An extraordinary road of communication that goes across Spain

The Romans were the first in creating a system of communication that not only made easier the journeys but it made possible an administrative, political and military control of the territories conquered and its power consolidation. This was so much that they built 140000 kilometres of roads between Europe, Asia and Africa. The centre of this system was the city of Rome from which a road network was assembled going through all its provinces. This territorial reform of the provinces of Hispania started at the end of the first century BCE with Emperor Augustus and the design of a wide road network.
+ Info
Archaeological documentation
One of the main roads of this time was the Via Augusta. During the last journey of Augustus to the Peninsula in the years 16-13 BCE, it was possibly designed an ambitious project of reorganization of the Hispanic provinces. The building of this artery, with an extension of about 1500 kilometres, going through all the peninsular territory from the Pyrenees to Cádiz bordering the Mediterranean, had a prominent place in this project.  Regarding its building, the millstones (columns of sandstone or limestone) placed systematically in all its itinerary between the years 8 and 2 BCE, allow us to set up the hypothesis of its building in two stages.
The first one would be from the Summus Pyrenaeus to Castulo (Jaén) and the other from this city to Gades (Cádiz).

Roman roads structures

The Roman roads were designed taking into account the old existing Iberian roads in the Peninsula. In fact, its usage was essential to the development of cities such as Valentia (València), Saguntum (Sagunt), Lucentum (Alicante) and Saetabis (Xàtiva). Once the Romans chose the route a road should go, the surveyors, responsible for this task, measured and marked its outline to later dig the land and release the interested zone. The structural system of a Roman road was very complex. Thanks to the archaeological studies, we know they marked two parallel grooves and then dug the space in the middle until reaching the rock or solid ground. After that, the hollow was filled with some or all of the following layers: statumen, made up of large stones; rudus, medium size stones; nucleus, of sand; and pavimentum, large flat flagstones that made up the pavement.

The Via Augusta goes through 280 kilometres of the provinces of Castellón, Valencia and Alicante, although lots of stretches are not in a good state of preservation due to the abandonment and the building of other infrastructures

We know three kinds of roads: ones made of dirt, others of grovel and another ones paved.  The technicians, before its approach, took different factors into account, such as the natural condition of the land and the slope. They also took advantage of the stretches with long straight alignments. The average width of the road was between four and six metres, although there are some exceptions that were ten or fourteen metres wide. The sidewalks, only built near the cities, were between three and ten metres wide on each side. There are still some preserved stretches that have maintained the denomination of Roman road until the Modern Age, until the building of the roads in the nineteenth century.
In order to indicate the road distances, the Roman placed millstones at the edge indicating the distance among them, 1481 metres, equal to a milia passum (one thousand steps).  The name of the builder or restorer of the road, its denomination and the distance between the starting and finishing point (caput or terminus viae) is carved on the millstones surface.

Emperor Augustus designed the artery that goes through almost 1500 kilometres around the Iberian Peninsula


Via Augusta in the Valencian Community

The Via Augusta goes through 280 kilometres of the provinces of Castellón, Valencia and Alicante, from the Senia River, on the border of Tarragona, to the Font de la Figuera. At this point, the road went on 170 kilometres through the province of Alicante following the valley of the River Vinalopó through the mansiones1 of Elx (Ilici) to arrive to Cartagena (Carthago Nova). In the last years, the then Ministry of Infrastructures, developed a master plan which tried to recover the road and its route with identification works of the Roman outline due to the transformations it has undergone and the continuing abandonment. This is the reason why nowadays we have three levels of preservation: there are some stretches in a state of abandonment, other whose usage can be possible with the restoration and finally, there are some that have been used as a motorway, highway and dual carriageway. There’s no doubt that this project could give some value to the historical importance of the Via Augusta and have continuity in the future. .

The average width of the road was between 4 and 6 metres and that of the sidewalks, only built near the cities, between three and ten metres on each side


Millstones and itineraries

There are two written sources of information about the Roman roads in the Valencian territory: the millstones and the itineraries. There are 24 millstones in the Valencian territory, 19 of them between Traiguera and Castellón. Some of them have been found in situ and one in particular during the expansion works of the road of Vilanova d’Alcolea in 1992. It was located next to Barranc de la Carrasqueta, in the archaeological area of the Roman site of Hostalot (Vilanova d’Alcolea). It has been identified as the station of Ildum, named in all the itineraries of Via Ausgusta. It is located 100,7 miles (68km) from Saguntum and 111,6 miles (75,4km) from Dertosa. It is a sandstone column with a square base, in a good state of preservation with a text distributed in eight lines with different length. It has an inscription to an Emperor mentioning his titles and magistracies, the place name of the Via Augusta and the corresponding number of the milia passum. This millstone is associated to the Emperor Caracalla (year 214) who has also two millstones found in Barcelona and five more in Andalucía in the same via. The periods of Via Augusta are also defined in the so called itineraries, real road guides from the time that are based on the public transport service or cursus publicus.  César designed it but the Emperor Augustus put it into practice in order to have a quick and effective information service and a means of transport of people and goods travelling on behalf of the State Administration. For this reason they decided to put in the most important roads a staging post network for horse changing (mutationes) and to the rest and support of the State Administration civil workers passing by (mansiones). These posts were at a regular distance according to their functions: shorter in the case of the messengers’ horse changing (12-14km) and longer (30-36km) for the mansiones where people could stay over.

In order to build this infrastructure, a difficult building procedure with different layers of materials was designed

The Classical sources where we can find the posts from the Valencian territory are Antonine Itinerary, the Unknown Ravenna and Vicarello Vessels. The latter are of a private nature dated between the third and fourth century.  They are small silver votive vessels, in millstone shape, that some travellers of the time left in the Thermal baths of Aquae Apollinares in Italy. On the surface are incised the names of the different stages between Gades (Cádiz) and Rome with the total distance between the two cities. Antonine Itinerary, dated towards the end of the third century CE, is a compendium of routes made for senior officials and soldiers that show the posts and distances of the Roman roads, among them the Via Augusta and its outline through the Valencian territory. The information given in the itineraries is not always the same. For this reason there are different interpretations made by the different authors who have studied them.

Serious doubts about the outline

In spite of the numerous researches about this issue, there isn’t much certainty when trying to define the outline of the Via Augusta through the Valencian territory.  It would require a more in-depth study of the topography of the territories it goes through, the location of the ancient archaeological sites near the road, historical documents associated to the roads, toponymy, cartography and aerial photographs of the different zones. One of the problems is the difficulty of dating the roads due to their reuse throughout the years and to the continuing usage until nowadays what has altered the most ancient structures.

1 Mansio: official stop in a Roman road maintained by the central government to use and enjoyment of officers and businessmen during their journeys.2 Incised: if an object is incised with a design, the design is carefully cut into the surface of the surface of the object with a sharp instrument.

Una creación de AD&D 4D Creative Commons
I agree
In this website we use our own and third party cookies to provide you with our best service. If you continue browsing, we will consider that you accept its use. More information here.