Facts About Roman Roads

In order to keep control of the large Roman Empire, the Romans realised the need for a good road network. Roman roads were used to improve the speed that armies, officials, messangers and trade goods could move around the lands controlled by the Romans.

Here are some interesting Roman road facts:

  • At the peak of the Roman Empire, there were over 400,000 km of roads connecting the provinces to Rome. A fifth of all of the roads were paved in stone.
  • In Roman Britain, the Romans constructed more than 3000 km of road. Many of these routes are still used today – the modern road having been built over the Roman road.
  • Some of the key roads of Roman Britain were: Ermine Street (London to York), Fosse Way (Exeter to Lincoln), Peddars Way (Hunstanton to Thetford), Watling Street (Dover to Wroxeter).
  • The Romans constructed three different types of roads. Via terrena were little more than country tracks and consisted of levelled earth packed down by continued use. Via glareata were levelled tracks with a gravelled surface. Via munita were paved using blocks the most suitable local stone.
  • Construction of the paved Via terrena was complex and involved constructing a layered foundation to support the paved surface. The Romans used concrete and aimed to produce a smooth road surface.
  • Paved Roman roads had a camber (slope) to allow the water to drain off them and they often incorporated a sidewalk or pavement.
  • Roman roads are famed for being incredibly straight. This is true, but they were prepared to deviate from the direct route if a straight road would be too steep.
  • If possible, the Romans preferred to work out a way of putting a road through or over an obstacle, rather than going round it. They engineered ways of cutting roads into hilly or mountainous landscapes, and they were very good at bridging rivers and constructing causeways to support a road over boggy and marshy ground.
  • An Itinerarium listed the settlements along the course of each Roman road. this would allow a traveller to plan the route they needed to take.
  • The proverb ‘all roads lead to Rome’ (meaning: there are different ways to achieve the same results) was actually based on historical fact. Rome was the centre of the Roman Empire and the road network was constructed and maintained to connect the provinces to the capital.

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