As the saying goes, ‘All roads lead to Rome’. This phrase came about due to a man called Ptolemy. He wrote an itinerary, a verbal map, which gave the distances between staging posts and towns throughout the Roman Empire in the 2nd Century AD. Whether by accident or design he called all the roads leading out of one area by the same name.
His itineraries always start at Rome. The road that led out of Rome and was followed to Spain was called the Via Aurelia. It became the Via Iulia at Genoa and then the Via Domitia and finally the Via Augusta at Tarragona. By the time the road gets to Baetica, an area roughly equating to Andalucia, there had been a number of road junctions as a result of which there are a few Via Augustas. So the whole network of roads was known by the same name and it was true they all led, eventually, to Rome. There is one notable exception in Andalucia, the Via de la Plata from Seville north to Santiago de Compostella. It was built by the Romans to bring silver from the mines at Burgos to Seville. It later became a pilgrimage route.
The Via Augusta was sometimes also called the Via Herculea.
The first roads built in Andalucia by the Romans were to allow an army to occupy the area to subdue the Carthaginians. For ease they tended to follow existing unpaved tracks. It is known that the first armies arrived down the coastal road that is now called the A7 or N340 and it is likely this was the first road to be paved in its entirety from Almeria to the major trading centre of Cadiz. At Malaga the road north led into the interior, eventually to Cordoba and then down the valley of the Baetis (Guadalquivir) to Seville and then south to Cadiz. It was along this road that the first Roman armies marched to do battle with the Carthaginians. The older Roman roads tend to follow the boundaries of tribal lands, contours, and coasts and alongside easy river courses imitating the tracks they overlaid.
It was only later in the occupation that the rest of the network of paved roads was built and these were primarily for commercial purposes. So there is a Roman road from Seville to Huelva, another from Carteia to Jimena de la Frontera, Gaucin and Acinipo. It is these roads that tend to have the familiar straight stretches wherever possible.
In addition there were numerous secondary roads, some paved, some not, many of which are in use today like the track up to the Roman Baths at Manilva and continuing to Casares. These were not mentioned in the itinerary.
The most visible reminder of the Roman roads are the bridges. Whilst the roads tend to have been resurfaced many times the bridges often retain the original architecture albeit with a tarmac surface. Probably the best example in Spain is the bridge at Merida spanning the Rio Guadiana and marking the highest point of navigation on that river during Roman times. It has been repaired a number of times but the surface is still paved as it would have been originally.
The second best in my opinion is that at Cordoba with its massive abutments spanning the Guadalquivir again many times repaired but now a pedestrian only bridge with a modern paved surface. Both lead to imposing gates into their respective cities.
The roads were marked at intervals of one mile by a milestone and at periodic intervals by small settlements like Oba (Jimena de la Frontera), some fortified or protected by a tower such as the one at Carteia. The settlements tended to be about a days march apart.
1. Gadir (Cadiz)
2. Baelo Claudia (Bolonia)
3. Mellaria (Tarifa)
4. Carteia (San Roque)
5. Calpe (Gibraltar)
6. Hispalis (Seville)
7. Onoba (Huelva)
8. Oba (Jimena de la Frontera)
10. Malaca (Malaga)
11. Iliberris (Granada)
12. Corduba (Cordoba)
13. Aurgi (Jaen)
14. Ilipla (Niebla)
15. Castulo (Linares)
Nick has lived and worked in Andalucia for over 20 years. He and his partner, Julie Evans, have travelled extensively and dug deep into the history and culture, producing authoritative articles on all aspects of the region. Nick has written four books about Andalucia and writes articles for other websites and blogs.
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