The Developments of the Roman road system Essay

Everybody knows the phrase – “all roads lead to Rome», we could find probably both figurative and literal meaning of the expression. Figurative meaning concerns the general place of the Roman Empire among other countries and talking about literal meaning we could refer to the development of the Roman roads and their role for the whole Western Civilization. The roads built by Romans were the best for hundreds of years. Due to their quality and reliability some of the roads and bridges built at those times are still used nowadays.

One of the most famous roads was the so-called “silk road” connecting the Roman Empire with trade countries. Roads were very important for military forces of the Empire and usually Roman legions took part in building the roads as well. Along with the expansion of the Empire roads were transformed from military routes to trade directions. Total there were 53 000 miles of roads built by Romans. All the mail exchange was done also with the help of the roads.

“In Latin road is via, and roads is viae. There were viae publicae (public roads), via militares (military roads), and actus (local roads). (Ashby,30).

Romans built various types of roads, including corduroy and paved roads; rubble was used in order for the roads to remain dry as water could go away between the stones. There were special rules worked out – the Twelve Tables – telling about the necessary width and curves of the roads. Mostly Romans concentrated upon straight roads, but due to deep grades these roads were not so convenient and later on Romans switched to building longer roads. The researchers stated that Romans had learned to build roads from Etruscans, although there were contributions from other cultures as well. Von Hagen, 112).

Work on the new road had a certain sequence, first of all the architect had to come out with the place for the future road, then agrimensores studied the bed of the road with the help of the rod and the groma, as the Romans had neither compass nor map. The route was worked out by a group of surveyors, they marked hills and plains. The next step was to unite hundreds of markers in the way that there was the straightest possible line between two points. Groma consisted of two parts connected together so that all the angles were right.

In order to form a straight line it was necessary for the two lead weights on the ends of the device to line up. They didn’t have the transit and in order to control the straightness of the road it was necessary to look along the rods. (Ashby, 13) After measuring, the points were drawn on a long piece of paper and then joined, thus the general picture of the road was visible. Then they reconsidered the markers once again in order to move those, which made the road not straight. Another step of changes was made due to slight deviations of the route, for example when it was necessary to build a bridge over a river at its narrowest place.

When the plan of the road was ready, ploughs and military people were set at work. (Margary, 268). Legionnaires were said to be a perfect road builders. The methods and techniques used by the Romans guaranteed excellent results and strong roads. Usually a road was a straight line connecting two places, going around the natural obstacles in order to avoid abrupt rising and so on. For crossing the rivers the Romans built wooden or stone bridges, some of them even had arches. On the swamps they built causeways also using special methods like sinking a lot of stones to raise the road (Ashby, 45).

Usually the road was dug to the most stable layer of the ground. The fosse then had to be filled in, this was done according to location and available materials, like stones, gravel or even sand, the bed of the road always consisted of several layers. As a rule the first layer was made of big stones and he last layer – of small stones with cement. The very last layer was made of small flint pieces and then pressed very tightly. The process of pressing of all the layers was called pavimentare or pavire.

Pavimentum was the notion for the flat result of the process, it could be already used as a road, and sometimes some additional layers were put. When the road was ready the Romans set milestones for defining the directions and distances for travelers. The miles were counted with the help of odometer, a device made by the Greek inventor Archimedes. The wheel of it was to rotate 400 times thus marking a distance of one mile. They were put on the sides of the roads informing about names and distances to towns from both left and right sides.

Nowadays the scientists are able to estimate the period of building the road with the help of information on these stones left by builders of the road. (Jean-Pierre, 71). Thus strong and well-constructed roads built by the Romans occupied an important place in the history of transportation and they played a remarkable role in the development of the Roman Empire and Western Europe. The roads were vitally important for establishing political and commercial relations between countries, for expanding the territories and military issues.

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