Book 1, Chapter 4, 78 AD to 306 AD – Roman Roads and Towns – Continued
Vitruvius has given exact directions for makings road. They began, it appears, by making two parallel furrows, the intended width of the road, and then re moved all the loose earth between them till they came to the hard solid ground, and they filled up this excavation with fine earth hard beaten in. This first layer was called pavimentum. Upon it was laid the first bed of the road, consisting of small squared stones, nicely ranged on the ground, which was sometimes left dry, but often a large quantity of fresh mortar was poured into it. This layer was termed statumen. The next was called rudus, or ruderatio, and consisted of a mass of small stones, broken to pieces and mixed with lime, in the proportion of one part of broken stones to two of lime. The third layer, or bed, which was termed nucleus, was formed of a mixture of lime, chalk, pounded or broken tiles, or earth, beaten together, or of gravel, or sand and lime mixed with clay. Upon this was laid the surface or pavement of the road, which was called technically summum dorsum, or summum crusta. It was composed sometimes of stones set like the paving stones in our streets, and sometimes of flagstones out square or polygonally, and also, probably oftener, of a firm bed of gravel and lime. The roads were thus raised higher than the surrounding grounds and on this account the mass was termed agger.
The result of the above process would be a Roman road of the most perfect description, but we must not suppose that in any part of the empire these directions were always strictly adhered to. On the contrary, there are few Roman roads existing which do not in some way or other vary from them, some are entirely without the nucleus, in others there was no statumen. Nevertheless there is always found a sufficiently close resemblance between the structure of the old Roman roads as they exist, and the directions given above. They are often found in our island in an extraordinary degree of perfection, where they have been used to the present time as highroads, they are naturally worn down, and it is only at rare intervals that we can find any characteristic to identify them, except it be the extraordinary straightness of the course, but where the course of the road has been changed at a subsequent period, and especially where it runs along an uncultivated heath, the ancient Roman road often presents itself to our view in an imposing embankment for several miles together. When they came upon higher ground, the Romans were not in the habit of intrenching, but they often raised the embankment higher even than in the plain, probably as a measure of precaution. Thus on the summit of the Gogmagog hills, near Cambridge, the embankment of the Roman road is very lofty and remarkably perfect. They seem seldom to have turned out of their course to avoid a hill, and, in some instances, the Roman road proceeds direct up an acclivity which would not be encountered at the present day. Over the top of one of the mountains of Westmoreland, and almost two thousand feet above the level of the sea, a Roman road runs which was named by the Saxons High Street, from its position.
Chapter 4, Agricola
Chapter 4, Roman Roads and Towns
Chapter 4, Roman Memorial of Death
Categories: Book 1