Roman Transportation

August 9, 2023

Roman transportation was a crucial part of the empire, allowing the legions to travel fast and effectively. The legions were able to respond quickly to outside threats or internal uprisings, and they could reach isolated areas to establish new colonies.

Most common roman transportation was by foot, though the rich could hire slaves to carry them in a litter (a cart) with a canopy and cushioned seats. The military used a variety of vehicles, from chariots to equestrian cavalry. They often made use of roads, which were built to specific widths for different purposes. The ius eundi established the right to use a footpath across private land, and the ius agendi established the right to drive a vehicle on an actus, or carriage track.

Roads were constructed with a base layer of pilings and then sunk into the ground. The second base layer was a mixture of coarse gravel and sand mixed with quicklime to create a hard surface. The final layer was large volcanic basalt stones that were arranged in layers. The size and arrangement of these stones were designed to be both sturdy and aesthetic, and they paved the way for future layers.

Roads that went through mountainous terrain required additional construction efforts to keep them on their intended path. Bridges, viaducts and leveling techniques were all used to get around these challenges. Much of what we know about the vast network of roman roads comes from a single document, the Peutinger Table, a 13th century copy of an actual Roman map from the 4th century. The table contains lists of cities, distances and other important information, and it also shows all of the known roads.


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