THE ROMAN ROADS

IN HISPANIA AND ARAGON

 

versión española

 

In Hispania, a province soon romanized and pacified, the construction of the road network obeyed not to merely military reasons; obviously, one reason was to speed up this process of romanization; another reason was to activate and to speed up the communications, favouring the interchanges of merchandises not only in the Iberian peninsula, but with the rest of the empire too, especially with the western provinces and Rome; finally, the road network was a way to control taxes and to speed up the tax collection in the municipia and its assignment to the estate and to the emperor.

 

 

 

However, to build the roads in a territory relatively extended like Hispania and with a peculiar orography and hydrography was not easy, because the technical difficulties were big.  The construction of the Roman roads in Hispania started, no doubt, in the republican age, but it was not finished until the age of Augustus, until the age of the Hispanic emperors –Trajan and Hadrian- and finally until the age of Caracalla in the III century a. C., when the system was reactivated and finished.

 

 

 

Logically the Roman road network in Hispania was organized round the big cities; the different roads had these cities as starting point or crossing points.  There were two clear axes from north to south: the via Augusta in the east, from Tarraco (now Tarragona) to Carthago Nova (the current Cartagena) and the Silver road in the west, from Emerita Augusta (nowadays Mérida) to Asturica Augusta (now Astorga); at the same time there were two perpendicular axes from east to west, one of them in the north from Asturica Augusta (Astorga) to Caesar Augusta (nowadays Zaragoza), and the other in the south from Carthago Nova (Cartagena) to Hispalis (the current Sevilla); secondary roads derived from these axes to the interior or to the coast; besides them there was the continuation of the via Domitia that connected Rome and Italy with Hispania through the Gaul, crossing the Iberian peninsula from east to west (from Tarraco across Caesar Augusta up to Legio VI Gemina –the current León- and up to Asturica Augusta –Astorga-).  Obviously, the big nucleus of population, especially if they were head of a conventus iuridicus –juridical division that Octavius Augustus applied to some provinces of his empire, among them Hispania-, became also as centre of the secondary and tertiary networks; so it was a radial distribution of these latter roads.

 

Map of the main Roman roads in Hispania,  according to  BRAVO, Gonzalo: Hispania. La epopeya de los romanos en la península, Madrid, 2007

 

 

 

Furthermore, we have to consider that some inner cities had fluvial ports, so that they worked as centres to supply and to distribute the merchandises.  It is the case of cities like Hispalis (Sevilla), Córduba (now Córdoba); Caesar Augusta (Zaragoza) or Santarém (in Portugal).  Evidently these fluvial ways, as extensions of the maritime routes, supposed a quite free and quicker communication and traffic than the terrestrial communications.

 

 

 

The secondary roads were made later; among them we can mention in the Norwest the road that connected Lucus Augusti (now Lugo) with Brigantium (the current La Coruña) or with Bracara Augusta (nowadays Braga, in Portugal) up to Olisipo (now Lisboa); in the south those that connected Emerita Augusta (Mérida) with Hispalis (Sevilla), up to Gades (nowadays Cádiz); or in the mainland those that connected both plateaus from Caesar Augusta (Zaragoza) up to Emerita Augusta (Mérida) through Segontia (now Sigüenza), Complutum (the current Alcalá de Henares) and Toletum (nowadays Toledo).

 

 

 

The ancient territory of the modern Aragon belonged to the conventus iuridicus of Caesar Augusta, a city with fluvial port; so, the city occupied a privileged placed on the trade routes not only terrestrial, but fluvial –and maritime- too; that is the reason why the Roman road network in Aragón was articulated yet in a radial shape round a central point, Caesar Augusta.

 

Map of the Roman roads in the conventus iuridicus Caesaraugustanus, according to  MAGALLÓN BOTAYA, M.ª Ángeles: “Cronología de la red viaria del Convento Caesaraugustano, según los miliarios”, en AA. VV.: Estudios en homenaje al Dr. Antonio Beltrán Martínez, Zaragoza, 1986, pp. 621-631

 

 

 

In the modern Aragon there are remains of the Roman roads: some sections and a large number of miliaria.

 

Roman road from Caesar Augusta (Zaragoza) to Pompaelo (Pamplona)

 

 

 

Section of a Roman road between Caesar Augusta and Pompaelo in the township of Castejón de Valdejasa (Zaragoza); in the photo you can see the wheeltraks that the chariots made on the road, becoming finally authentic furrows. 

(Photo: Roberto Lérida Lafarga 10/11/2008)

 

Museo Provincial de Zaragoza.

(Photo: Roberto Lérida Lafarga 03/01/2008)

Miliarium of Sora, found in the mountains of Sora, near Castejón de Valdejasa (Zaragoza), in the Roman road that communicated Caesar Augusta (nowadays Zaragoza) and Pompaelo (the current Pamplona) in the mile XXVI or XXVII (38 kms. far away from Zaragoza); this road was designed by the emperor Augustus with his legions VI Victrix and X Gemina to to fasten a quick para asegurar una rápida communication with the Ebro valley and Cantabria. The miliarium is dated in the year 32 a. C.; this fact means that the emperor Tiberius took part in the construction of the road.  The text says:  TIBERIUS CAESAR DIV(I) AUG(USTI) F(ILIUS), DIV(I) IULI N(EPOS), AUGUSTUS, PONTIFEX MAXIMUS, CO(N)S(UL) V, IMPERATOR VIII, TRIBUNICIA POTESTAS XXXIV, MILIA XXVI- (Translation: "Tiberius Caesar Augustus,  divine Augustus' son, divine Iulius' grandson, Highest Pontífex, Consul five times, Emperor eight times, having obtained the Power of Tribunus thirty four times,  mile XXVI(I)").

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:

- BRAVO, Gonzalo: Hispania. La epopeya de los romanos en la península, Madrid, 2007

- MAGALLÓN BOTAYA, M.ª Ángeles: “Cronología de la red viaria del Convento Caesaraugustano, según los miliarios”, en AA. VV.: Estudios en homenaje al Dr. Antonio Beltrán Martínez, Zaragoza, 1986, pp. 621-631