In connection with our current book chats, I have been browsing through Travel in the Ancient World by Lionel Casson.
Casson devotes an entire chapter to Roman road building (Part Two, 10, "Roman Roads"). He takes handbooks to task that perpetuate conclusions made by a French scholar in the 17th century, namely that all road building was done in the same fashion: a bed laid in more or less the same height and in three different courses, one of which was sealed with cement. However, archaeological findings show that,
- Romans never used cement (one reads almost everywhere to this day about the cement claim);
- Romans never stuck to one type of road bed, but made decisions based on soil and terrain; and
- surfacing varied with soil and terrain, as well as by how much traffic a road had.
In other words, the Romans were clever road builders. Casson digs deep into the subject and the entire chapter is a fascinating read. It is followed by "On the Road," a description of land travel. He also mentions that the Ancient Chinese were no mean builders of roads.