All roads lead to Rome – part 1 Posted by Serena on Jun 24, 2009 in Culture, Travel
Tutte le strade portano a Roma (all roads lead to Rome) is an expression that we use to mean that there are many different ways to arrive somewhere or achieve something. But a couple of millennium ago this famous expression was a statement of fact.
One of the many great achievements of the Roman empire was its development of an astounding system of ‘autostrade’ (‘motorways’), although of course in those days travel was by foot or horseback, and heavy haulage was by ox and cart.
Between 500 B.C. and 100 A.D. Rome grew from being a little village on the banks of the Fiume Tevere (River Tiber) to the heart of a vast empire stretching from northern England to Syria. Rome’s unique form of government and highly disciplined army allowed her to conquer and subdue her neighbors. Vast sums of money were invested in expansion, and as soon as a new area had been conquered new roads were constructed in order to facilitate the transport of reinforcements and supplies
Traditionally, the new roads were named after the person in authority who initiated their construction. Between 300 B.C. and 80 A.D. for example, the Romans constructed the Via Aurelia, Via Appia, Via Flaminia, Via Flavia and Via Fulvia, all named after eminent Romans. This, however, is not an exhaustive list of all Roman roads, just a selection to give you an idea of their extent and importance.
La Via Appia
Initiated by Appius Claudius in 312 B.C. the Via Appia originally ran from the ancient city gate, which is nowadays known as the Porta San Sebastiano, to the small town of Formia, about 90 miles to the south. Later the road was extended all the way down to Brindisi on the ‘heel’ of Italy, which was the main trading port between Rome and Greece. During the Roman era the Via Appia was the most important road in the empire, and legend has it that the apostle Peter arrived in Rome by travelling along its route.
La Via Aurelia
The Via Aurelia begins (or ends, depending on how you look at it) at Porta San Pancrazio in Rome. In 241 B.C. Aurelius Cotta ordered a road built which would stretch from the capital, along the coast to Livorno in the north. This was later extended to continue towards Genova and beyond, eventually arriving in France.
La Via Flaminia
Anyone who knows the Ligurian coast of Le Cinque Terre will understand why this was not a favorite route for the Romans, who are famous for their avoidance of curves and hills. North of La Spezia in fact, the mountains and sea cliffs made this stretch of the Italian peninsular a Roman road builder’s worst nightmare! Hence the Via Flaminia, the Roman empire’s main route between the Capital and France. The Via Flaminia was initiated by the socialist Gaius Flaminius in 212 B.C., and followed the valley of the Fiume Tevere upstream towards Rimini on the Adriatic coast. In order to improve the flow of traffic along the road, a tunnel was constructed sometime around 70 A.D., and that tunnel is still in use today.
La Via Fulvia
From Rimini the Via Emilia carried Roman traffic towards Piacenza where it linked with the Via Fulvia, named after Quintus Fulvius who had it constructed in 179 B.C. The final section of the road to France continues on from Piacenza to Rivoli, west of Torino.
La Via Flavia
in 78 A.D. the emperor Flavius Vespasianus ordered the construction of a road from Aquileia to Pula in Croatia. Founded in 181 B.C. as a colony intended to prevent the incursion of barbarian tribes Aquileia was to become the north eastern capital of the Roman Empire. Nowadays it is a UNESCO world heritage site and home of the National Archaeological Museum (one of the most important museums of Roman Archaeology in the world), as well as extensive excavations of the original Roman city. Here is the official web site for Aquileia: http://www.comune.aquileia.ud.it and this site (in English) has some information and photos relating to the museum and archeological sites: Museo Aquileia
I studied Aquileia when I was an archaeology student at Pisa University many years ago, but unfortunately never had the opportunity to visit it. Oh well, as they say ‘tutte le strade portano a Roma’ so maybe someday I’ll find myself there!