Of course, the roads were used for trade, as were the waterways surrounding and connecting parts of the Roman Empire to itself and the rest of the known world. The Romans had exceptional nautical technology for their time; however their network of roads, even with the perils of land travel, was unparalleled in convenience and was often the only choice for travel or shipping goods. The Romans were the first ancient civilization to build paved roads, which did not prevent travel during or after inclement weather. Indeed, mud or gravel would hinder, if not completely halt many vehicles pulled by animals or other people, not to mention discourage travelers on foot. Roman engineers, however, did not stop with just paving Roman roads. Roads were crowned—that is, they were higher in the middle than on the sides to allow water to run off—and they often had gutters for drainage along the shoulders. Probably the mostincredible engineering feat concerning the Roman road system, though, is how well the roads were built. Many are still major thoroughfares for cars today. Indeed, their road-building methods were unsurpassed until the invention of the macadam in the 19th century. These technological advantages made travel and the shipment of goods across land much easier. Romans shipped lots of goods within the vast expanses of their empire as well as to the rest of the world. Goods were constantly being shipped throughout the empire, depending on the location within the Empire, as well as supply and demand. Present-day Great Britain, for example, was a valuable possession to the Romans because of its silver deposits, which were used for jewelry and money. Great Britain also supplied a lot of wool to the rest of the empire. From the southeastern corner of the empire, the Romans imported many dyes for clothing and make-up from the Near East. Over-water transportation usually played a role in imports from the Near East or Africa, from whence they imported Egyptian cotton, or exotic animals for the gladiators to fight. Of course, Rome was connected to the Far East via the Silk Road, the source of silk and other goods imported from Asia. No matter what or from where, if the Romans wanted something exotic, it was probably shipped into Rome.
ROMAN TRADEAs well as they designed their road network, travel on land was often difficult and dangerous for the Romans. Progress was slow compared to today’s standards and a person traveling on foot would be lucky to travel 35 miles a day. The more affluent Romans had more choices as to how they could travel. People who could afford to traveled in litters carried by six to eight men or several mules. Small groups of travelers, such as families, rode in raedae (carriages). People in a hurry, such as messengers from the emperor, rode in cisii, a light carriage like a chariot. However, travel for anybody by any mode of transportation was not safe, particularly at night. Roadside inns were strategically located in the countryside at about a days’ journey apart. The inns themselves were not safe. Fights broke out. Murders occurred. Whenever possible, a traveler stayed with a friend of the family or even a friend of a friends’ family.
CONCLUSIONThe ancient Romans accomplished many feats. They had incredible technological advantages and made advancements that dwarfed those of other civilizations of their time or hundreds of years beyond. It is their advancements we often take for granted that make them one of the most prevalent and influential peoples on our society today—2000 years after their fall—in more ways than just language.