Roman Roads

Roman Roads -- the The Roman Empire covered a vast expanse of territory. To facilitate communications and the movement of troops, the Romans built many roads extending to all parts of the empire, and portions of some of these are found at the present day in fair condition. Twenty-nine military roads centered at Rome, which with their numerous branches had, according to Antoninus, a total length of 52,964 Roman miles. The most important of these had a paved width of 16 feet, with curbs and unpaved sidewalks, but the prevailing width was 8 feet. There were also roads for single carriages, and for horsemen, of lesser width. The military roads were essentially pavements of dressed stone blocks, laid with very close joints on a foundation of concrete which rested on a sub-foundation of large flat stones, the entire thickness being about 3 feet. The road surface was quite smooth, and level transversely. Grade was usually disregarded, and the course of the road laid out in a straight line over hills and valleys. Milestones marked the distances from all parts of the empire to a gilt column in the Forum at Rome. In respect to durability, these roads were probably superior to any since constructed, but they were very expensive and the steep grades often rendered portions ill adapted to traffic.

Macadam has said that their construction " was a kind of desperate remedy to which ignorance has had recourse," and from the point of view of engineering economy and the proper adaptation of means to ends Roman roads can not be recommended.

A number of Roman roads were built in England in the second and third centuries, and later some of these were widened and made public highways. The roads in England and throughout Europe were, however, in a deplorable condition during the Middle Ages, and indeed until the beginning of the nineteenth century no systematic method of construction and repair was known. About 1350 certain roads in England were given to private companies to repair, and toll was allowed to be collected. In 1553 the parishes were made responsible for the maintenance of the roads, but the burden proved to be too heavy, and the results were unsatisfactory.

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