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VIAE In legal Latin the word via signifies (1) a rural servitude, (2) a regularly made street or road. In the first sense it is distinguishable from the servitudes of i. e. and actus Iter is the right of walking or passing along a road; actus is the right of walking or passing and driving cattle or vehicles (exclusive of heavy traffic) along a road. Via includes both i. e. and actus, and is the right of walking or passing and driving cattle, vehicles, or traffic of any description along a via properly so called, i. e. a regularly made street or road (Ulpian, Dig. 8, 3, 1, 7; and cf. Isidor. Orig. 15.16; SERVITUTES). By the laws of the Twelve Tables (Dig. 8, 3, 8) the minimum width of a via was fixed at 8 feet where it was straight, and 16 feet where it turned. Hence via differs in this sense also from actus and iter, which denoted smaller or rougher roads, bridle-paths, drifts, and tracks. As regards the actual width of the different classes of roads, see Burn, Rome and the Campagna, Introd. p. liii. note 2; Middleton, Ancient Rome in 1888, p. 478.

Ulpian (Dig. 43, 8, 21, 22, 23) distinguished three kinds of viae:--

    1. Viae publicae, consulares, praetoriae or militares: public high or main roads, constructed and maintained at the public expense, and with their soil vested in the state. Such roads led either to the sea, or to a town, or to a public river (i. e. one with a constant flow), or to another public road (Dig. 43, 7, 3). [p. 2.947]Siculus Flaccus, who lived under Trajan (A.D. 98-117), calls them viae publicae regalesque, and describes their characteristics as follows (de Cond. Agr. p. 9, ed. Goesius, 1674):--(1) They are placed under curatores (commissioners), and repaired by redemptores (contractors) at the public expense; a fixed contribution, however, being levied from the neighbouring landowners: (2) they bear the names of their constructors (e.g. Via Appia, Cassia, Flaminia). With the term viae regales compare the ὁδοὶ βασιλήιαι of the Persian kings (who probably organised the first system of public roads: see Hdt. 5.52, 53), the term ὁδὸς βασιλικὴ in Numbers (LXX.) 20.17, and Plutarch, Plut. Demetr. 46, and our own “royal road” and “king's highway.” With the term via militaris compare the German Heerstrasse, and the A.-S. Here-straet. So Guest (Origines Celticae, 2.228) identifies the Icknield Way as the Icen-hilde-weg, or War-way of the Iceni.
    2. Viae privatae, rusticae, or agrariae: private or country roads, originally constructed by private persons, in whom their soil was vested, and who had the power of dedicating them to the public use. Such roads were subject to a right of way, in favour either of the public or of the owner of a particular estate. Under the head of viae privatae were also included roads leading out of the public or high roads to particular estates or settlements. These Ulpian considers to be public roads themselves (Dig. 43, 8, 23).
    3. Viae vicinales: village, district, or cross-roads, leading through or towards a vicus or village. Such roads ran either into a high-road, or into other viae vicinales, without any direct communication with a high-road. They were considered public or private, according to the fact of their original construction out of public or private funds or materials (Dig. 43, 8, 22). Such a road, though privately constructed, became a public road when the memory of its private constructors had perished (Dig. 43, 7, 3).

Siculus Flaccus (l.c.) describes viae vicinales as roads “de publicis quae divertunt in agros et saepe ad alteras publicas perveniunt.” The repairing authorities, in this case, were the magistri pagorum or magistrates of the pagus or canton. They could require the neighbouring landowners either to furnish labourers for the general repair of the viae vicinales, or to keep in repair, at their own expense, a certain length of road passing through their respective properties.

An attempt will be made in this article to state the main facts concerning the viae publicae of the Roman Empire under the heads of I. History; II. Materials and Methods of Construction. Rival theories and minute points of information must be sought for in the list of authorities given below, under the head of III. Literature. It comprises the principal works dealing with the history, construction, and topography of the Roman roads, in four divisions, thus: 1. General Information; 2. Viae Publicae in Rome and Italy (within the Eleven Regions of Augustus); 3. Viae Publicae in Britain; 4. Viae Publicae in the other provinces of the Empire.


The public road-system of the Romans was thoroughly military in its aims and spirit: it was designed to unite and consolidate the conquests of the Roman people, whether within or without the limits of Italy proper. Dr. Guest, in commenting on the Itinerary of Antoninus (Origines Celticae, 2.102), describes the system as follows: “With the exception of some outlying portions, such as Britain north of the Wall, Dacia, and certain provinces east of the Euphrates, the whole Empire was penetrated by these iters. There is hardly a district which we might expect a Roman official to be sent to, on service either civil or military, where we do not find them. They reach the Wall in Britain; run along the Rhine, the Danube, and the Euphrates; and cover, as with a network, the interior provinces of the Empire.” See also Marquardt, Staatsverwaltung, 1.559. The following illustration represents part of a magnificent Roman

Part of a Roman road in Lancashire.

road which is still to be seen on a hill-side at Blackstone Edge, in Lancashire.

A similar policy, attended by similar success, has been repeatedly followed in more modern days. We need only refer to the roads made by General Wade and Captain Burt in the Scottish Highlands, after the Jacobite rising of 1715 (see Burton, History of Scotland, 1689-1748, 2.246-256, and Burt, Letters, ed. Jamieson, 1818); to the Simplon, Cornice, and other military roads of Napoleon I.; and finally to the road-systems of our military engineers and Public Works Department in India.

It is evident that the construction of some visible presentment of this huge network of communications would soon become a practical necessity. A review of the authorities seems to warrant the statement that, in the time of Augustus, a map or chart, founded on the geographical statistics contained in the Commentarii of Agrippa, and engraved on marble, was exhibited bited for public reference in the Portico of Polla or Pola, Agrippa's sister, which was erected in the Campus Martins between B.C. 12 and A.D. 7 (Plin. Nat. 3.17). It was probably very similar in construction to the marble map of Rome divided into Regions, now known as the Capitoline Plan. It is certain that geographical measurements took place under Augustus; but the story that they were merely completions of a survey originally ordered about 44 B.C. by Julius Caesar, rests on more doubtful authority (see Marquardt, Staatsverwaltung, 2.207 ff.). Vegetius alludes to the early possession of maps by military commanders: “Usque eo ut sollertiores duces itineraria provinciarum . . . non tantum adnotata sed etiam picta habuisse [p. 2.948]firmentur” (R. M. 3.6). Moreover, a book, perhaps bearing the name of Chorographia (it is quoted by Strabo as χωρογράφος), was constructed from the same Commentarii of Agrippa, whose measurements are constantly referred to as authoritative by Pliny.

The marble map which has been mentioned was, most probably, the original authority on which the Antonine and other Itineraries, and the ancient map or chart of the Roman dominions, known as the Peutinger Table, were founded. The Peutinger Table has by some been identified with a copy, made in 1265 by a Dominican monk of Colmar, from a certain original Mappa Mundi. Miller, however, whose works on the Peutinger Table are cited below, considers it to be two centuries earlier in date, and to be based on an original constructed in the fourth century A.D., and probably in the reign of Valentinian II. (375-392 A.D.). The remarks of Vegetius, who lived under this emperor, on the use of itineraria picta, have already been quoted. The Table was discovered in 1507 by Conrad Celtes (1459-1508) in a German monastery. Celtes bequeathed it by his will (in which he described it as Itinerarium Antonini) to Conrad Peutinger, a scholar of Augsburg (1465-1547), for eventual publication. After many vicissitudes, it was bought for 100 ducats, in 1720, by Prince Eugene, and passed, after his death, into the possession of the Imperial Library at Vienna. In the modern sense of the word, the Peutinger Table is not a map at all. It observes neither latitude nor longitude. All the territories and seas depicted on it are drawn out into a continuous narrow strip, almost regardless of their true geographical conformation and relative position. It runs east and west, and its existing remains comprise all the known world between the east coast of Britain and the limits of Alexander's Indian conquests. The westernmost part has been lost. The Table shows the course of the public roads of the Empire, and gives the distances from station station in miles. Its peculiar shape may perhaps be accounted for by a passage in which Merivale (H. R. c. xxxix.) comments on the original marble map: “Its extension along the walls of a gallery or cloister was meant to keep all its parts nearly on the same level.” A large globe or circular map, constructed like the Mappa Mundi at Venice, would have been more accurate in form, but less easy to consult.

The construction and care of the public roads, whether in Rome, in Italy, or in the provinces, was, at all periods of Roman history, considered to be a function of the greatest weight and importance. This is clearly shown by the fact that the censors, in some respects the most venerable of Roman magistrates, had the earliest paramount authority to construct and repair all roads and streets. Indeed, all the various functionaries, not excluding the emperors themselves, who succeeded the censors in this portion of their duties, may be said to have exercised a devolved censorial jurisdiction (see Mommsen, Staatsrecht, 2.428 if., 451 ff.). This devolution early became a practical necessity, resulting from the growth of the Roman dominions and the multifarious labours which detained the censors in the capital city. Hence, in Rome and the immediate neighbourhood, as we shall presently see, certain special official bodies successively acted as constructing and repairing authorities. In Italy, the censorial responsibility passed to the commanders of the Roman armies, and, later on, to special commissioners (curatores), and, in some cases perhaps, to the local magistrates. In the provinces, the consul or praetor (hence the terms via consularis, via praetoria = via publica) and his legates received authority to deal directly with the contractors (Cic. Font. 4, § § 7, 8).

The systems successively pursued in Italy may be illustrated from Livy, who tells us (39.2) that C. Flaminius (consul 185 B.C.), in his campaign against the Ligurian Friniates, “ne in otio militem haberet, viam a Bononia duxit Arretium.” Moreover, his colleague, M. Aemilius Lepidus, made another road, the earlier Via Aemilia, from Placentia to Ariminum, where it joined the Via Flaminia (Livy, l.c.; and Strabo, 5.1, 11=p. 217). In 21 A.D. Cn. Domitius Corbulo complained to Tiberius that numerous roads in Italy had become impassable, “fraude mancipum et incuria magistratuum” (Tac. Ann. 3.31). It is uncertain whether the neglectful magistrates here alluded to were the permanent curatores of the roads in question, or the municipal magistrates. (See the notes of Lipsius and Orelli in their respective editions of Tacitus.)

But there were many other persons besides the special officials, who from time to time, and for a variety of reasons, sought to connect their names with a great public service like that of the roads. Caius Gracchus, when Tribune of the people (123-122 B.C.), paved or gravelled many of the public roads, and provided them with milestones and mountingblocks for riders (Plut. C. Gracchus, 100.7). Again, C. Scribonius Curio, when Tribune (B.C. 50), sought popularity by introducing a Lex. Viaria, under which he was to be chief inspector or commissioner for five years (Appian, B.C. ii, 27; Cic. Fam. 8.6). Dio Cassius (47.17) mentions as one of the forcible acts of the triumvirs of 43 B.C. (Octavianus, Antony, and Lepidus), that they obliged the senators to repair the public roads at their own expense. There is little doubt that such a measure would be popular with all but the direct sufferers.

The care of the streets and roads within the Roman territory was, as we have already stated, committed in the earliest times to the censors. An ancient enactment (ap. Cic. Legg. 3.3. 1) prescribed thus:--“Censores . . . . urbis templa vias aquas aerarium vectigalia tuento.” Appius Claudius Caecus (censor 312 B.C.) paved the Appian Way (Liv. 9.29); C. Junius Bubulcus and M. Valerius Maximus (censors 307 B.C.) made roads in the country districts at the public expense (Liv. 9.43); C. Flaminius (censor 220 B.C.) “viam Flaminiam munivit” (Liv. Epit. xx.). The censorship (174 B.C.) of Q. Fulvius Flaccus and A. Postumius Albinus was marked by an important step in advance. They made contracts for paving the streets inside Rome, including the Clivus Capitolinus, with lava, and for laying down the roads outside the city with gravel. Side-walks were also provided (Liv. 12.27). M. Aemilius Scaurus (censor 109 B.C.) paved the later of the two roads known as Via Aemilia from Pisae to Dertona. [p. 2.949](Aurelius Victor, de Viris Ill. 100.72; Strabo, 5.1, 11 = p. 217.)

The aediles, probably in virtue of their responsibility for the freedom of traffic and the police of the streets (Dig. 43, 10), co-operated with the censors and the bodies that succeeded them. Cn. and Q. Ogulnius (aediles 296 B.C.) laid down a pavement on the path or track (semita) from the Porta Capena to the Temple of Mars (Liv. 10.23). Again, Agrippa, when he voluntarily became aedile (33 B.C.), spent largely of his own money on the roads.

It would seem that in the reign of Claudius (41-54 A.D.) the quaestors had become responsible for the paving of the streets of Rome, or at least shared that responsibility with the quatuorviri viarum, who will presently be mentioned. Suetonius (Suet. Cl. 100.24) states that the Emperor “Collegio Quaestorum pro stratura viarum gladiatorium munus injunxit.” It has been suggested that the quaestors were obliged to buy their right to an official career by personal outlay on the streets (Mommsen, Staatsrecht, ii. p. 534). There was certainly no lack of precedents for this enforced liberality, and the change made by Claudius may have been a mere change in the nature of the expenditure imposed on the quaestors.

The official bodies which first succeeded the censors in the care of the streets and roads were two in number, viz. (1) the Quatuorviri viis in urbe purgandis, with jurisdiction inside the walls of Rome; (2) the Duoviri viis extra urbem purgandis, with jurisdiction outside the walls. Both these bodies were probably of ancient origin, but the true year of their institution is unknown. Little reliance can be placed on Pomponius (Dig. 1, 2, 28-30), who states that the quatuorviri were instituted eodem tempore with the praetor peregrinus (i. e. about 242 B.C.) and the Decemviri Stlitibus judicandis (time unknown). The first mention of either body occurs in the Lex Julia Municipalis of the year 45 B.C. (A.U.C. 709). The quatuorviri were afterwards called Quatuorviri viarum curandarum. Pomponius (l.c.) terms them Quatuorviri qui curam viarum gererent, and Dio Cassius (54.26) οἱ τέσσαρες οἱ τῶν ἐν τῷ ἄστει ὁδῶν ἐπιμελούμενοι. The extent of jurisdiction of the Duoviri is to be gathered from the same Lex, which gives their full title as Duoviri viis extra propiusve urbem Romam passus mille purgandis. Their authority extended over all roads between their respective gates of issue in the city wall and the first milestone beyond. Dio Cassius (54.26) simply calls them οἱ δύο οἱ τὰς ἔξω τοῦ τείχους ὁδοὺς ἐγχειριζόμενοι (Mommsen, Staatsrecht, 2.603 ff., 668).

The next change was made by Augustus. In the course of his reconstitution of the urban administration he created new offices in connexion with the public works, streets (Mommsen here reads viarum variarum), and aqueducts of Rome (Sueton. Aug. 100.37). He found the quatuorviri and duoviri forming part of the body of magistrates known as. vigintisexviri. These he reduced to twenty members (vigintiviri), but retained the quatuorviri among them. The latter were certainly still in existence under Hadrian (117-138 A.D.: see an inscription ap. Bergier, Grands Chemins, i. p. 7). Augustus abolished the duoviri, no doubt because the time had come for dealing comprehensively with the superintendence of the roads which connected Rome with Italy and the provinces. Dio Cassius relates (54.8) that Augustus personally accepted the post of προστάτης or superintendent τῶν περὶ τὴν Ρώμην ὁδῶν. In this capacity he represented the paramount authority which belonged originally to the censors. Moreover, he appointed men of praetorian rank to be ὁδοποιοὶ or road-makers, assigning to each of them two lictors (C. I. L. 6.1501). Lastly, he made the office of curator of each of the great public roads a perpetual magistracy, instead of a special and temporary commission, as had been the case hitherto.

The previous state of things seems to have been this. In case of an emergency in the condition of a particular road, men of influence and liberality were appointed, or voluntarily acted as curatores or temporary commissioners to superintend the work of repair. The dignity attached to such a curatorship is attested by a passage (Epp. ad Att. 1.1) in which Cicero says that one Thermus should have the best chance of becoming Caesar's colleague in the consulship, propterea quod curator est Viae Flaminiae (compare also Plin. Epp. 5.15). Among those who performed this duty in connexion with particular roads was Julius Caesar, who became curator (67 B.C.) of the Via Appia, and spent his own money liberally upon it (Plut. Caes. 5). Certain persons appear also to have acted as Viarum curatores e lege Visellia. The inscriptions which contain the little that is known about them have been collected by Mommsen, Staatsrecht, 2.668 ff.

It was not as curator but as consul that Augustus (27 B.C.) restored the Via Flaminia, a road essential to his military expeditions (D. C. 53.22). He has himself recorded the fact in the Monumentum Ancyranum as follows (ed. Mommsen, pp. 86-87, Berlin; Weidmann, 1883): CONSUL . SEPTIMUM . VIAM . FLAMINIAM . AB . URBE . ARIMINUM . FECI . ET . PONTES . OMNES . PRAETER . MULVIUM . ET . MINUCIUM.

A passage from Suetonius (Suet. Aug. 30) is here in point: “Quo autem facilius undique urbs adiretur, desumpta sibi Flaminia Via Arimino tenus munienda, reliquas triumphalibus viris ex manubiali pecunia sternendas distribuit.”

Dio Cassius (q. v. supra) states that Augustus assigned the great roads, other than the Flaminian, to certain of the senators to be repaired at their own expense, and adds that it was almost impossible to tell who really paid for these repairs. The senators, he says, grudged any expenditure of their own money, and the Emperor's privy purse was practically indistinguishable from the public treasury. Indeed, the concurrent outlay of public and private moneys on the public roads, which so constantly took place, presents a perpetual obstacle to any clear distinction of the two sources.

Plutarch (Quaest. Rom. 66) apparently suggests that the Via Flaminia was first paved out of the annual profits of an estate given to the city by Flaminius quidam. M. Fonteius, when praetor of Gallia Narbonensis (76-73 B.C.), raised money for repairing the roads by imposing a due on wine (portorium vini, Cic. pro Font. 5) Agrippa repaired all the public roads, according to Dio Cassius (49.43), μηδὲν ἐκ τοῦ δημοσίου λαβών, an expression which probably covers not [p. 2.950]only his private munificence, but the personal outlay imposed on the senators, and the pecunia manubialis mentioned by Suetonius (Suet. Aug. 30). In the country districts, as has been stated, the magistri pagorum had authority to maintain the viae vicinales. In Rome itself each householder was legally responsible for the repairs of that portion of the street which passed his own house (Dig. 43, 10, 3). It was the duty of the aediles to enforce this responsibility. The portion of any street which passed a temple or public building was repaired by the aediles at the public expense. When a street passed between a public building or temple and a private house, the public treasury and the private owner shared the expense equally. (See the municipal law quoted by Mommsen, Staatsrecht, 2.505 ff.) No doubt, if only to secure uniformity, the personal liability of householders to execute repairs of the streets was commuted for a paving rate payable to the public authorities, who were responsible from time to time.

We have already said that Augustus, in his capacity as supreme head of the public road-system, converted the temporary cura of each of the great roads into a permanent magistracy. The persons appointed under the new system were of senatorial or equestrian rank, according to the relative importance of the roads respectively assigned to them. It was the duty of each curator to issue contracts for the maintenance and repairs of his road, and to see that the contractor who undertook the work performed it faithfully, both as to quantity and quality. Moreover, he authorised the construction of sewers and removed obstructions to traffic, as the aediles did in Rome. It was in the character of an imperial curator, though probably of one armed with extraordinary powers, that Corbulo (as has been already mentioned) denounced the magistratus and mancipes (ἐκείνους τε [τοὺς ἐπιστάτας] καὶ τοὺς ἐργολαβήσαντάς τι παρ᾽ αὐτῶν, D. C. 59.15) of the Italian roads to Tiberius. He pursued them and their families with fine and imprisonment for eighteen years (21-39 A.D.), and was rewarded with a consulship by Caligula, who was himself in the habit of condemning wellborn citizens to work on the roads (Tac. Ann. 3.31; D. C. 60.27; Suet. Calig. 27). It is noticeable that Claudius brought Corbulo to justice, and repaid the moneys which had been extorted from his victims.

Special curatores for a term seem to have been appointed on occasion, even after the institution of the permanent magistrates bearing that title. According to an inscription subsequent in date to A.U.C. 731 (23 B.C.), one P. Paquius Scaeva was appointed Viarum curator extra urbem Romam ex senatusconsulto in quinquennium (C. L. L. 9.2845; and see ibid. 6.1501; Mommsen, Staatsrecht, 2.669). It is possible that Scaeva was one of the ὁδοποιλὶ appointed by Augustus in A.U.C. 734 (20 B.C.). (D. C. 54.8, q. v. supra.

The Emperors who succeeded Augustus exercised a vigilant control over the condition of the public highways. Their names occur frequently in the inscriptions to restorers of roads and bridges collected by Gruter (Corpus Inscrr. pp. cxlix.-clxiii.). Thus, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, Trajan, and Septimius Severus were commemorated in this capacity at Emerita; Nero at Corduba; Trajan at Asculum, Augustobriga, and Arganda; Hadrian and Septimius Severus at Braccara; Hadrian at Suessa; Marcus Aurelius at Capua; Caracalla at Malaca. Trajan's care for the communications of his Empire received the following elaborate panegyric from Galen (Method. Med. 9.8): ἀμέλει ταῦτ᾽ ἐχούσας ἁπάσας τὰς ἐπὶ τῆς Ἰταλίας ὁδοὺς Τραϊανὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐπηνωρθώσατο: τὰ μὲν ὑγρὰ καὶ πηλώδη μέρη λίθοις στρωννὺς ὑψηλοῖς ἐξαίρων χώμασιν: ἐκκαθαίρων δὲ τά τε ἀκανθώδη καὶ τραχέα καὶ γεφύρας ἐπιβάλλων τοῖς δυσπόροις τῶν ποταμῶν: ἔνθα δὲ ἐπιμήκης οὐ προσηκόντως ὁδὸς ἦν ἐνταῦθα σύντομον ἑτέραν τεμνόμενος: ὥσπερ καὶ εἰ δι᾽ ὕψος λόφου χαλεπὴ διὰ τῶν εὐπορωτέρων χωρίων ἐκτρέπων.

The Itinerary of Antoninus, which was probably a work of much earlier date, republished in an improved and enlarged form, under one of the Antonine emperors, remains as standing evidence of the minute care which was bestowed on the service of the public roads (Guest, Origines Celticae, 2.101-118). On the probability of a connexion between the Itinerary and the Peutinger Table (q. v. supra), see the works of Bergier (1.354-359) and Miller cited below.


Viae are distinguished not only according to their public or private character, but according to the materials employed and the methods followed in their construction. Thus we have (Ulpian, Dig. 43, 11, 2)--

(1) Via terrena, a plain road of levelled earth.

(2) Via glareata, glares strata, an earthen road with a gravelled surface (Liv. 41.27).

(3) Via munita, lapide quadrato strata, silica strata, a regular metalled road, paved with rectangular blocks of the stone of the country, or with polygonal blocks of lava.

The construction of viae munitae is said by Isidorus to have been borrowed by the Romans from the Carthaginians: “Primum Poeni dicuntur lapidibus vias stravisse: postea Romani per omnem paene orbem disposuerunt, propter rectitudinem itinerum et ne plebs esset otiosa” (Orig. 15.16, 6). In course of time, the terms via munita and via publica became identical, but Livy mentions some of the most familiar roads near Rome, and the milestones on them, at periods long anterior to the first paved road--the Appian. Unless these allusions be simple anachronisms, the roads referred to were probably at the time little more than levelled earthen tracks. Thus the Via Gabina is mentioned in, Liv. 2.11 ((temp. Porsena, about 500 B.C.); the Via Latina in 2.39 (temp. Coriolanus, about 490 B.C.); the Via Nomentana or Ficulensis in 3.52 (449 B.C.); the Via Labicana in 4.41 (421 B.C.); and the Via Salaria in 7.9. (361 B.C.).

Our best sources of information as regards the construction of a regulation via munita are: (1) The many existing remains of viae publicae. These are often sufficiently well preserved to show that the rules of construction were, as far as local material allowed, minutely adhered to in practice. (2) The directions for making pavements given by Vitruvius (7.1). The pavement and the via munita were identical in [p. 2.951]construction, except as regards the top layer, or surface. This consisted, in the former case, of marble or mosaic, and, in the latter, of blocks of stone or lava. (3) A passage in Statius (Stat. Silv. 4.3, 4) describing the repairs of the Via Domitia, a branch road of the Via Appia, leading to Neapolis.

The general construction of a via munita is shown in the following woodcut.

Via Munita.

A. Dorsum or agger viae (hence the phrases agger publicus = via publica; Aurelius Agger = via Aurelia: Sidon. 24, 5): the elliptical surface or crown of the road (media stratae eminentia, Isidor. Orig. 15.16, 7), made of polygonal blocks of silex (basaltic lava) or rectangular blocks of saxum quadratum (travertine, peperino, or other stone of the country). The upper surface was designed to cast off rain or water like the shell of a tortoise. The lower surfaces of the separate stones, here shown as flat, were sometimes cut to a point or edge in order to grasp the nucleus, or next layer, more firmly.

B. Nucleus: kernel or bedding of fine cement made of pounded potsherds (testae tusae: cf. Vitr. 7.1, 17) and lime.

C. Rudus: rubble or concrete of broken stones and lime.

D. Statumen: stones of a size to fill the hand.

E. Native earth, levelled and, if necessary, rammed tight with beetles.

F. Crepido, margo or semita: raised footway, or sidewalk, on each side of the via. It was strengthened by umbones or edge-stones (G), and gomphi or kerb-stones of greater size and height, which were placed at intervals in the line of umbones. Crepido seems also to denote the mounds of earth or rubbish on the sides of an unpaved road (Petron. Sat. 9: “Vidi Gitona in crepidine semitae stantem” ). The general appearance of such a metalled road and footway is shown in the following illustration of an existing street in Pompeii.

The directions given by Vitruvius (l.c.) are as follows: “If the bedding is to be laid flush with the ground (instead of on wooden joists), it must first be ascertained whether the ground be thoroughly sound. If it is found to be so, it should be levelled, and then the courses of stones (statumen) and rubble mixed with lime (rudus) should be successively laid on. But if the ground consist wholly or partly of made or loose earth, it should be very carefully rammed tight with beetles . . . next should come a layer of stones large enough to fill the hand (statuminetur), and over them should be laid a course of rubble of stones and lime (rudus). If the rubble be new, the proportion of stone to lime should be as 3: 1. If it be old, as 5 : 2. When the rubble has been laid, it should be thoroughly rammed down with wooden beetles, by gangs of men, to a final thickness of not less than 9 inches. Over the rubble should be laid a course of pounded potsherds, mixed with lime (nucleus), in the proportion of 3: 1, and at least six fingers (=4 1/2 inches) in thickness. The pavement,

Street in Pompeii. (Mazois.)

whether consisting of cut slabs or mosaic cubes, should be well and truly laid, by rule and level, on the top of the nucleus.

In another passage (5.9, 7) Vitruvius gives directions for constructing ambulationes or gravel paths for walking on. Such a path consisted of a firm foundation of earth, with a layer of charcoal (carbones) next to it, and a top-layer or surface of levelled gravel (sabulo). It was drained by earthenware pipes (tubuli) passing into a covered drain on either side.

Statius (l.c.) epitomises the whole process of road-making. “The task,” he says, “is first to cut (parallel) trenches, to mark the limits of breadth of the road, and next to carry the excavations deep into the ground. Next, to fill the empty ditch with new materials, and to prepare a bed for the surface of the road: lest the ground give way and afford but a treacherous support to the pavement when weighted. Next, to confine the roadway with edge-stones fixed on each side and with numerous kerb-stones.”

In this passage, fossa denotes the ditch made by the removal of the earth between the two parallel sulci, down to the point at which a firm earthen foundation can be obtained; gremium the three courses below the Dorsum or agger viae--viz. statumen, rudus, and nucleus.

As has been said, the methods of construction already detailed were followed wherever the soil was of an ordinary character. Where, however, the foundation was of rock, the statumen and rudus were dispensed with, and the nucleus and dorsum sufficed. This is the case with an existing portion of the Via Appia near Albano (Burn, Introd. p. liv.; Mazois, Pompéi, 1.26).

Caius Gracchus was the first to provide the public roads systematically with milestones (Plut. C. Gracchus, 7), though Livy, as we have stated above, refers to milestones as existing on certain roads at periods much earlier than the time of Gracchus [MILLIARE]. It is now practically certain that the distances recorded on the milestones of each road were measured [p. 2.952]from the gate by which that road issued from Rome. The first milestone on the Via Appia was found in situ at a distance of exactly a thousand paces from the reputed position of the Porta Capena in the line of the Servian wall (Burn, pp. 49, 432; Middleton, Ancient Rome in 1888, pp. 67, 496). In 28 B.C. Augustus erected in the Forum and at the foot of the Capitol the celebrated Milliarium Aureum or Golden Milestone (τὸ χρυσοῦν μίλιον κεκλημένον, D. C. 54.8; “Milliarium aureum sub aede Saturni,” Tac. Hist. 1.27; Suet. Otho 6; “a milliario in capite Romani fori statuto,” Plin. Nat. 3.66). It was, properly speaking, not a milestone, but an Imperial Itinerary or Table of Distances. It bore a gilt tablet, on which were recorded the distances from Rome to which the public roads reached from their respective gates of issue in the city wall. Of these gates there were thirty-seven in Pliny's time (Plin. l.c.).

Travelling on the public roads was facilitated by the establishment of (1) mutationes (ἀλλαγαὶ) or posting-houses, where horses were changed and vehicles were obtainable if required; and (2) mansiones (katalu/seis), stations, khans, caravanserais, or resting-places, where the journey could be conveniently broken. [MANSIONES.] The towns and places where a halt on one ground or the other could be made, are frequently detailed in the Antonine Itinerary. For an account of the Postal or Despatch system created by Augustus, and developed by his successors, see Mommsen, Staatsrecht, 2.1029-1031; Marquardt, Staatsverwalt. 1.558 ff.; and a note to Merivale (H. R. c. xxxiv.).

The following illustration of a part of the Via Stabiana at Pompeii shows some of the stepping-stones which have puzzled some antiquaries.

Via Stabiana at Pompeii, with stepping-stones. (From a photograph.)

They are to be found in nearly every street in the town, whatever its breadth. The narrower streets are practically blocked by single large stones in their centres; the broader streets are crossed by rows, containing from two to five stones. Their shape is, generally, a flat-topped oval: larger and smaller stones lying side by side. They measure, very commonly, about 3 feet by 18 inches, and have their longer axis parallel to the footway on either side of the street. The height of the footway ranges from 12 to 18 inches above the carriageway, and the particular height is, in most cases, that of the stepping-stones also. The surface of the street being elliptical, the stone on the centre stands slightly higher than those at the sides. Many streets are marked with wheelruts, some of them deeply cut. They are found both in the interstices between the steppingstones and elsewhere. The distance from rut to rut measures, as a rule, one yard, which was, accordingly, the gauge of the ordinary vehicles. Such being the facts, three points demand attention: first, the nature and conditions of traffic in a Roman provincial town like Pompeii; secondly, the reasons for erecting stepping-stones of great size in the centre of the carriage-way; and, lastly, the probable mode in which draught animals and carriages passed these stones.

Until the reign of Septimius Severus (193-211 A.D.) riding and driving, both in Rome and in the provincial towns, were closely restricted, and at times forbidden, by law. (Lex Julia Municipalis, ap. C. I. L. 1.206; Marquardt, Privatleben, 2.727-738; Friedländer, Sittengeschichte, i.5 60 ff.). Claudius (41-54 A.D.: some twenty-five years before the destruction of Pompeii) forbade travellers to drive in carriages through provincial towns (Sueton. Claud. 100.25). Seneca, it is true, who died in 65 A.D., still nearer to the catastrophe, speaks of the noise of essedae transcurrentes at Baiae (Epp. 56). But these may have plied principally on the roads to the neighbouring towns, of which Pompeii was one, and Seneca states that the noise did not disturb his studies. Marcus Aurelius (161-180 A.D.) again forbade riding and driving in provincial towns (Vit. c. 23; and compare Galen, xi. p. 301, ed. Kühn, for the practice in Rome). Under Severus carriages, in Rome at least, seem to have been more commonly used (D. C. 64.4). But, as late as the reign of Aurelian (270-275 A.D.), we find the emperor preferring to ride into Antioch “quia invidiosum tunc erat vehiculis in civitate uti” ( Vit. 100.5).

Thus the street-traffic of the ordinary Roman provincial town seems to have resembled that of the Tangier or Tetuan of to-day. Heavy burdens were carried on the backs of horses, mules, or cattle. Walking was the rule, riding on horseback or in a litter was the exception, driving almost unknown. Before the date of the edict of Claudius, and perhaps later, the law was probably indulgent to towns such as Baiae and Pompeii. Thither came the “carriagecompany” of Rome to seek health and spend money. In the case of Pompeii carriages and horses were, beyond a doubt, confined to certain streets. An extant inscription shows that the station of the cisiarii was not even within the town walls. [See CISIUM] Other streets were always reserved for foot-passengers, and possibly for litters. Others, again, once open to all traffic, and still bearing the marks of wheels, were afterwards closed to all but foot-passengers by huge stepping-stones or iron gratings.

The deep ruts already mentioned were the natural result of confining the traffic to a few streets. None of these were broad enough to allow of any considerable variation of the track, even had the fixed stepping-stones presented no additional difficulty. Moreover, there is evidence that some of the existing pavements bore traffic for at least 120 years. In one street the edge of the footway bears the inscription EX. K. QVI. (ex kalendis Quinctilibus); in another the inscription K. Q. Now the month Quinctilis was renamed Julius in 44 B.C., and Pompeii perished in 79 A.D. It is not surprising that [p. 2.953]even a small amount of wheeled traffic, unrelieved by the use of springs, and acting on the same stones for so many years, should have left deep traces behind.

The reasons for the erection of very large stepping-stones were, no doubt, at once local and practical. Pompeii occupies the summit and slopes of a small hill. Hence the lower streets, according to the drainage level of the ground, received the rain-water and refuse of the upper. In times of heavy rain the lower streets “must” in Dyer's words “have flowed like a torrent or a Welsh cross-road” (Pompeii, 100.3). No sewerage-system could have at once mastered the downward rush of the water. Indeed a similar sight may now be witnessed, during the winter rains, in the heavily-paved streets of Florence, where stepping-stones of the largest size would not be out of place. At Pompeii, where the lie of the ground, together with the close-set stone surface and sides of the streets, provided a ready-made watercourse, sidewalks of substantial height were absolutely necessary to foot-passengers. The means of crossing from one side-walk to another, in any weather, were naturally provided by steppingstones of corresponding size.

Lastly comes the question of the manner in which draught animals and carriages passed the stepping-stones. The wheels passed between the stones, as is shown by the many ruts found in situ. A vehicle with wheels three feet apart, and raised on them, say, two feet above the ground, could easily pass over a stone eighteen inches wide and from twelve to eighteen inches high. In the case of vehicles drawn by two animals, it may be conceived that the latter were harnessed loosely and moved in front of the wheel on each side. This arrangement would enable each animal to precede a wheel of the carriage through one and the same interstice of the stepping-stones. The operation must of course have been performed at a very slow walk, and its repetition would soon have become intolerable had the carriage-traffic been large or constant. The case of vehicles drawn by one animal presents more difficulty. It has been held that whilst the wheels passed, as before, on either side of a stone, the animal stepped on or over it. This view can hardly be treated with gravity, even if it be conceived that the surface of the street was somewhat raised by accumulated rubbish. It has been already stated that the stepping-stones often attain a height of eighteen inches and measure three feet in the longer axis which lay along the path of an approaching animal's feet. The better opinion is that carriages drawn by one animal were not admitted into the town at all. [See on the whole question, Dyer, Pompeii, Lond. 1868; Mazois, Pompéi, Paris, 1824-1838 (with plans); Overbeck, Pompeii4 (with illustrations); and the works of Presuhn (Leipzig, 1881) and Schöner (Stuttgart, 1877) on the same subject.]


1. General Information on the subject of Roman Roads.

Archaeologia: see Index to vols. 1-50, s. v. “Roads,” pp. 583-584, London, 1889. Bergier: Histoire des Grands Chemins de l'Empire Romain, Bruxelles, 1736. Burn, Rome and the Campagna. Ersch und Gruber: Allgemeine Encyclopädie, s. v. Peutingeriana Tabula. Gruter: Corpus Inscriptionum, vol. i. pp. cxlix-clxiii. Guest: The Itinerary of Antoninus, in Origines Celticae, vol. ii. pp. 101-118, London, 1883. Hirschfeld: Untersuchungen auf dem Gebiete der Römischen Verwaltungsgeschichte, vol. i. Berlin, 1877. Marquardt and Mormmsen, Handbuch = Mommsen, Staatsrecht (see index); Marquardt, Staatsverwaltung, 2.90 ff., Privatleben, pp. 727 ff. Miller: Weltkarte des Castorius, genannt die Peutingersche Tafel; Id. Die Weltkarte des Castorius, genannt die Peutingersche Tafel--Einleitender Text. Nibby: Delle vie degli antichi dissertazione ap. Nardini, Roma antica, 1818-1820. Parthey et Pinder: Itinerarium Antonini et Hierosolymitanum, Berlin, 1848. Rich: Dict. of Roman and Greek Antiq., s.vv. agger, crepido, fistuca, gomphus, mansiones, mutationes, semita, silex, via.

2. Authorities on Viae Publicae in Rome and Italy (within the Eleven Regions of Augustus).

Archaeologia, l.c. Becker-Göll, Gallus, i. 77. Bergier, op. cit. Burn, op. cit. Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum: vol. v. parts i. (1872) and ii. (1877), pp. 934-956, ed. Mommsen (with maps), Viae Publicae Galliae Cisalpinae (i. e. Regionum Italiae ix. x. xi.). Ibid. vol. ix. pp. 580-602, ed. Mommsen, 1883 (with maps): Viae Publicae Regionum Italiae ii. iv. v. Ibid. vol. x. parts i. and ii. pp. 45*-46*, 683-712 (ed. Mommsen), 1883 (with maps): Viae Publicae Regionum Italiae i. iii. (including those of Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily). Ibid. vol. xiv. pp. 456-457, 500, ed. Dessau, 1887: Aquae Viae Urbis Romae. Gruter, op. cit. Middleton, Ancient Rome in 1888. Nibby, op. cit. Parthey et Pinder, op. cit. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography, vol. ii. pp. 1286-1307.

3. Authorities on Viae Publicae in Britain.

Archaeologia, l.c. Bergier, op. cit., vol. i. pp. 113-116; vol. ii. pp. 88-94. C. I. L. vol. vii. pp. 206-214, ed. Hübner, 1873 (with map). Elton: Origins of English History, 1890. Guest: The Four Roman Ways (with map) in Origines Celticae, vol. ii. pp. 218-241; The Itinerary of Antoninus, ibid. pp. 101-118. Parthey et Pinder, op. cit. Pearson, Hist. of England, i. ch. 3. Id., Roman Britain in Historical Maps of England, pp. 6-17. W. T. Watkin, Roman Lancashire. Id., Roman Cheshire. Note. It will often be necessary to consult, in addition, the standard county histories and the proceedings of local antiquarian societies. Ferguson's Histcry of Cumberland (1890) may be specially mentioned.

4. Authorities on Viae Publicae in the other Provinces of the Empire.

Archaeologia, l.c. Bergier, op. cit. C. I. L., vol. ii., ed. Hübner, 1869 (with maps): Viae,Publicae Lusitaniae (pp. 619-625); Baeticae (pp. 626-632); Tarraconensis (pp. 632-656). Ibid., vol. iii., parts 1 and 2, ed. Mommsen, 1873 (with maps): Viae Publicae Syriae Palaestinae (p. 21); Syriae Littoralis et Mediterraneae (pp. 35-40); Cypri. (pp. 42, 43); Ciliciae (p. 44); Cappadociae et Galatiae (pp. 56, 57); Ponti et Bithyniae (p. 61); Asiae Minoris (pp. 87-90); Achaiae (p. 111); Macedoniae (pp. 127, 128); Daciae (p. 256); Moesiae Superioris (p. 269); Dalmatiae (pp. 406-408); Pannoniae Inferioris (pp. 464-471); Pannoniae Superioris (pp. 572-577); Norici (pp. 692-702); Raetiae (pp. 735-740). Ibid., vol. viii., parts 1 and 2, pp. 859-910, ed. [p. 2.954]Wilmanns, 1881 (with maps): Viae Publicae Provinciarum Africanarum. Ibid., vol. xii., pp. 632-682, ed. Hirschfeld, 1888 (with maps): Viae Publicae Galliae Narbonensis. Fustel de Coulanges: La Monarchie Franque, pp. 254-256, Paris, 1888. Lenthéric: Les Villes Mortes du Golfe de Lyon, 3rd edition, Paris, 1879. Id.: La Provence Maritime, Paris, 1880. Parthey et Pinder, op. cit. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography, l.c.


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