- Roads were the key to Rome’s military might. The first major Roman road served as a supply route between the Roman Republic and its allies. As Rome conquered more territory, it built new highways to link captured cities with Rome and establish them as colonies. These routes enabled the Roman military to out-pace and out-maneuver its enemies. Reduced travel time and marching fatigue allowed the fleet-footed legions to move as quickly as 20 miles a day. The roads also aided in the everyday maintenance of the Empire.
- Roman roads were efficient. They were designed for speed of travel, so they often followed a straight trail across the countryside. Small bridges and tunnels were built to ensure that soldiers could traverse rivers or pass through mountains.
- Roads were expertly engineered. Their design employed multiple layers for durability and flatness. Crews dug shallow, three-foot trenches and built small retaining walls. The bottom section of the road was made of leveled earth or sand topped with small stones, then a layer of crushed rocks or gravel cemented with lime mortar, and a layer of neatly arranged blocks made from gravel, iron ore, or hardened volcanic lava. Roads were built with ditches for easy water drainage.
- Roman roads were easy to navigate. They were marked by a detailed collection of mile markers that noted the distance to the nearest town in Roman miles and instructed the traveler on the best places to stop. The Emperor Augustus placed a “golden milestone” in the Roman Forum. This monument listed the distance to all the city’s gates and was considered the convergence point of the road system.
- Roman roads included a network of post houses and roadside inns. A common rest stop was the horse changing station, located every 10 miles. Government travelers could trade for a fresh mount, allowing them to travel 60 miles in a single day.
- Roads were well protected and patrolled. Most Roman roads were patrolled by army troops to protect against thieves. These soldiers also guided travelers, relayed messages, looked for runaway slaves, and collected tolls.
- The Romans could map their growing empire based on the roads. A surviving Roman map created sometime around the 4th century A.D. includes the locations of lighthouses, bridges, inns, and tunnels. All the major Roman roads are listed, and the map gives the distances between various cities and landmarks.
- Roman roads were built to last. Some ancient bridges, tunnels, and aqueducts are still in use today.
Source: 8 Ways Roads Helped Rome Rule the Ancient World
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