Roman pavement – Monuments of Ancient Engineering
Introduced 300 years BC, the Roman roads were called "pavimentum", meaning a floor bitten or rammed down, based on execution. Usually roads were made from granite, limestone, sandstone, basalt or travertine, depending on traffic, utility, length, location. The predecessor of concrete paving, the compacted gravel of McAdam, the beautiful exterior brick floors or the controversial permeable paving, the Roman road from natural stone extended the limits of durability up to thousands years, with relics still lingering, as a glory of the Fallen Empire.
Obviously, the expansion of Roman Empire could not occur without a developed infrastructure. Via Appia, the first strategical Road, imagined for moving Legions in the Samnite Wars, appeared as a necessity. Rome's expansionist policy in the following centuries has pushed the science of road construction, bridges, aqueducts, markets, viaducts, on amazing levels, set against the technology of that period. The skills of Roman engineers, combined with those of conquered people, have constantly improved the technology for both an increase in quality and faster execution so that Rome built and expanded its road network in such a way that the famous dictum "All roads lead to Rome" seemed natural.
The technology for building roads similar to Via Appia involved an initial bittening of a large soil surface. Later was added a layer of small stones was added, binded by a mortar made of clay and mud. After drying, another layer of gravel was applied, then larger size flat stones laid above and mortar poured over. The simplicity of this technology is remarkable, especially its viability, so that we have today fully functional segments from this road, more than 2000 years since its opening. The road was provided with a slope, for allowing water dispersion and drainage and retaining walls on the side. Mainly volcanic rocks were used. Laterm cement was invented and Romans were considered the first to mix the volcanic ash of Vesuvius with Marlas (clay rocks and calcium carbonate), for obtaining the first cement. In time, this was widely used because of its superior properties for durable binding even in wet spaces. The mixture between cement, gravel and sand delivers a world premiere: the first concrete. Roman builders and architects were still not pleased, having Roman roads constantly improved for complying with the necessities, besides drainage systems and channels on the side for easier movement during repair periods.
Roman Senate established a couple of criteria for classifying roads:
- main public roads – financed with public money and intended for travelling on large distances (connecting cities, rivers or rivers and sea shores). Intended for moving legions but also open to private traffic.
- secondary, private or rural roads – financially supported by private persons and connecting different locations and main roads
- communal roads – connecting Roman villages, as neighboring roads with double source of funding.
Based on technology of execution, Roman roads are divided into:
- Roads of leveled earth (Via Terrena)
- Earthed roads with a graveled surface (Via Glareata)
- Road paved with cobblestone (Via Munita)
According to Vitruvius (a famous architect) theories, the features of cobblestone roads, made of several layers of materials, were durability and versatility in time. Unfortunately, the technology of Roman roads was lost near Renaissance period, when it had to be reinvented by the Dutch.
PIATRAONLINE recommends cobblestone for low and medium traffic pavements and polygonal stone for pedestrian traffic. Visit our website for #generatinginspiration.
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