History, Facts and Information - Importance of Roman Roads
The construction of the Ancient Roman roads were of major importance to the Romans and their vast Empire. The roads allowed fast and easy access and a vital communication network across hundreds of miles of territory. The building of the Roman roads provided the means for faster travel stretching approximately 51,000 miles across the Empire. It is therefore not surprising that we still repeat the saying 'All roads led to Rome". The map shows the territories and provinces of the Roman Empire 395AD, illustrating the tremendous achievement of building the network of Roman roads.
Facts about Roman Roads
Who built the Roads? The soldiers of the Roman army travelled all across the Empire by necessity and provided all of the required labour. The roads were built as follows:
- Fact 1: Roads were generally laid out in a straight line, although sometimes they followed the natural curves of the terrain
- Fact 2: Ancient surveying techniques using 'Sighting Marks' were employed
- Fact 3: The land was first cleared of any trees
- Fact 4: A trench was dug where the road was to go which was then filled with big stones creating an embankment
- Fact 5: Roman roads were generally built on top of an embankment (called an Agger)
- Romans were the first to build roads on this foundation basis
- The foundation, or Agger, contained a layer of rubble with stones which were laid in such a way to provide drainage
- Fact 6: A middle section which consisted of a layer of sand or gravel was laid on the foundation
- Fact 7: The top surface were paved with gravel or flint and small broken stones
- Fact 8: There were ditches on either side so that water could drain away
- Fact 9: Road widths measured between 8 and 40 feet - wide enough to take a Roman chariot with two horses. There were even lay-bys allowing other chariots past!
Roman Roads in Britain
Many miles of roads were built by the Romans in Britain. The first great ancient road to be built in Britain was called the 'Fosse Way'. The Fosse Way extended from Exeter to Lincoln, passing through the towns of Bath, Gloucester, and Leicester. Ermine Street was the name of the Roman road that ran from London to Lincoln and York. The third major Roman road in Britain was called Watling Street which ran from London to Shrewsbury, in central England. Some of the main London roads of today still follow the routes of the first great ancient Roman Roads. The ancient Roman Silchester Road is today followed by Oxford Street, Bayswater Road and Notting Hill.
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