974) [First published 1960]. The Ancient
Engineers. Toronto, Canada: Random House. pp. 182–183.
^ Middleton, J. H. The Remains of Ancient Rome. London: A. and C.
Black, 1892. Page 251.
^ Jaś Elsner, "The
Itinerarium Burdigalense: politics and salvation
in the geography of Constantine's Empire", Journal of Roman Studies,
(2000), pp. 181–195, p. 184.
^ Travel in the Ancient World, Lionel Casson, p. 189
^ Naturalis Historia by Gaius Plinius Secundus, Liber VII, 84.
^ The General History of the Highways by Nicolas Bergier, page 156.
^ C.W.J.Eliot, New Evidence for the Speed of the Roman Imperial Post.
Phoenix 9, 2, 1955, 76ff.
^ The Archaeological Site of Histria, archweb.cimec.ro.
Laurence, Ray (1999). The roads of Roman Italy: mobility and cultural
Von Hagen, Victor W. (1967). The Roads That Led to Rome. The World
Publishing Company, Cleveland and New York.
Codrington, Thomas (1905). Roman Roads in Britain. London [etc.]:
Society for promoting Christian knowledge.
Forbes, Urquhart A., and Arnold C. Burmester (1904). Our Roman
Highways. London: F.E. Robinson & co.
Roby, Henry John (1902). Roman Private Law in the Times of
of the Antonines. Cambridge: C.U.P.
Smith, William, William Wayte, and G. E. Marindin (1890). A Dictionary
of Greek and Roman Antiquities. London: J. Murray. Page 946–954.
Smith, William (1858). A School Dictionary of Greek and Roman
Antiquities; Abridged from the Larger Dictionary by William Smith,
with Corrections and Improvements by Charles Anthon. N.Y.: [s.n.].
Cresy, Edward (1847). An Encyclopædia of Civil Engineering,
Historical, Theoretical, and Practical. London: printed for Longman,
Brown, Green, and Longmans, Paternoster-Row.
Siculus Flaccus, De condicionibus agrorum cap. XIX
Isidori Hispalensis Episcopi Etymologiarum sive Originum Liber XV,
8.5 De cursu publico angariis et parangariis;
15.3 De itinere muniendo
Corpus Iuris Civilis
C.12.50 De cursu publico angariis et parangariis
D.8.3.0 De servitutibus praediorum rusticorum.
D.43.7 De locis et itineribus publicis
D.43.8 Ne quid in loco publico vel itinere fiat.
D.43.10 De via publica et si quid in ea factum esse dicatur.
D.43.11 De via publica et itinere publico reficiendo.
D.43.19 De itinere actuque privato.
Library resources about
Resources in your library
Resources in other libraries
Adams, Colin. 2007. Land transport in Roman
Egypt 30 BC–AD 300: A
study in administration and economic history. Oxford: Oxford Univ.
Coarelli, Filippo. 2007. Rome and environs: An archaeological guide.
Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.
Davies, Hugh, E. H. 1998. "Designing Roman roads." Britannia: Journal
of Romano-British and Kindred Studies 29: 1–16.
Erdkamp, Peter. Hunger and the Sword: Warfare and Food Supply in Roman
Republican Wars (264–30 B.C.). Amsterdam: Gieben, 1998.
Isaac, Benjamin. 1988. "The meaning of 'Limes' and 'Limitanei' in
Journal of Roman Studies 78: 125–47.
MacDonald, William L. 1982–1986. The architecture of the Roman
Empire. 2 vols. Yale Publications in the History of Art 17, 35. New
Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.
Meijer, Fik J., and O. Van Nijf. 1992. Trade, transport and society in
the ancient world: A sourcebook. London: Routledge.
O’Connor, Colin. 1993. Roman bridges. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ.
Laurence, Ray. 1999. The roads of Roman Italy. Mobility and cultural
change. London: Routledge.
Lewis, Michael J. T. 2001. Surveying instruments of
Greece and Rome.
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
Quilici, Lorenzo. 2008. "Land transport, Part 1: Roads and bridges."
In The Oxford handbook of engineering and technology in the classical
world. Edited by John P. Oleson, 551–79. New York: Oxford Univ.
Talbert, Richard J. A., et al. 2000. Barrington atlas of the Greek and
Roman world. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.
Wiseman, T. P. 1970. "Roman Republican road-building." Papers of the
British School at Rome 38: 122–52.
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