In a centralized administrative system, such as the Romans had, a comprehensive network of paved highways, was a political and military expediency. It ensured the fast and safe movement of troops, imperial decrees, personal mail, and provided reliable commercial ties between the cities and provinces. So extensive was the Roman road system, and so well built, that they continued to be used as local thoroughfares for centuries after, as in this stretch of well-polished blocks on the Greek island of Samos, or as at Sardis, Turkey, where the colonnaded Marble Avenue was unearthed under the Byzantine and Ottoman highways (A39, A38).

In typical Roman road construction, a mosaic of heavy paving blocks closely trimmed and fitted is laid over a bedding of gravel and sand. Often, sturdy curb stones limit the sides. (A71) Two of the main southern highways entered Rome through Porta Maggiore. The well-worn surface of the blocks inside the gateway preserve the ruts made by heavy wheeled traffic (A37). Another well-preserved stretch of an urban thoroughfare in Rome is Via Piperatica, the commercial street that winds its way behind the hemicycle of the Markets of Trajan (A36).






Besides linking peninsular Italy to the capital, rural highways connected provincial towns to regional centers. In distant Lycia, a remote mountainous region in southwest Turkey, the road serving the city of Oenoande still provides the best approach to the ruins (A35). Ephesus, one of the largest cities in Roman Asia Minor, boasted wide, colonnaded avenues: the Arcadiane connected the theater at the hearth of the town to the busy harbor in a straight shot (A34, A33, A32); the Embolos (also called the Kuretes Street), also a colonnaded street which lay at the bottom of a valley between two prominent hills, snaked its course up the gentle slope (A31); it was the urban backbone of the city.






It linked important civic monuments and landmarks and gave access to a myriad of small, paved roads or stairs cutting into the hillside (A30). At Perge, in Pamphylia (southern Turkey), the wide, straight, colonnaded avenue separated in the middle by an artificial canal of running water was the most important feature of the city plan (A29; also see B14). It must have been the most memorable experience of Perge's citizens to stroll along this handsome urban waterway. In Djemila and Hippo Regius, small but important provincial Roman cities in North Africa, streets paved with large, finely fitted paving blocks connected important urban nodes, and gave tangible shape to the city (A26, A28, A27).







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