How Roman Roads Were Made

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 09, 2023

At the height of the Roman empire, over 250,000 miles of roadway criss-crossed present-day Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. These roads were built using a variety of techniques, but many of them were built as shown in these two short videos:

First, a wide area would be deforested in order to clear all vegetation. Then, in the strip where the track had been projected, the topsoil would be removed until a solid base was found. Then on this base, the curbs were placed appropriate to the chosen width for the road. Large stones were placed between the curbs to serve as foundations, and on top of them, smaller stone layers all mixed up with fine aggregates to fill the gaps. Finally, the surface layer: a mixture of gravel, sand, and clay was added.

Tipper carts moved along the already compacted layers to deposit the material for the next layer. After tipping out heaps of material, it had to be spread out with planks, watered from barrels, and, finally, compacted with rollers.

If you're like me and want to know just a little bit more about Roman roads in general after watching those, you can check this one out:

And if you want to know a lot more (and can read Spanish), check out this 245-page PDF.

See also How Did Roman Aqueducts Work? and A Subway-Style Map of Roman Roads Circa 125 A.D. (via open culture)