Category Archives: Roman Roads

Roman Emperors Route: A Great Tourism Idea by Serbia

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Since the start of the new year we’ve been trying to provide you the best information and entertainment for your view buck. It’s been a stretch due to my starting a teaching credentialing program (shock, I want to be a History teacher) so we’ve revisited some previous articles.

Recently we came across one of the most ingenious ideas for tourism we have have seen so far, and we knew we had to share. The bigger surprise is that it came out of Serbia.

Today we journey along a path created by Romans and brought to you by tourism as we travel the Roman Emperors Route!

Map of the Roman Emperors Route in the Lower Danube Region.

The Roman Emperors Route (LatinItinerarium Romanum Serbiae) is a route spanning roughly 373 miles with several Ancient Roman sites, among which are notable cities, estates and birthplaces. The project’s name is derived from the fact that 17  were born within the current borders of Serbia (the Roman provincia of Ilyricum), 2nd only to Italy itself.

Regarded as one of the national brands of Serbia, the sites include the important Roman coloniae of  SirmiumFelix Romuliana (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and Naissus. The project is regarded as one of the largest archeological and tourism projects in Serbia, and the project board is guided and financed by the Serbian Ministry of Economy and Regional Development and Ministry of Culture.

Statue of Caesar Augustus (c. 30 BC–20 BC) from the Louvre.

The Roman Emperors were the leaders and guardians of a complex political structure which was built on the rule of law and limited autonomy in self-governing colonies and municipalities.  The rule of law, after the Emperor Caracalla’s decree of AD 212, included universal citizenship throughout the Imperium Rōmānum.

Local government was stabilized in the various provinces of the Empire by the Emperors’ individual grants semi-autonomous governing powers to local communities with the award of colonial or municipal status (coloniae and municipia).  These communities received their governing privileges from the Emperors active in the Danube region who also wanted to encourage the integration of indigenous peoples into Roman citizenship and the governing system.

Far from Rome, along the unpredictable Danube, the Roman Empire established its eastern border, the Limes. A series of military fortifications was set up along the road marched by the Roman Legions in their campaigns against the barbarian tribes across the river.

The troops were followed by traders and craftsmen, and soon towns sprang up along all the major roads. Upper Moesia and Lower Pannonia roughly match Serbia’s territory today. Beginning in the 3rd Century, over a period of some 200 years, these went from being marginal border provinces to occupying a place at the center of events in the Roman Empire.

Wine of the Emperors

This cultural route of the Roman Emperors reveals ancient Roman towns, roads, ruins, and artifacts on what was the eastern border of the Roman Empire. Adding to the tourism draw, wine tasting was added along the route.

The appreciation of wine and its consumption is promoted in the wine part of the route, and continues a tradition that stems from the introduction of the beverage by the Romans. Perhaps it is that the spirit of the Latin word convivium (eating/enjoying together) is continued in modern European culture where wine is highly prized and considered a necessary accompaniment to good living.

Now let’s hit the road!


Ruins of Imperial Palace at Sirmium.

Sirmium, one of the most important towns of the late Roman Empire, was located by the river Sava, on the site of modern-day Sremska Mitrovica. Originally was founded by Celts in the 3rd Century BC, Sirmium was conquered by the Roman Empire in the 1st Century BC.

Sirmium was the economic capital of Roman Pannonia and reached its zenith in AD 294 when it was pronounced 1 of the 4 capitals of the Roman Empire. In 1990, Sirmium was added to the Archaeological Sites of Exceptional Importance list, protected by the Republic of Serbia.


Remains (wall on the sides and tower in the middle) of old roman castrum of Singidunum.

Singidunum is the name for the ancient city which became Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. The Roman Empire conquered the area in 75 BC and later garrisoned the Roman Legio IV Flavia Felix in 86 AD.

The Belgrade Fortress was built as a defensive structure on a ridge overlooking the confluence of the Sava and the Danube rivers during the period from the 2nd to the 18th Century. Today the fortress is a unique museum of the history of Belgrade.

It was the birthplace to the Roman Emperor Jovian. Belgrade has arisen from its own ashes 38 times!


Ruins of mausoleum at Viminacium.

Viminacium (VIMINACIVM) was a the provincial capital of Moesia, a Roman military camp, and the capital of Moesia Superior. Today known as Kostolac the town is located near Požarevac, where the Mlava flows into the Danube.

It was one of the most important Roman towns and military encampments from the period from the 1st to the 6th Century. The civilian settlement next to the encampment during the rule of Hadrian (117-138) gained the status of a municipium (a town with a high degree of autonomy).

The city lies along the Via Militaris and contains archaeological remains of temples, streets, fora, amphitheatres, palaces, hippodromes and Roman baths. The entire archeological site occupies a total of 1,112 acres.

Diana Fortress

Panorama of Diana fortress

The Roman castrum of Diana was raised on a high cliff above the Danube called the Karataš archaeological site, close to the town of Kladovo. Construction of the earliest earthen and wooden fortification is connected with the arrival of the initial military formations to the Danube in AD 100–101.

The main buildings were built on a strategic location overlooking the Danube frontier with stone in 100 AD during the reign of Roman Emperor Trajan, who had a military camp located at the vicinity. Further modifications were made at the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th Century when additional towers were added towards the river for extra defense towards the Danube shores.

At the mid-4th Century the fort was damaged by the invading Huns and in 530 AD rebuilt by Roman Emperor Justinian.

Pons Traiani

Artistic reconstruction of Trajan’s Bridge across the Danube (1907).

Trajan’s Bridge or the Bridge of Apollodorus over the Danube was a Roman segmental arch bridge, the earliest built over the lower Danube. For more than a thousand years, it was the longest arch bridge in the world in terms of both total and span length.

The bridge was constructed by the Greek architect Apollodorus of Damascus for the deployment of Roman troops in the Trajan’s Dacian Wars, in 105 AD.

Tabula Traiana

Photo of Tabula Traiana near Kladovo, Serbia.

A Roman memorial plaque (Tabula Traiana), 13 feet in width and around 6 feet in height, commemorating the completion of Trajan’s military road is located on the Serbian side facing Romania near Ogradina. It reads:

SVBLAT(i)S VIA(m) F(ecit)

Felix Romuliana

Photo of Tabula Traiana near Kladovo, Serbia.

Felix Romuliana (FELIX ROMVLIANA) was an imperial palace built on the orders of Galerius Maximianus on the spacious plateau of Gamzigrad, near the city of Zaječar. Galerius, who was born in this area, raised the palace in the 3rd and 4th Centuries in honor of himself and his mother Romula, after whom he named it.

It belongs to a special category of Roman court architecture associated only with the period of the Tetrarchy and is the best-preserved example of this style. Gamzigrad  is an archaeological site spanning 10 acres, and is an UNESCO World Heritage Site of Serbia.

Naissus et Mediana

Remains of the luxurious residence palace of Mediana, erected by Constantine I near his birth town of Naissus.

Not far from Niš is Mediana, the most famous and prestigious suburb of the classical city of Naissus. It was built near the river and the thermal springs, over an area of more than 99 acres.

Mediana was built in the early 4th Century AD, during the time of Constantine the Great. It served as a residence for use by Roman Emperors when visiting Naissus, and is now an important archeological site from the late Roman period for its highly organized economy.

Excavatations have revealed a villa with a peristyle, thermae, granary and water tower. Although Roman artifacts can be found scattered all over the area of present-day Niš, Mediana represents the best-preserved part of Roman Naissus.

In 1979, Mediana was added to the Archaeological Sites of Exceptional Importance list, protected by Republic of Serbia.

Iustiniana Prima

Remnants of Justiniana Prima

Iustiniana Prima (Empress’s Town), is one of the most important Byzantine towns in the interior of the Balkan Peninsula. It is situated 18 miles west of Leskovac and 4 miles from Lebane, close to the village of Prekopčelica.

In AD 535, Emperor Justinian I, originally from southern Serbia, decided to raise a city in his area of birth to basically honor himself. The city of Justiniana Prima lies on the gentle slopes which descend from the mountain of Radan towards the Leskovac basin, where key traffic routes pass.

Justiniana Prima served as the seat of an Archbishopric that had jurisdiction of the Central Balkans. In 1979, Justiniana Prima was added to the Archaeological Sites of Exceptional Importance list, protected by Republic of Serbia.


The northern Balkans, including Dacia Ripensis, in the 6th Century.

Šarkamen is a Roman archaeological site in Negotin, eastern Serbia. The fortification dates to the rule of Maximinus Daia, after 305 AD. It was part of the Dacia Ripensis.

We hope you enjoyed this trip as much as we did. We found the combination of Roman archaeology, architecture and, of course, wine to be more than something would could pass up.

If this has inspired you to travel the Roman Emperors Route, or even to see some historical site elsewhere, please let us know. We’d love to share your experience with other like-minded people.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



The cultural route of the Roman Emperors. National Tourism Organization of Serbia.

Tourist Organization of Serbia. “Itinerarium Romanum Serbiae” (PDF). Belgrade: Tourist Organization of Serbia.

Roman Emperors and Danube Wine Route. Danube.Travel.

Serbia to boast heritage as birthplace of 18 Roman Emperors

Itinerarium Romanum Serbiae.

Museum of Zaječar

Roman Roads: Official Responsibilities and Travel

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Over the past few weeks we’ve taken a closer look at Roman Roads. We’ve seen where they went in Roman Roads: They All Lead Home and how they were made in Roman Roads: Construction and Types.Chariot Ruts

Today we continue that journey as we explore who was responsible for and who traveled on the Roads of Rome!

Roman Law defined the right to use a road as a servitus (claim). The Ius Eundi (Right of Going) established a claim to use an iter (footpath) across private land, while the Ius Agenda (Right of Driving), gave claim for a carriage track.

Via combined both types of servitutes, provided it was of the proper width, which was determined by an Arbiter. The law and tradition also forbade the use of vehicles in urban areas, except in certain cases.

Lex Iulia Municipalis
Lex Iulia Municipalis

Married women and government officials on business, for example, could ride in these vehicles. The Lex Iulia Municipalis restricted commercial carts to night-time access to the city within the walls and within a mile outside the walls.

Censors were the primary official responsible for all things dealing with Roman Roads and they handled their business in the Capital City. Due to the rapid growth of the Roman regions and the diverse labors which had previously detained, transference of the Censorial jurisdictions soon became a necessity

Certain improvised official bodies successively acted as constructing and repairing authorities as well. In Italy, the Censorial responsibility passed to the Commanders of the Roman Armies, and later to special Commissioners and local Magistrates.

Print of Roman ChariotIn the Provinces, the Consul or Praetor and his Legati received authority to deal directly with the contractor. 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 succeeded them.

It would seem that in the reign of Claudius (AD 41-54) the Quaestores had become responsible for the paving of the streets of Rome, or at least shared that responsibility with the Quatuorviri Viarum. It has been suggested that the Quaestores 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. The change made by Claudius may have been a mere change in the nature of the expenditure imposed on the Quaestores.

Walls of RomeThe official bodies which first succeeded the Censors in the care of the streets and roads were 2 in number. They were the Quattuorviri Viis in Urbe Purgandis (With Jurisdiction Inside the Walls of Rome) and the Duoviri Viis Extra Urbem Purgandis (With Jurisdiction Outside the Walls).

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 Quatuorviri were instituted eodem tempore (at the same time) as the Praetor Peregrinus (i.e. about 242 BC) and the Decemviri Litibus Iudicandis.

The first mention of either body occurs in the Lex Iulia Municipalis of 45 BC. The Quatuorviri were afterwards called Quatuorviri 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 milestone beyond.

In case of an emergency in the condition of a particular road, men of influence and liberality were appointed, or voluntarily acted, as Curatores (Temporary Commissioners) to superintend the work of repair. The dignity attached to such a curatorship is attested by a passage of Cicero.

JCAmong those who performed this duty in connection with particular roads was Julius Caesar, who became Curator (67 BC) of the Via Appia, and liberally spent his own money upon it. Certain persons appear also to have acted alone and taken responsibility for certain roads.

In the country districts the Magistri Pagorum had authority to maintain the Viae Vicinales (Roads at or in Villages, Districts, or Crossroads). 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. 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.

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.

Forum and Emerita Augusta
Forum and Emerita Augusta

Their names occur frequently in the inscriptions to restorers of roads and bridges. Thus Vespasian, Titus, DomitianTrajan and Septimius Severus were commemorated in this capacity at Emerita Augusta.

The Itinerary of Antoninus remains as the standing evidence of the minute care which was bestowed on the service of the public roads. The writing was probably a work of much earlier date, then republished in an improved and enlarged form under one of the Antonine Emperors, but it still provides the details about Roman Roads.The Itinerary of Antoninus

Combined topographical and road-maps existed as specialty items in some Roman libraries, but they were expensive, hard to copy, and were 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. 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.

Roman MapThree Greek geographers (Zenodoxus, Theodotus and Polyclitus) were hired to survey the system and compile a master itinerary in 44 BC by Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. The task took over 25 years and the resulting stone-engraved master itinerary was set up near the Pantheon, from which travelers and itinerary sellers could make copies.

Outside the cities, Romans were avid riders and rode on or drove quite a number of vehicle types, most common were carts driven by oxen. Horse-drawn carts could travel up to 25 to 31 mi per day, while pedestrians could get 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 1 or 2 individuals, coaches were used to transport parties, and carts to transport cargo.

CarrusThe most popular was the carrus (car), a standard chariot descending to the Romans from a greater antiquity, and a carrus survives today in the Vatican Museums. The top was open, the front closed, and it carried a driver and a passenger.

A carrus of 2 horses was a biga; of 3 horses, a triga; and of 4 horses a quadriga. The wheels were of iron, and when not in use, were removed for easier storage.

The carpentum, a more luxurious version, 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 1 or 2 mules or horses, it was used for cab work, the Cab Drivers (Cisiani).Cisium

Of the coaches, the mainstay was the 4-wheeled raeda. 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 Libra (pounds), modern equivalent 721 lbs, and 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.

Roman CarriageThe raeda was probably the main vehicle for travel on the roads. Raedae meritoriae were hired coaches. The fiscalis raeda was a government coach, with the driver and the builder both referred to as a Raedarius.

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 were solid and were several inches thick. The sides could be built up with boards or rails.

A large wicker basket was sometimes placed on it. A 2-wheel version existed along with the normal 4-wheel type called the plaustrum maius.

Cursus ClabularisThe military used a standard wagon, the cursus clabularis, after the standard wagon. It transported the impedimenta (baggage of a military column).

MansioNon-military officials, and people on official business, had no Legio (Roman Legion) at their service so the government maintained way stations or mansiones (staying places) for their use. Mansiones, located about 16 to 19 mi apart from each other, provided the official traveler 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 (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 been found.

CauponaeGenteel 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 initial 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.Tabernae

One of the best hotels was the Tabernae Caediciae at Sinuessa on the Via Appia, with its large storage room containing barrels of wine, cheese and ham. Many cities of today grew up around a tabernae complex, such as Rheinzabern in the Rhineland and Saverne in Alsace.

MutationesA third system of way stations serviced vehicles and animals. Known as the mutationes (changing stations), they were located every 12 to 19 mi.

In these complexes, the driver could purchase the services of wheelwrights, cartwrights, and Equarii Medici (Veterinarians). Using these stations in chariot relays, the Emperor Tiberius hastened 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.

No matter who was traveling, passports were required for identification. This was both for taxation for traveling, as well as to show the owners of the various inns that their guests were who they claimed to be.

Two postal services were available under the Empire, a public and a private. The Cursus Publicus, founded by Augustus, carried the mail of officials by relay throughout the Roman road system.

Postal ServiceThe 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 50 mi in a day.

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 price.

Ancient Rome boasted impressive technological feats, using many advances that would be lost in the Middle Ages and would not be rivaled until the Modern Age. Many practical Roman innovations were adopted from earlier designs, but were altered to be typically Roman.Road

We hope you enjoyed today’s travel and look forward to having you back again soon. Please let your friends know about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Codrington, Thomas. Roman Roads in Britain. London, 1905.

Cresy, Edward. An Encyclopædia of Civil Engineering, Historical, Theoretical, and Practical. Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, Paternoster-Row, 1847.

Forbes, Urquhart A., and Arnold C. Burmester. Our Roman Highways. F.E. Robinson & Co, 1904.

Laurence, Ray. The roads of Roman Italy: mobility and cultural change. Routledge, 1999.

Roby, Henry John. Roman Private Law in the Times of Cicero and of the Antonines. Cambridge University Press, 1902.

Smith, William. A School Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities; Abridged from the Larger Dictionary by William Smith, 1858.

Smith, William, William Wayte, and G. E. Marindin. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. J. Murray, 1890.

Roman Roads: Construction and Types

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

We try to cover anything possible that has to do with Ancient Rome (Foundation / Kingdom / Republic / Empire). This allows us to explore almost anything, or anyone, in modern Europe, and sometimes even venture into the Middle East.

Last week, we uncovered the outline of trade routes with Roman Roads: They All Lead Home. Having discovered why the roads were made, we thought it was time to look a bit closer.

That is why today we are going to journey back to Rome and see the construction and types Roman Roads!Roman Road

From approximately 450 BC, the Laws of the Twelve Tables specified that a road shall be 8 ft wide where straight and 16 ft where curved. Actual practices of the law occasionally varied though from this standard.

Twelve TablesThe Tables command Romans to build roads and give travelers the right to pass over private land where the road is in disrepair. Building roads as straight as possible and that would not need frequent repair, and thus save on material and money, became an ideological objective.

Builders of Roman Roads aimed at a regulation width, but actual widths have been measured at between 3.6 ft and more than 23 ft. The original practice was to produce a surface that was as close to flat as possible, but the use of stones would sometimes make them a tad bumpy.

Many roads were built to resist rain, freezing and flooding. They were constructed to need as little repair as possible.

Via Appia Rome
Via Appia – Rome

Roman construction took a directional straightness. Many long sections are ruler-straight, and some links in the network were as long as 55 miles.

Gradients of 10%–12% are known in ordinary terrain, and 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.

Corduroy Road
Corduroy Road

Roman Roads varied from simple Corduroy Roads to paved roads using deep roadbeds of stamped rubble as an underlying layer to ensure that they kept dry. With paved roads, water would flow out from between the stones and fragments of rubble, instead of becoming mud in clay soils.

According to Ulpian, there were 3 types of roads: Viae Publicae, Consulares, Praetoriae and Militares; Viae Privatae, Rusticae, Glareae and Agrariae; and Viae Vicinales. We shall go over them all.

The 1st type of road (Viae Publicae, Consulares, Praetoriae and Militares) included public high or main roads, constructed and maintained at public expense, and with the soil vested in the Roman State. Such roads led either to the sea, or to a town, or to a public river with a constant flow, or to another public road.200518891-001

Siculus Flaccus, who lived under Emperor Trajan, called them Viae Publicae Regalesque, and describes their characteristics as follows:

“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 AppiaCassiaFlaminia).”

Typically, 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.

PavingIf 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 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, from time to time there were other people besides special officials who sought to connect their names with a great public service like that of the roads. There was also a variety of reasons for which they did this.

Around 123-122 BC, during his term as Tribunus Plebis (Tribune of the Plebs), Gaius Gracchus paved or graveled many of the public roads. Gaius also provided them with milestones and mounting-blocks for riders.

The 2nd category (Viae Privatae, Rusticae, Glareae and Agrariae) included private or country roads, originally constructed by private individuals. These individuals vested their own soil for said roads, and had the power to dedicate them to the public use if they so desired.Viae Privatae

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.

Viae Rusticae (Secondary Roads) were featured off of and connected to the primary Via. Both Main or Secondary Roads might either be paved, or left unpaved, with a gravel surface, as they were primarily 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 3rd category (Viae Vicinales) comprised roads at or in villages, Districts, or crossroads, which led through or towards a Vicus (Village). Such roads ran either into a high road, or into other Viae Vicinales, without any direct communication with a high road.Viae Vicinales

They were considered public or private, according to the fact of their original construction out of public or private funds or materials. Though privately constructed, such a road became public 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 of these roads was orchestrated by the Magistri Pagorum (Magistrates of the Cantons).

MagistratesThe Magistri Pagorum could require the neighboring Landowners to furnish laborers for the general repair of the Viae Vicinales. Or if the Landowners wished to keep in repair a certain length of road passing through their respective properties, this would be done at their own expense of course.

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 following fashion: Via Terrena, Via Glareata, and Via Munita.

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 wheeled carriages.Viae Terrenae

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.roman-road-bed

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. Examples of this type are found on the Via Praenestina or on the Via Latina.

Viae Munitae were regular built roads, paved with rectangular blocks of local stone or with polygonal blocks of lava. Pavement (consisting mainly of marble or mosaic) and the Via Munita were near identical in construction, except as regards the top layer or surface.Via Munita Road Formation

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 2 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 (stiffness). A Surveyor tried to achieve straightness by looking along the rods and moving them as needed, before ultimately developing a grid plan for the road.

Engineering Corps River Crossing on Trajan's ColumnThe Libratores then began their work using ploughs and, sometimes with the help of Legionarii, 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 (ditch), with depths varying according to the terrain.

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 to be layered, by filling the ditch with rocks over other stones.

Into the ditch was dumped large amounts of rubble, gravel and stone. Basically, whatever fill was available was used in the construction.

Sometimes a layer of sand was put down, if it could be found. When it came to within 1 yd or so of the surface it was covered with gravel and tamped down, a process called pavire or pavimentare.

This flat surface was the pavimentum, which could then be used as the road henceforth. Additional layers could also be constructed with a statumen (foundation) of flat stones set in cement to support the additional layers.Build

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 rudus (coarse concrete) and then the nucleus (a little layer of fine concrete) went onto the statumen. Into or onto the nucleus went a course of polygonal or square paving stones, called the summa crusta, which was crowned for drainage.

Clivus CapitolinusAn example is found in an early basalt road by the Temple of Saturn on the Clivus Capitolinus. It had travertine paving, polygonal basalt blocks, concrete bedding (substituted for the gravel), and a rain-water gutter.

When it came to obstacles, the Romans preferred to contrive solutions rather than circumvent them. Outcroppings of stone, ravines, or hilly or mountainous terrain called for cuttings and tunnels.

Roman Roads along the Danube
Roman Roads along the Danube

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, 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. The Tabula Traiana memorial plaque in Serbia is all that remains of the now-submerged road.

River crossings were achieved by bridges (orpontes) made of wood, stone, or both. Wooden bridges were constructed on pilings sunk into the river, or on stone piers.

Alcantara Bridge (Puente Trajan at Alcantara) - Spain
Alcantara Bridge (Puente Trajan at Alcantara) – Spain

Larger or more permanent bridges required arches. These larger bridges were built with stone and had the arch as its basic structure.

Most also used concrete, which the Romans were the first to use for bridges. Roman bridges were the foremost large bridges built in history, and were so well constructed that a number remain in use today.

Causeways were built over marshy ground, and the road was initially marked out with pilings. Between them were sunk large quantities of stone so as to raise the causeway to more than 5 ft above the marsh. In the Provinces, the Romans often did not bother with a stone causeway but used log roads (pontes longi).

Camino de Santiago - Spain
Camino de Santiago – Spain

Thanks for walking down this road with us today. We look forward to many more travels with you in the near future as well.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Codrington, Thomas. Roman Roads in Britain. London, 1905.

Cresy, Edward. An Encyclopædia of Civil Engineering, Historical, Theoretical, and Practical. Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, Paternoster-Row, 1847.

Forbes, Urquhart A., and Arnold C. Burmester. Our Roman Highways. F.E. Robinson & Co, 1904.

Laurence, Ray. The roads of Roman Italy: mobility and cultural change. Routledge, 1999.

Roby, Henry John. Roman Private Law in the Times of Cicero and of the Antonines. Cambridge University Press, 1902.

Smith, William. A School Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities; Abridged from the Larger Dictionary by William Smith, 1858.

Smith, William, William Wayte, and G. E. Marindin. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. J. Murray, 1890.

Von Hagen, Victor W. The Roads That Led to Rome. The World Publishing Company, 1967.

Roman Roads: They All Lead Home

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

This is a special day, at least for us, since it is my birthday. As I celebrate 36 years of life, I began thinking of what has gone on in my lifetime.

Here in America, I have experienced quite a bit. It started with former Governor Ronald Reagan of California (the place of my birth) elected President of the United States, United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher became the first female leader of a Western country, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, the Fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War, major civil discontent and violence occurred in the Middle East, the World Wide Web was created, the 1992 Los Angeles riots, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the Oklahoma City bombing, the devastating 1994 Northridge earthquake, the dawn of the 21st Century, the increased use of mobile phones and personal computers, the September 11 attacks, my wedding day, then the birth of my spectacular son, and the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.

It has been a roller coaster of ups and downs, but no matter what I always knew I could go home (be it California or Texas). This got me thinking about how all roads lead home.

I wanted to share with everyone something positive, the truth that all roads due lead home. So today we make that journey together, this time home is The Eternal City though, as we explore Roman Roads!forum_romanum_paved_basalt_road

In Latin Via means Way, and Roman Roads were the physical infrastructure vital to the maintenance and development of the Roman state. They 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 the Roman Army, officials, 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.Typical Road

Some were cut through hills, while others were 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 Provinciae were interconnected by 372 great roads. The whole comprised more than 248,548 mi of roads, of which over 50,000 mi were stone-paved.

In Gaul alone, no less than 13,000 mi of roadways are said to have been improved, and in Britain at least 2,500 mi. The courses and surfaces of many Roman roads survived for millennia, some being overlaid by modern roads.

Roads during the reign of Emperor Augustus
Roads during the reign of Emperor Augustus

In the Itinerary of Antoninus, the description of the road system, after the death of Julius Caesar and during the tenure of Augustus, is as follows:

“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. 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 the Empire.”

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.

ConstructionWith 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.

Just as with modern roads tolls abounded, especially at bridges. Often they were collected at the city gate.Porta Nigra, Trier

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, similar to a supervisor who manages and administers, with 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.

Roman Censor

Censores, 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.

Via connected 2 cities, so Viae were generally centrally placed in the countryside. The construction and care of the Roman public roads anywhere 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. All the various officials, not excluding the Emperors themselves, who succeeded the Censores in this portion of their duties, may be said to have exercised a regionalized censorial jurisdiction.Pompeii Street

The governing structure was changed by Augustus, Rome’s original Emperor. 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 the Quatuorviri and Duoviri forming part of the body of Magistrates known as Vigintisexviri. Augustus reduced these positions to 20 members (Vigintiviri), but retained the Quatuorviri among them.

Roads during the reign of Emperor Hadrian
Roads during the reign of Emperor Hadrian

The latter were certainly still in existence under Emperor Hadrian (117-138). Augustus then 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 provinces.

Cassius Dio relates that Augustus personally accepted the post of Superintendent. In this capacity Augustus represented the supreme authority which belonged originally to the Censores.

Additionally, Augustus appointed men of Praetorian rank to be road-makers, assigning to each of them a pair of Lictors. Lastly, he made the office of Curator of each of the great public roads a continuous magistracy, instead of a special and temporary commission, as had previously been the case.Timgad

In Augustus’ capacity as supreme head of the public road system, he converted the temporary care 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, both as to quantity and quality. Moreover, he authorized the construction of sewers and removed obstructions to traffic, as the Aediles did in Rome.

The public road system of the Romans was thoroughly military in its aims and spirit, and was designed to unite and consolidate the conquests of the Roman people. A Legio on the march brought its own baggage train (Impedimenta) and constructed its own camp (Castra) every evening at the side of the road.

Romanian MilestoneMilestones divided the Via Appia even before 250 BC into numbered miles, and most Viae after 124 BC. The modern word “mile” derives from the Latin Milia Passuum (1,000 Paces), which amounted to 4,841 ft.

A Milestone (Miliarium) was a circular column on a solid rectangular base, set for more than 2 ft into the ground, standing 5 ft high, 20 inches 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 Forum Romanum and various other information about the officials who made or repaired the road and when. These Miliaria are valuable historical documents now collected in volume XVII of the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum.

Remains of the Miliarium Aureum
Remains of the Miliarium Aureum

The Romans had a preference for standardization whenever they could, 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. Emperor Constantine called it the Umbilicus Romae (Navel of Rome), and built a similar but more complex monument in Constantinople, the Milion.

There are many examples of roads that still follow the route of Roman roads in various modern countries. Italy has the Via Aemilia from Ariminum (Rimini) to Placentia (Piacenza); the Via Appia from Rome to Apulia; the Via Aurelia from Rome to France; and the Via Cassia from Rome to Tuscany.

CarthageIn Africa, the main road is from Sala Colonia (Chellah) to Carthāgō (Carthage) to Alexandria. In Egypt there is the Via Hadriana, while in Mauretania Tingitana there is a Via from Tingis heading southward.

Roman Road in TarsusThe Middle East contains the Via Maris; the Via Traiana Nova; and the Petra Roman Road in Petra, Jordan.

Running through Illyria (Albania), the Republic of MacedoniaGreece and Turkey runs the Via Egnatia.  This connects Dyrrhachium (Durrës), the on Adriatic Sea, to Byzantium through Thessaloniki.

Linking Middle Europe and Byzantium (modern AustriaSerbiaBulgaria and Turkey) is the Via Militaris. In Germany there are interconnections between Lower Limes Germanicus and the Via Belgica.

Road Construction on Trajan's Column
Road Construction on Trajan’s Column

Romania contains Trajan’s Bridge and Iron Gates road. There is also the Via Pontica which joins Troesmis, Caput, Piroboridava, Stenarum, Apulum, Partiscum (Szeged), and Lugio into Bulgaria.

In France, a Roman Road is called Voie Romaine in local dialect. There are several of these roads including the Via Agrippa; the Via Aquitania (from Narbo (Narbonne) to the Atlantic Ocean then across Tolosa (Toulouse) and Burdigala (Bordeaux)); and the Via Domitia (from Nemausus (Nîmes) to the Pyrenees, where it joins to the Via Augusta at the Col de Panissars).

Hispania RoadsSpain and Portugal (or Hispania as the Romans knew it) have the Iter ab Emerita Asturicam from Hispalis (Sevilla) to Noega (Gijón), which was of the Way of Saint James but is now the A-66 freeway. There is also the Via Augusta from Gades (Cádiz) to the Pyrenees, where it joins to the Via Domitia near La Jonquera and continues through Valentia (Valencia)Tarraco (Tarragona) and Colonia Faventia Julia Augusta Pia Barcino (Barcelona).

(From L to R) Bath - Silchester - London
(From L to R) Bath – Silchester – London

Outside of Italy, the United Kingdom is probably the next largest area which still uses Roman Roads (or at least their foundations). There is Akeman Street, Camlet Way, Dere Street, Ermine Street, Fen Causeway, Fosse Way, King Street, Peddars Way, Pye Road, Stane Street (Chichester), Stane Street (Colchester), Stanegate, Via Devana, Watling Street, and the Roman route connecting Aquae Sulis (Bath) to Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester) and ultimately Londinium (London).

I realize that this was a long journey, but I’m glad you stuck with it. You may not have gone past your own home, but I know you passed by some place you’d like to call home someday.

I appreciate you joining me on my birthday and look forward to sharing future journeys with you. If you enjoyed today’s trip, please tell your friends and look for us on either Facebook or Twitter.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Codrington, Thomas. Roman Roads in Britain. London, 1905.

Cresy, Edward. An Encyclopædia of Civil Engineering, Historical, Theoretical, and Practical. Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, Paternoster-Row, 1847.

Forbes, Urquhart A., and Arnold C. Burmester. Our Roman Highways. F.E. Robinson & Co, 1904.

Laurence, Ray. The roads of Roman Italy: mobility and cultural change. Routledge, 1999.

Roby, Henry John. Roman Private Law in the Times of Cicero and of the Antonines. Cambridge University Press, 1902.

Smith, William. A School Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities; Abridged from the Larger Dictionary by William Smith, 1858.

Smith, William, William Wayte, and G. E. Marindin. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. J. Murray, 1890.

Von Hagen, Victor W. The Roads That Led to Rome. The World Publishing Company, 1967.