rome-roads-share

The Roman Empire’s Roads In Transit Map Form

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The Roman Empire's Roads In Transit Map Form

The Roman Empire’s Roads In Transit Map Form

View the high resolution version of the map by clicking here.

Unless you’re a historian or map buff, interpreting a map of the Roman Empire can be a daunting exercise. Place names are unfamiliar and roads meander across the landscape making it difficult to see the connections between specific cities and towns.

Today’s visualization, by Sasha Trubetskoy, has mashed-up two enduring obsessions – transit maps and Ancient Rome – to help us understand the connection between Rome and its sprawling empire.

At the height of the Roman Empire, there were approximately 250,000 miles (400,000 km) of roads, stretching from Northern England to Egypt and beyond. This impressive network is what allowed Rome to exercise control and communicate effectively over such a large territory.

For a detailed look at travel times and costs, check out Stanford’s amazing ORBIS platform. The screenshot below shows the fastest, cheapest, and shortest routes between the settlement of Lutetia (the predecessor of present-day Paris) and Roma.

Lutetia map to Rome

There were three main types of roads in Ancient Rome:

Viae publicae: Public highways or main roads, typically maintained by the military. These were the main, paved arteries of the empire and often included infrastructure such as drainage, milestones, and way stations.

Viae privatae: Private or country roads were financed by wealthy individuals to connect towns and other noteworthy points to the viae publicae.

Viae vicinales: These tertiary (often dirt) roads connected villages and areas within districts, eventually linking to the larger network.

This network of roads was vital as it allowed for quick troop movement as well as the development of a mail system. As the first major road network in Europe, the Romans quite literally laid the foundation for development across the continent.

There’s something alluring about Rome’s ability to carve out such a huge and advanced empire, with a legacy that lasts today.

– Sasha Trubetskoy

The Enduring Influence of Roman Roads

London, Paris, Barcelona, and countless other major cities sprang from Roman settlements along the road network, and even as Europe descended into the Dark Ages (476-800 CE), Roman roads remained as one of few functioning modes of movement and communication. A recent study even points out that proximity to that foundational network of roads even has a strong correlation with economic activity today.

Beyond mere curiosity or entertainment, looking back at Roman ingenuity allows us to see the impact their road network had on today’s world. That enduring influence is one of the reasons ancient Rome still fascinates us to this day.

For more reading, check out Trubetskoy’s followup, Roman Roads of Britain.

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