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Roman roads in Andalucia

The Andalucian section of Roman Roads of Iberia © Sasha Trubestsky
The Andalucian section of Roman Roads of Iberia © Sasha Trubestsky

Roman roads in Andalucia

The Romans are well known for the quality of their road network, which facilitated communication, maintenance and development across the Empire. Their roads were largely and famously, where possible, straight.

In total they had 400,000 km of roads, of which over 80,000 km were paved. The main function was so that armies could access all the furthest corners of the 113 provinces ruled by Rome, in order to keep the locals under control, and to ensure efficient movement of trading goods such as agricultural and mineral products.

The roads mostly did not have names, but instead each section was a separate numbered itinerary, or list of stops - an iter.

Hispania (Spain), invaded in 206 BC, was no exception during its 650-year occupation. There were around 10,000 km of Roman roads in Hispania. 

Via Herculea/Exterior/Augusta

Via Herculea or Via Exterior was an important Roman road into Hispania, reaching as far as Gades (Cadiz).

This road, which was around 1,500 km long and started in Narbonne, Gaul (France), was renamed Via Augusta after being renovated in 8 - 2 BC under the emperor's orders. See below for more detail.

Many Roman roads in Andalucia are today (incorrectly) called Via Augusta. The confusion arises since other roads that Augustus renovated may also have been referred to locally as Via Augusta.



Antonine Itinerary

The Romans only named principal routes; they built a widespread network, following itineraries from point to point. In other words, to go from Suel (Fuengirola) to Corduba, you would first travel 20 miles to Malaca, then take the road for Anticaria, then Ulia, and finally Corduba. 

One of the most important route records from Roman times is the Itinerarium Provinciarum Antoni(ni) Augusti, or provincial itinerary of the Emperor Antoninus.

According to the Roman Roads Research Association, the Antonine Itinerary is "a collection of 225 lists of stopping places along various Roman roads across the Roman Empire". It is highly valuable as "one of a very few documents to have survived to modern times which provide detail of names and clues to the location of Roman sites and the routes of roads". 

Vicarello Cups

Another important record is the Vicarello Cups, four silver goblets discovered in Tuscany, north-west Italy, in 1852. They trace an itinerary from Gades to Rome, inscribed by a pilgrim on his drinking cup. Dated to the 1st century AD, the cups are cylindrical in form and are similar in shape to Roman milestones. They are inscribed on the outside with the itinerary from the far south-western corner of Hispania to Rome, including all the 104 stopping points along the way, and the distances between them, for a total of 1,840 Roman miles (2,723.2 km).

It is worth bearing in mind that, in Roman times, each section of the road would have taken a pilgrim travelling on foot several days to complete, and the entire journey to Rome, a period of months.

Roman Roads of Iberia/Viae Iberiae map

Thanks to Sasha Trubestsky, American data scientist and self-confessed "geography and data nerd", for allowing us to use his map Roman Roads of Iberia, designed in the style of a subway map.

On his map (Latin name: Viae Iberiae), Sasha has made each Antonini iter into its own coloured "line", with stops in both Latin and modern-day version. Each of these lines has its own Roman numeral number, marked in the same colour as the line, eg Hispalis to Corduba, yellow, viii. 

Via Augusta in detail

The principal 'Via Augusta' ran from Narbonne in France, where it joined the  Via Domitia, down the Mediterranean coast along the route of the current N-340 / A-7 until it reached Valencia. It then turned inland towards Linares and followed the Guadalquivir river to Cordoba and Sevilla, before continuing to Cadiz. Other sections of the current N-340 / A-7 south of Valencia are often incorrectly referred to as Via Augusta.

In more detail, the Via Augusta enters Andalucia in the province of Jaen at Ad Duo Salaria (Montizon) passing Ilugo (Santisteban del Puerto) and Ad Morum (Navas de San Juan) before reaching Castulo (Linares). From there it follows the Guadalquivir valley north of the river passing Ad Novias (Villanueva de la Reina), Isturgi (Los Villares, Andújar),  Sucia (Marmalejo), Epora (Montoro), Ad Decumum (Atcolea) and Corduba (Córdoba).  An alternative route to Corduba, south of the river Guadalquivir acording to Antonine iii passed Iliturgi (Mengíbar), Urgao (Arona), Obulco (Porcuna) and Calpurniana (Bujalance).

West of Corduba, Via Agusta continued to Adaras (La Carlota), Colonia Augusta Firma Astigi (Écija), Obucla (La Monclova, Fuentes de Andalucía), Carmo (Carmona), Hispalis (Sevilla), Ugia (Torre Alocaz, Utrera), Asta Regia (near Jerez de la Frontera), Portus Gaditanus (El Portal near El Puerto de Santa María). A continuation passed Pontem (San Fernando) to Gades (Cádiz).

Other itineraries in Andalucia

Antonine Itinerary ii follows the itinerary of Via Augusta as far south as Valencia and continues along the coast to Carthago (Cartagena), then takes an inland route joining Eliocroca (Lorca), entering the present day Almeria province of Andalucia along the present-day  A-92N or N342, passing Ad Morum (probably Chirivel), Basti (Baza), Acci (Guadix). Here it turns north; not following any modern route, passing Agatucci (unknown), Viniolae (Arbuniel), Mentesa Bastia (La Guardia de Jaen) tbefore reaching Castulo (Linares).

Antonine Itinerary iii offers an alternative route from Castulo (Linares) to Corduba, south of the river Guadalquivir, stopping at Iliturgi (Mengíbar), Urgao (Arona), Obulco (Porcuna) and Calpurniana (Bujalance).

Antonine Itinerary v runs from Castulo (Linares) to Malaca (Malaga) via Acci (Guadix) down to Almeria, and then west along the coast following the route of the current N-340 / A-7 to Malaga.

Antonine Itinerary vi v runs from Malaca (Malaga) to Gades (Cadiz) along the coast on the route of today's N-340 / A-7. This road was called the Via Aurelia.

See and Do

Living in Andalucia