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3 June, 2017

Roman Roads

If you think this would make a cool poster, you can get a high-res, print-worthy PDF for $9!    

It’s finally done. A subway-style diagram of the major Roman roads, based on the Empire of ca. 125 AD.

Creating this required far more research than I had expected—there is not a single consistent source that was particularly good for this. Huge shoutout to: Stanford’s ORBIS model, The Pelagios Project, and the Antonine Itinerary (found a full PDF online but lost the url).

The lines are a combination of actual, named roads (like the Via Appia or Via Militaris) as well as roads that do not have a known historic name (in which case I creatively invented some names). Skip to the “Creative liberties taken” section for specifics.

How long would it actually take to travel this network? That depends a lot on what method of transport you are using, which depends on how much money you have. Another big factor is the season – each time of year poses its own challenges. In the summer, it would take you about two months to walk on foot from Rome to Byzantium. If you had a horse, it would only take you a month.

However, no sane Roman would use only roads where sea travel is available. Sailing was much cheaper and faster – a combination of horse and sailboat would get you from Rome to Byzantium in about 25 days, Rome to Carthage in 4-5 days. Check out ORBIS if you want to play around with a “Google Maps” for Ancient Rome. I decided not to include maritime routes on the map for simplicity’s sake.

Creative liberties taken

The biggest creative element was choosing which roads and cities to include, and which to exclude. There is no way I could include every Roman road, these are only the main ones. I tried to include cities with larger populations, or cities that were provincial capitals around the 2nd century.

Obviously to travel from Petra to Gaza you would take a more or less direct road, rather than going to Damascus and “transferring” to the Via Maris. The way we travel on roads is very different from rail, which is a slight flaw in the concept of the map. But I think it’s still aesthetically pleasing and informative.

Here’s a list of the roads that have authentic names and paths:

  • Via Appia
  • Via Augusta
  • Via Aurelia
  • Via Delapidata
  • Via Domitia
  • Via Egnatia
  • Via Flaminia
  • Via Flavia (I, II, III)
  • Via Julia Augusta
  • Via Lusitanorum
  • Via Militaris
  • Via Popilia
  • Via Portumia
  • Via Salaria
  • Via Tiburtina
  • Via Traiana
  • Via Traiana Nova

Some roads have real names but were modified somewhat:

  • The Via Latina I combined with the Via Popilia. In reality the Popilia ended at Capua, and the Latina went from Capua to Rome.
  • Via Aquitania only referred to the road from Burdigala (Bordeaux) to Narbo (Narbonne).
  • Via Asturica Burdigalam similarly only refers to the Astrurica-Burdigala section.
  • “Via Claudia” is not a real name, but refers to a real continuous road built by Claudius.
  • Via Hadriana was a real road in Egypt, but it refers to a slightly different section than the green route.
  • The name “Via Maris” is considered to be a modern creation, referring to real ancient trade road whose real name has been lost to history.
  • Via Valeria only referred to a section of the yellow Sicilian loop.
  • The roads around Pisae, Luna and Genua had several names for different sections, including Via Aemilia Scauri. Sometimes “Via Aurelia” referred to the entire road from Rome to Arelate.
  • Via Sucinaria is the Latin name for the Amber Road, a trade route from the Baltic region to Italy that carried amber as a valuable good. It probably was not used to refer to a single literal road.
  • Via Gemina and Via Claudia Augusta are real names that referred to small parts of the routes marked on the map.

The other roads have relatively uncreative names that I invented, usually based on a place that they pass through. I have never formally studied Latin and I’ll admit that I am somewhat confused by the distinction between -a and -ensis endings, so there’s a chance I may have messed that up.

Update

I got numerous comments following the release of my Roman roads map. Acting by the mantra of “OP delivers”, I decided to take this feedback into account and create an updated version of the map. The new map is featured here, and I have also replaced the map in the original post with the new version.

Several changes were made:

  • The typo in Gesoriacum is fixed.
  • The Via Agrippa is now properly named. For some reason I had typed Via Flavia by mistake.
  • Via Flavia now refers to the road along the Dalmatian coast, in reference to the actual Via Flavia in what is now Croatia.
  • I have included Berytus, present-day Beirut, in the map. It was the capital of Roman Phoenicia and one of the most important cities in the Eastern Mediterranean at the time.
  • The town of Vindonissa has been added. It was a prominent fort in what is now Switzerland.
  • The road in Sardinia now goes from Caralis to Tarrae. This was (and still is) the most prominent land linkage on the island.
  • Road names ending in -ensis have been changed to more classical names:
    • Via Sarda now uses the proper Latin adjective for the island.
    • ViaAugusta Nova is named after the emperor who established the proconsular government in Asia.
  • Other geographically-named roads have had name changes:
    • Via Domitiana is named after Domitian, who conquered Moesia.
    • Via Tiberia in Cappadocia is named after Tiberius, who established the province.
  • The British Isles are now displayed in full, and the British road network has been expanded a tiny bit.
  • Lucus (Lugo) is now moved inland, and the road from Bracara Augusta to Asturica has been separated.

Version in Chinese – 中文版

Chinese translations courtesy of Stone Chen.

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213 Comments on "Roman Roads"

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Luciano Capasso
Guest

I live in Tivoli (Tibur), the way from Rome to Tivoli has the name Tiburtina, right, but after Tivoli to Pescara the name change in Valeria (console Valerio), the correct name of this road is Tiburtina-Valeria (in modern era is the n. 5, SS 5 Tiburtina Valeria). After the railway station in Tivoli there is a marble signal with the name Via Valeria. Ciao, great work

Ann Maclean
Guest

Thank you for making note of this!

Casus Belli
Guest

So, you put Luguvalium, the present day Carlisle on the border between Scotland and England., at the northern top of the map of the island of Britain when in reality it should be about 2/3rds of the way up. As you know, the Romans never really conquered the island of Britain due to resistance in what is now Scotland.

Straightroad
Guest

I absolutely love this map. It must have taken ages! I live in Perthshire and am surrounded by Roman camps, roads and forts. They were just getting established in Scotland and apparently not meeting that much resistance when they got called away to defend the empire elsewhere. It fell and they never returned. I had no idea before I moved here how far north of Hadrian’s wall they had become established. There’s a really interesting walk you can do during the Drover’s Tryst Walking Festival every autumn in Crieff.

La Salita Historica
Guest

No se puede cambiar la historia. No es que se resistieran los escoceses.., es que no habia nada(mineral, ruta comercial..)que les interesara.
Si conquistaron Egipto, cree usted que esa resistencia hubiera sido suficiente? No.
En España, tampoco les intereso el norte.

Xurde
Guest

¿Que no les interesaba el norte de Hispania? ¿O que no eran capaces de conquistarlo? ¿No conoce usted las guerras cántabras? Esto es un articulito de la Wikipedia, pero está muy bien para comenzar a investigar. Fíjese si les costó la conquista que incluso hoy en día permanecen algunos restos de adn astur, siendo el segundo más antiguo de la península.
https://es.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guerras_cántabras

Jon Baker
Guest

One small issue. Jerusalem was not renamed Aelia Capitolina until 135, when the Bar Kochba revolt was put down. That was also when the region was renamed from Judaea to Palestine, after the long-dead coastal tribe (old Sea Peoples) of the Philistines.

John Muccigrosso
Guest
Regarding the names: typically the roads were named after the men who were responsible for getting them built. So the Via Flaminia was named after the censor C. Flaminius. The men’s last names (cognomina) are used adjectivally for themselves – in which case they are masculine in gender and end in -us – and for the roads – which are feminine and so end in -a. The adjectival ending -ensis was often used to turn place names into adjectives. So the Via Cappadociensis would be the Road of Cappadocia. Other names are related to where the roads ran or what… Read more »
JB Piggin
Guest

Hi Sasha,
This is a brilliant piece of work!
I’ve tweeted about it, replying to the @onlmaps syndication: https://twitter.com/JBPiggin/status/872001537689649152
Watch my researchgate.net page for updates on the Roman main highways of Africa.
(follow the website link).
Keep being creative!

Sharon Meyer
Guest

Fabulous idea!
Please let me know how I can get a copy on which I can feast my eyes and mind!

Thank you for all your work!

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[…] it would take you about two months to walk on foot from Rome to Byzantium,” Trubetskoy writes in the project notes. “If you had a horse, it would only take you a month.” He notes […]

Rene
Guest

Nice! Counterpart of OmnesViae.org

Antonio Sanchez
Guest

I am not an expert on the topic, but should it be Ulpia Traina located more or less around Dacia better than Germania ?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulpia_Traiana_Sarmizegetusa

Lorenzo Luisi
Guest

Ottimo lavoro! Un semplice approfondimento può essere effettuato a partire dalla Tabula Peutingeriana, latino per “The Peutinger Map” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabula_Peutingeriana)

Jim Chevallier
Guest
The Tabula is very interesting, but a little confusing itself. It notes the Parisii for instance but not Lutetia. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Tabula_Peutingeriana I’m bemused to see Lutetia here as only as one stop on a line. I realize it was relatively minor under the Romans, but supposedly the rue Mouffetard was the start of the road to Lyons and it seems natural that the northern route would have come up that way (which also corresponds to what Roger Dion calls the “Gap Route”, a series of openings in mountains which facilitated northern travel. It’s a cool idea overall. It would be helpful… Read more »
Christian Koefoed-Nielsen
Guest
Christian Koefoed-Nielsen

Really great idea and execution! Well done!

Michael Everson
Guest

Would you mind putting Ireland on the map? I know there were no Roman roads there, but you have no roads on Corsica and Cyprus either.

Mario
Guest

Hi Sasha, this is a magnificient job. I’m trying to find a special map to make an enormous poster for home and i finally found this. This is amazing and i definetely want it. Problem is that i don’t use paypal.

Any chance to send you the money via bank transfer? Please reply to my email

Stephen
Guest

This is so thorough. Great idea. Great execution.

Paolo
Guest

Via Emilia starts from Milan (Mediolanum) today but maybe that happened after the date of your map http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0064%3Aentry%3Dvia-aemilia-geoVia

Aurelia goes all the way to the French border today. I don’t know if it keeps the same name in France.

ComSubVie
Guest

Shouldn’t Carnuntum be placed south-west of Vindobona?

Otherwise great work!

Giuliano
Guest

Hi, Sasha. I think the main highway in Sardinia was the Turris (actually Porto Torres) – Caralis. Turris Libissonis was a colony founded by Julius Caesar.
In many parts we use today the same way and it’s still the main highway.

Gojkov
Guest

In my country, Serbia, Pay Pal do not exist.

dan
Guest

This is really brilliant! I wonder what do the colours signify?

Randall Mathews
Guest

Hi Sasha. Great work. I love the simplifying.
You would be very interested in Graham Robb’s book, ‘The Ancient Paths’, in which he details how the Celts already had straight long roads which were used against them by the Romans… Please let me know what you think.

Marion
Guest

Fantastic work – I sent you a donation and look forward to seeing what it will look like on my wall 🙂 I was glad to see Luguvalium (Carlisle) made it on the map as the frozen furthest outpost of civilization as that is where I come from.

margaret
Guest

much admiration and appreciation of your hard work

Séamus Miller
Guest

Considering you have included smaller Mediterranean islands such as Corsica, the omission of the island of Ireland is a disappointing inaccuracy.

Chris
Guest

Awesome work! One minor suggestion – please mark on the map itself which road names are invented. Otherwise someone will inevitably find a copy of this map divorced from this page and take it as a reference without knowing that some of the names are not historically accurate.

Diego
Guest

Fantastic job I’m very grateful! Also because I’m reading right now the book “The Silk Roads: A New History of the World” by Peter Frankopan, ad this map does complete the story with a visual impact!.

Moritz Moeller
Guest

Is there a vector version of this? I want to print a poster for my brother who’s an archeologist. It’s the perfect birthday present I’ve been looking for!

Brian Fitzgerald
Guest

Poor Tiberius! No public transport to Villa Jovis, Capri.

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[…] по воде, а не по суше. На своем сайте Трубецкой перечислил названия дорог, отмеченных на карте. Более подробно рассмотреть […]

Dean Wampler
Guest

You should submit your design to Threadless, https://www.threadless.com/how-it-works/ It would make an awesome t-shirt, phone case, etc.

Clodovica Burnhamiensis
Guest
Clodovica Burnhamiensis

I would absolutely buy a mug.

laura
Guest

yes, tee shirt, placemat, mug, poster, purse, umbrellas, book cover, the options are ENDLESS. i live in rome and i LOVE this so MUCHHHH. you should market it, every store here would carry, esp the ones at the museums and monuments

Raymond D. Nalewajek
Guest

Greetings, Salutations and Congratulations for this modern, beautifully executed graphic presentation of this historical information.

Like others, I do not utilize PayPal but would definitely like to have a framed version. I see from comments above that you have a vector version as well as the PDF. I would definitely like to purchase both forms, please let me know when you have an alternate vehicle for payment. I would like to plot out a larger version for my son who has a collections of maps.

Are there any plans to expand this project?

Bashar Tabbah
Guest

Hi there, Just wanted to give some notes on the VNT;Via Nova Traiana

1. Aleiana was called Ayla and Aelana but 90% of sources refer to it as Ayla- modern day Aqaba
2. Petra wasn’t a station on it but it was quite close by,
3. The highway ended a little after Bostra and did not connect to Damascus.

Markus W
Guest

Dear Sasha,

this is such a great idea!

One little inaccuracy as far as I can see: on the map Geneva (Genava) is east of Vienna, when in reality it is significantly west of it. Is this on purpose? Or are they referring to different cities?

Markus W
Guest

Ah I’m such an idiot: Vienna refers to Vienne (France), not Vienna (Austria)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vienne,_Is%C3%A8re

Steve D
Guest

One more “ask” for future versions — Vicetia (the current Vicenza, home of the architect Palladio and Campagnolo bike parts), on the road between Verona and Aquileia. If it fits.

Mark Hoffman
Guest

What fun! I can only imagine all the work it took to get all the places and then to imagine them in this map style. Thanks for sharing this great map. (I blogged about it on my Bible and Tech blog with some quibbles that in no way detract from your accomplishment!)

Ramiro Miranda
Guest

It’ll be interesting to do the same with South America ‘s ancient Inca Road system. There are plenty of good maps and research about it. Inca Road System is extensive and well preserved and represents an strikingly similar feat to Roma’s

Jon Claerbout
Guest

Too blurry to read. Disappointing.

Ives
Guest

Hi,
I really love your idea, but I don’t see our local “Via Annia”. I haven’t read all your article nor your comments yet so you might already have answered my doubts. I understand you may have combined it, though I’m not sure as to the reason since it was a major connection for the north and east branches. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Via_Annia

Zidders Roofurry
Guest
This is great. It inspired me to write a silly song parody. Take the Last Roads to Britain (a Monkees parody by Zid) Take the last roads to Britain. In Emperor’s name we’ll found a nation. We’ll build a new road system and along it signal stations. In the name of Rome we’ll roam, roam, roam. We’ll roam, roam, roam. Our troops march in the morning and we’ll make no tribal friends. With swords sharp and with tactics all resistancez will end. Before us blood will flow. Flow, oh, oh, oh and we do it for the glory that is… Read more »
Zidders Roofurry
Guest

Misspelled ‘resitances’. Ah, well.

Jonas
Guest

There was a major city of Egitania – with a major road connection between Conimbriga, Bracara Augusta and Mérito.

Steve
Guest

wow great ! I notice you forgot to put the sea crossing between Gythium and Gortnya .

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[…] EXPLORE: Roman Roads […]

Eduardo T.
Guest

Hi, vía delapidata is known as Vía de la Plata o Rita de la Plata, Silver Road. Today, there is a highway called that way; it is the A-66 that joins Seville (Hispalis) in the south with the province of Leon in the north of Spain (Hispania)

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[…] eraikitako galtzadek esaterako, zutik diraute askok Euskal Herrian eta Europa osoan barna. Alexandr ‘Sasha’ Trubetskoy  Kanadako Huffington Post orainkarian lanean dabilen geografo gazte bat da, eta mapa infogramak […]

Nonnie Balcer
Guest

Great map, Sasha! Are you related to Helen and Eugene Troubetzkoy (my wonderful next-door neighbours here in Hastings on Hudson NY??)

Nicola
Guest

Hi there! The via Flaminia was arriving to the Adriatic Coast in Fanum Fortunæ (nowadays Fano) wich was higly considered by the Romans due to its strategic importance (on the closest river, during the Second Punic War was fought the so called Metauro Battle in wich Annibal’s brother Hasdrubal was defeated and beaheaded) infact the Flaminia from this tourning point it is heading Northward to Ariminium (Rimini). Ciao!

Alessandro
Guest

+1 this. Fanum Fortunae should be there!

Armand Simonis
Guest
Hi, Great work, great map. However, you could extend the map significantly beyond Ulpia Traiana (Xanten) into the north and west into Germania Inferior, nowadays called the Netherlands. See for example: This map is from a Dutch wikipedia page, called “Roman roads in the Netherlands”. There is a lot of info available. A lot of (small) Roman towns were in the Netherlands, mostly around Roman fords and camps to protect the northern border of the empire (“Limes”) that followed the river Rhine until it flowed in the North Sea around modern Leiden. The Romans build even canals to transport goods… Read more »
Tudor
Guest

Hi, awesome project. I want to make it a poster. I just transfered you 9$ via Paypal. Can you send me the high res pdf?

Rich Klein
Guest

Sasha – Brilliant work! I *love* ORBIS. I took the liberty of linking this page on a Facebook group called “Roman Empire History”. It’s been well received and you are probably getting some traffic from that, but let me know if I should take it down.

Ulf
Guest

Hi Sasha,

great work!

Maybe it’s possible to get the map as a scalable vector graphic file (e.g. ai, cdr, eps, etc.) to print a large poster (DIN A0)?

Thanks and regards

Ulf

Dimitrios Dimitrakopoulos
Guest
Dimitrios Dimitrakopoulos

I believe that Philippi was most important town than Amphipolis of Egnatia str. (ex:Saint Paul stopped at Philippi.) Egnatia street still exists in the area I live.