EconomyFrom Rome to Crimea. How do former builders...

From Rome to Crimea. How do former builders affect the economy today?


MOSCOW, November 26 – RIA Novosti, Nikolai Guryanov. Scientists discovered that the most economically developed regions in Europe were the places where Roman roads passed two thousand years ago. It turns out that the ancient communication is so important, why is this not the case in the east of the former empire, and whether there is something similar on the territory of Russia – in the material of RIA Novosti.

Wealth comes from the Neolithic

In recent years, researchers have increasingly to be careful to the fact that the modern economic success of individual regions or communities depends on causes that date back to antiquity, sometimes to prehistoric times. We are talking about so-called biogeographic factors: this is access to natural resources, cultural development and pedigree.

For example, according to one hypothesis, a number of features of Eurasia, including its width from west to east, contributed to the rapid progress in agriculture during the Neolithic revolution. This led to a population explosion that accelerated technological innovation. The advantage thus gained turned into planetary domination by Europeans thousands of years later.

A team led by economist Karl-Johan Dahlgor of the University of Copenhagen focused on a more specific source of long-term wealth: infrastructure. scientists analyzedHow the road network of ancient Roman times relates to modern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa – that is, the entire former territory of the ancient empire.

dual-purpose objects

People have been building roads for thousands of years. The first stone-paved streets in the Sumerian city-state of Ur date back to 4000 BC. A 50 kilometer road is known in Crete from the Minoan period (more than 3500 years old). It had a hard surface, gutters for drainage, and special areas for pedestrians and buggy animals. The Persians built a 2,500-kilometer highway connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf.

However, no ancient civilization created anything like the ancient Roman road network. The Appian Way, paved from the Eternal City, which remains in excellent condition and is used for its intended purpose, was built in 312-308 BC by the censor Appius Claudius Caecus for military missions – control of the rebellious city of Capua. .

Major roads of the Roman Empire, circa 125 AD.  to.  -RIA Novosti, 1920, 25/11/2022
Major roads of the Roman Empire, circa 125 AD

A few centuries later, highways laid on his model scrambled the entire empire, from England to modern Morocco and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea. The main purpose of such roads is the rapid movement of troops. The economic benefit has become a pleasant “side effect”.

According to scientists, Roman legionnaires walked 25 kilometers with them, and in case of urgent need – up to 40 kilometers per day. Messengers – 75 kilometers each.

According to historians, the empire spent a third of its income on the construction and improvement of roads. The total length of the network reached 80 thousand kilometers.

pride of empire

The analogue of federal highways was the via publicae, “public roads” connecting major cities. Their widths ranged from six to 12 meters. Less important branches were narrower and less well built.

Ancient Roman engineers tried to make the roads as straight as possible. For this, bridges were erected along the route, tunnels were laid and rough terrain was cut.

Legendary durability is achieved through layering and durability. The thickness of the coating is 80-130 centimeters, in some places – 240.

The construction was carried out according to a single model, using local materials. The statue was laid on flat ground – about half a meter of crushed stone.

Then rudus – crushed stone with the addition of limestone and silicon ash or pumice (puzolana) of volcanic origin. When water got in, a chemical reaction took place and the layer was cemented, preventing moisture from getting inside.

Trajan's Column in Rome - RIA Novosti, 1920, 25.11.2022
Trajan’s Column in Rome

The core is a mixture of core, sand and stone. Thickness – about 15 cm. This layer assumed the main load.

An agger (or pavimentum), that is, a pavement – stone slabs in the form of free-form polygons were added at the entrance and inside the city. They trimmed so that the gaps were minimal.

Roman roads are cradled. Rain water was flowing on the edges where massive stones (umbones) were placed to prevent the destruction of the structure.

Advanced road infrastructure included mileposts, guesthouses, horse changing points. Ancient Roman maps have survived to this day – their copies.

“The roads were the pride of the Romans, the stronghold of their military power, and the pinnacle of civilization. <...> They were a sign that you are on the territory of the Roman state, they separated “civilization” from “barbarism”, no worse than border lines, – author historian Svetlana Domashova.

camels or wheels

Dalgor’s team imposed road network map The Roman Empire for 117 on modern satellite images showing the intensity of night illumination – this indicator is associated with the economic development of the region.

The map was then split into a grid of cells one degree longitude and one degree latitude. In each of them, they evaluated the development of infrastructure, economic activity and showed population density. Conclusion: For Western Europe, all these indicators are higher where viae publicae worked in ancient times.

The situation is different in the Middle East and North Africa. Economic activity is not dependent on the old imperial road network. According to the researchers, the truth is that the 6th-8th. For centuries, residents have abandoned wheeled transportation. The camel caravan was more economical. Roman roads were abandoned. And in the age of the automobile, highways were built elsewhere.

In Europe, the viae publicae continued to operate after the fall of the Roman Empire. (By the way, according to one version, the roads helped the barbarians quickly conquer the Eternal City.) Many highways are laid above the old Roman highways, for example, in France.

chicken or egg

The study’s authors acknowledge that there is an unresolved “chicken and egg” problem — it’s unclear whether the Romans built roads in areas with high economic activity or, conversely, whether communications led to economic growth.

Danish scientists point out that ancient engineers tried to make the path between points A and B as straight as possible, ignoring individual settlements. In addition, roads were built in the occupied territories, the peculiarities of which were often not taken into account. But not everyone agrees with these arguments.

“There were roads before the Romans. Important economic centers were connected long ago through the first capital, Appia. At least in Italy and Spain, all these cities already existed. Most of them are in Gaul,” says Alexander Butyagin. The Hermitage ancient archeology sector of the Northern Black Sea region.

Roman roads in Crimea

It is not known for certain whether there were Roman roads in Russia. But there are candidates. In the Crimea, Roman legionnaires established the fortress of Kharaks and kept a garrison in Tauric Chersonese.

The Kalendsky road connecting these two points is often called the Roman military road. It is now a popular tourist destination. But the involvement of legionnaires in this has not been proven.

According to Butyagin, Charax did not need the road, as he communicated with Chersonesus mainly by sea. Also in the Crimea there were Greek roads – perhaps imperial legionnaires used them.

Source: Ria

I am Emma Sickels, a highly experienced journalist specializing in news and economy. As an author at News Unrolled, I cover the latest trends in the economic sector and provide readers with valuable insights into its complexities. My work has been featured in various media outlets such as The New York Times, USA Today, Bloomberg Businessweek and many more.


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