The Roman Road

The Roman Road runs straight and bareCanterburyPilgrimage2008_034.JPG
As the pale parting-line in hair
Across the heath. And thoughtful men
Contrast its days of Now and Then,
And delve, and measure, and compare;

Visioning on the vacant air
Helmeted legionnaires, who proudly rear
The Eagle, as they pace again
The Roman Road.

But no tall brass-helmeted legionnaire
Haunts it for me. Uprises there
A mother's form upon my ken,
Guiding my infant steps, as when
We walked that ancient thoroughfare,
The Roman Road.

-- Thomas Hardy

Watling Street

Chaucer's pilgrims walked to Canterbury along the Watling Street, seen in red here. By the time of Chaucer, the route had already enjoyed a long history of human use. Watling Street was a Roman repaving of an ancient trackway, or a broad thoroughfare created through centuries of human use. It is thought that the high chalk downs along much of the trackway formed a natural barrier used by hunters, both animal and human. The road was later paved by the Romans and is mentioned in the Antonine Itinerary, an official register of all the distances along Roman roads throughout the empire.

Watling Street

Roman Roads

As the Roman empire expanded, so too did its network of roads. Built by the Roman legions, they allowed the transport of the Romans and their supplies across conquered territories. Bridges and causeways of wood or stone were also part of the vast infrastructure the Romans built. The roads were vital in providing access and communication throughout Rome's extensive provinces. Over 250,000 miles of roadway, including more than 50,000 miles of paved road, made up Rome's network of roads. All these miles of roads together form a distance that is longer than the average distance from Earth to the moon !