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SS8 – Pathways
- Early Mid2 – Roman Roads and Aquaducts
Roman Roads – Tools of an Empire
The Roman system of roads grew steadily to a peak of over 90,000 km. All major roads
were built by the army or for the army. They were needed for massive armies to march to
war or to defend the Empire. Because of this they often ran outside of the protected
Roman World into the hostile lands beyond. However, at the same time the new roads
improved communications inside the empire for the government too. The improved roads
also improved the shipping of goods for business people.
Roman roads, although built with military needs in mind, were of immense benefit to civilian
life. A few roads were built just for business purposes. One was the Via Salaria (The Salt
Road) which was used to carry salt from the Adriatic Sea to trade with the Romans.
Roman roads are famous for their straightness, but even so, today we can see that some
zig-zagging takes place in long sections. Often there will be a very straight section that
changes direction slightly at high points of land, going straight again until the next point.
Finding Water
Human settlements must always be near a source of fresh water, whether a river or a
spring. While Rome was just a small state within Latium, its source was the River Tiber. By
the late fourth century B.C., when the Romans were fighting the second Samnite War, an
alternative source of water was urgently needed. Perhaps this was because the water
supply from the Tiber was not reliable enough for the expanding population of Rome, or
perhaps it was because a single source of water could easily be poisoned by an enemy.
Consequently, the Romans began building their first aqueduct, the Aqua Appia, in 312 B.C.
Most of the later aqueducts were built less urgently to satisfy an amazing and everincreasing demand for cold, clear water. To understand the builders’ task, we must look
first at the geography of Rome and its hinterland.
The countryside around tome, know as the Campagna, is surrounded by hills and mountains.
Rain and melting snow from this high ground feed many rivers, among them the Tiber and its
tributary the Anio.
Some of this water, however, percolates through the soil and runs over the surface of the
hard rock beneath, emerging from the ground lower down as springs. The many springs in
the hills around the Campagna captured the attention of the Romans, and they decided to
channel some of this pure water into the city.
One might have to dig to find a good source; where should one look? Vitruvius, a retired
military engineer, who wrote ten books on architecture and engineering in the reign of
Agustus, advised the Romans that;
Finding water is easy if there are open, running springs. If not, we must search
underground. Just before sunrise, lie face downwards on the ground, resting your chin in
your hands. Take a look over the countryside; where you see vapor curling up from the
ground you will find water