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Roman Period



Roman Roads in the Veneto Region (X Regio Venetia et Histria)

The Romans were already present in the Veneto around 250 B.C., but colonization began in 172 B.C. with the foundation, or refortification, of certain towns such as Padua, Bassano and Cittadella. The peaceful process of absorbing the Veneti was already underway then. In 140 B.C. the latter fought alongside the Romans against the Gauls and from that moment on they are no longer spoken about. The tenth region of Rome thus included Venetia from the Padus and Adriatic to the Alps, to which was annexed the neighboring peninsula of Istria, and to the West the territory of the Cenomani, a Gaulish tribe, extending from the Athesia to the Addua, which had previously been regarded as a part of Gallia Cisalpina.

After Rome, all Roads Led to Aquileia

Since Aquileia was the starting point for travel into the northeast regions toward the Alps, it grew into an important center for trade. Many Roman roads converged there and a substantial river port grew for transporting goods north and southward by way of the sea.

The Veneto region was linked to the Roman world by means of two major roads: the Via Postumia, built in 148 BC, which joined Genoa with Aquileia, and the Via Annia, built in 731 BC by the Praetor Titus Annius Rufus, which ran from Atria (Adria) and followed the curve of the Adriatic coast as far as Aquileia, an ancient town of Italy, at the head of the Adriatic at the edge of the lagoons, about 6 miles from the sea, on the river Natiso (Natisone), the course of which has changed somewhat since Roman times.

Aquileia was founded by the Romans in 181 B.C. as a colony not far from the site where, two years before, Gaulish invaders had attempted to settle along the Natissa River, on land south of the Julian Alps but about 8 miles north of the lagoons which later became Venice. The colony was led by two men of consular and one of praetorian rank, and 3000 pedites formed the bulk of the settlers.

Apparently named from a indigenous world Akylis, the colony of Aquileia served as a frontier fortress at the north-east corner of transpadane Italy and was intended to protect the Veneti, faithful Roman allies, during the Illyrian Wars (229 B.C. and 219 B.C.) and to act as a buttress to check the advance of other warlike people, such as the hostile tribes of Carni and Istri (Histri).

The colony was established with Latin rights by the triumvirate of Publius Scipio Nasica, Caius Flaminius, and Lucius Manlius Acidinus, two of whom were of consular and one of prætorian rank. They led 3000 pedites (infantry), mainly from Samnium, who with their families formed the bulk of the settlers and were soon supplemented by native Veneti. It is likely that Aquileia had been a center of Venetia even before the coming of the Romans. And Aquileia's strategic military position also served to promote the Venetic trade in amber imported from the Baltic.

In 175 or 173 B.C., Aquileia was probably connected by road with Bononia (Bologna), a town whose importance was assured by its position on the Via Æmilia, by which it was connected in 187 B.C. with Ariminum (Rimini) and Placentia (Piacenza), and on the road to Arretium (Arezzo) that was constructed in the same year, while another road was built, perhaps in 175 B.C., to Aquileia. it was subsequently connected with Genua (Genova) in 148 B.C. by the Via Postumia, which ran through Cremona, Bedriacum (Calvatone) and Altinum (Altino), 15 km. southeast of Tarvisium (Treviso) on the edge of the lagoons of Venice, joining the first-mentioned road at Concordia with the construction of the Via Annia (131 B.C.), which passed through Altinum (Altino) linking Atria (Adria) with Aquileia. The construction of the Via Popilia from Ariminum (Rimini) to Ad Portum near Altinum (Altino) in 132 B.C. improved the communications still further.

In 169 B.C., 1500 more Latin colonists with their families were settled there as a reinforcement to the garrison. The discovery of the gold fields near the modern Klagenfurt in 150 (or 130?) B.C. (Strabo iv. 208) brought it into notice, and it soon became a place of importance, not only owing to its strategic position, but as a centre of trade, especially in agricultural products. It also had, in later times at least, considerable brickfields.

The original Latin colony became a municipium probably in 89 or 90  B.C. Citizens were ascribed to the Roman tribe Velina. The customs boundary of Italy was close by in Cicero's day. It was plundered by the Iapydes under Augustus, but, in the period of peace which followed, was able to develop its resources. Augustus visited it during the Pannonian wars in 12‑10  B.C. and it was the birthplace of Tiberius' son by Julia, in the latter year.

After its beginnings as a frontier fortress, Aquileia evolved into a naval station and, probably, the seat of the corrector Venetiarum et Histriae, the tenth region of Rome. Aquileia was the starting-point of several important roads leading to the north-eastern portion of the empire - the Via Iulia Augusta by Iulium Carnicum to Veldidena (Wilten, near Innsbruck), from which branched off the road into Noricum, leading by Virunum (Klagenfurt) to Lauricum (Lorch) on the Danube, the road into Pannonia, leading to Æmona (Ljubljana) and Sirmium (Mitrowitz / Sremska Mitrovica), the road to Tarsatica (near Fiume) and Siscia (Sissek), and that to Tergeste (Trieste) and the Istrian coast.

A mint was established in Aquileia, the coins of which are very numerous, and the bishop obtained the rank of patriarch. It had an imperial palace in which the emperors after the time of Diocletian frequently resided; and the city often played a part in the struggles between the rulers of the 4th century A.D. At the end of the century, Ausonius enumerated it as the ninth among the great cities of the world, placing Rome, Mediolanum and Capua before it, and called it "moenibus et portu celeberrima." In 452 A.D., however, it was destroyed by Attila. In the ninth century, the city became part of Charlemagne's empire, and regained some influence and wealth in the eleventh century which culminated in the building of a cathedral that was consecrated in 1031. Aquileia eventually lost its authority to other up-and-coming dioceses before the city was destroyed in an earthquake in 1348.

Nowadays Aquileia is a small country village with one bar, a church and four butchers. The greater part of the village is occupied by an open air museum with excavations of the road. Hardly anything else remains, except that the main road from Trieste to Pula is still called the Via Flavia.

See the interactive map of Aquileia.

Via Gemina

The first Roman road in Istria, Via Gemina was the road linking Aquileia to Æmona (Ljubljana). It went from Aquileia to Tergeste (Trieste) and through the Karst (Carso) region into Carniola, passing near or through the modern settlements of Materija, Obrov, Lipa and Klana - from where, near Flumen (Rijeka / (Fiume), it descended towards Trsat (Tersatto) to continue along the Dalmatian coast. It was known from 10th century onwards as strata ungarorum. Ad Pirum (Hrušica) was one of the stations on the Via Gemina from Aquileia to Æmona.

Going down towards the river, Via Gemina meets the huge River Port that extends for more than 300 metres and with its ramps, steps and quays that are still visible. The colonnade that was part of the Eastern portico can still be seen today.

Via Giulia Augusta and Masoleum

Via Giulia Augusta

Via Giulia (Iulia / Julia) Augusta runs right through Aquileia as far as the crossroads with Via Gemina where are still visible the remains of the Forum of Aquileia. Augustus Caesar began construction of this road in 13 B.C. to merge the Via Aemilia Scauri with the Via Postumia, running from Placentia (modern Piacenza) to a triumphal arch in La Turbie where it originally stopped. It wais later extended to Arelates (modern Arles) joining the Via Domitia, through Derthona (Tortona), Vada Sabatia (Vado Ligure), Albingaunum (Albenga) and Album Intimilium (Ventimiglia).

The remains of a great mausoleum along the Via Giulia Augusta south of the Forum were brought to light by chance in 1891 in the area of Roncolon di Fiumicello, along the Gemina Road which connected to Aquileia to Trieste. The mausoleum was reconstructed in 1956.

There are also remains of a number Roman bridges along the road, including the Pont des Esclapes, Pont Flavien, Pontaccio, Ponte dell'Acqua, Ponte delle Fate, Ponte delle Voze, Ponte Lungo, Ponte sul Rio della Torre, Primo Ponte di Val Ponci, Quarto Ponte di Val Ponci and Pontetto.

Via Flavia
Via Flavia

Via Flavia was the last Roman road that was named after the person who initiation its construction, a tradition that began with Via Appia in Rome. It was constructed in 78 A.D. by emperor Flavius Vespasianus and lead from Via Giulia Augusta Aquileia Via Giulia Augusta halfway between Venice and Trieste to Pula (Pola). Started from Tergeste [Trieste], it skirted the Istrial litoral - crossing the Risana (Rižana (Risana), the Dragonja (Dragogna) and, at Ponte Porton, the biggest Istrian river, Mirna, reaching the Lim (Leme) Channel, Dvigrad (Duecastelli), Bale (Valle), Vodnjan (Dignano) and Pula (Pola), where the Arena was built outside the town walls along that road. Here the road turned towards Visače, reaching the Raša (Arsa) River.

Crossing the river, it continued as a local road through Labin (Albona) and Plomin (Fianona) as far as Kastav (Castua), where it joined at an angle with the abovelready-mentioned Via Gemina. The network of roads was in general completed by linking roads which joined the Istrian towns with the Via Flavia. Via Flavia shares a fate similar to that of the Via Fulvia - that is, almost all traces of it are gone.

Via Flanatica

In 80 A.D., Vespasianus' son, the emperor Titus, constructed a detour (or extension) to Trsat (Tersatica) and to Sissek, a consular road called Via FlanaticaVia Flanatica reached all the way to Dalmatia, but it is believed to have extended all the way to Greece. It was one of the most important roads that did not eminate directly from Rome. The towns of Marzana (Marcana) and Carnitia (Krnica) were built on that road.

Via Postumia

Via Postumia was constructed in 148 B.C. by the consul Spurius Postumius Albinus. It ran from the coast at Genua (Genova) through the mountains to Dertona, Placentia (the termination of the Via Æmilia Lepidi) and Cremona, just east of the point where it crossed the Po Valley. From Cremona the road ran eastward to Bedriacum, where it forked, one branch running to the left to Verona and thence to the Brenner, the other to the right to Mantua, Altinum and Aquileia. The military occupation of Liguria depended upon this road, and several of the more important towns owed their origin largely to it. Cremona was its central point, the distances being reckoned from it both eastwards and westwards.

The beginning of Via Postumia is still marked by the ancient Arco dei Gavi, built by the gens Gavia, a noble Roman family who had their hometown in Verona. The arch was commissioned to architect L. Vitruvius Cerdo in the mid-1st century AD. In the Middle Ages, during the communal age of Verona, the city's council used it as an entrance gate when it was decided to surround Verona with a line of walls. During Napoleon's rule in Italy, French engineers demolished it. Its ruins were moved to a square and then to the Arena. In 1932 they were used to rebuild the arch next to Castelvecchio, not far from its original location.

Via Postumia

Via Popilia

Via Popilia (or Popillia) was the name of two ancient roads in Italy:

  1. Via Popilia - a highroad from Ariminum (Rimini) to Aquileia along the Adriatic coast. It no doubt originally came into use when Aquileia was founded as a frontier fortress of Italy in 181 B.C., and Polybius gives the distance correctly as 178 miles. In 132 B.C., it was reconstructed (munita) by the consul P. Popilius, one of whose milestones has been found near Atria. It ran along the shore strip (Lido) from Ariminum to Ravenna (33 miles), where it was usual in imperial times for travellers to take ship and go by canal to Altinum, and there resume their journey by road, though we find the stations right through on the Tabula Peutingeriana, and Narses marched in 552 from Aquileia to Ravenna. (T. As.)

  2. Via Annia Popillia - a highroad running from the Via Appia at Capua to Regium, coastal Lucania and the Valle di Diano, a distance of 321 miles right along the length of the peninsula, and the main road through the interior of the country, not along the coast. It was built in 159 B.C. by the censor M. Popilius Laenias or in 132 B.C. by the consul P. Popilius.

Via Annia

The Via Annia was the consular road through Cisalpine Gaul which linked Atria (Adria) to Aquileia, passing through Patavium (Padua), then skirting the barely-inhabited lagoon, through Altinum (a frazione of modern Quarto d'Altino) and Concordia. The artery, about 180 km in length, had its influence on the Romanization of the region it traversed, and was a major connection to the northeastern province of Noricum.

The road was constructed by the prætor Titus Annius Rufus and completed in 131 B.C. Through stretches of marshland in the lower valley of the Po, causeways raised the paved road above the level of the marshes. The abutments of several stone bridges have been rediscovered: one passing over the Grassaga canal was rediscovered in 1922; another discovered in 1948 passed over the Canalat di Ceggia, a paleo riverbed of the  Bidoggia. The Bridge at Riva Zancana still has two visible pillars and bridgeheads.

The Via Annia was used until the late Middle Ages and underwent various modifications. One of these was the Via Antiga, a deviation of the Via Annia from Fossà towards Staffolo, an important border area between the Byzantine territory of Erælia.

Some sections of the road never fell out of use. Other sections became so thoroughly lost they have only been precisely identified with the development of aerial photography. Locally, the road is covered by modern roads and buildings, while some sectors are buried under alluvial sediments. Between Padua and Altino, varying lengths of the road appear in the Roman sources, leading to disagreement over which bank of the Brenta the road followed: two posting stations (mansiones) are known to have been established along this stretch, where fresh horses and a night's accommodation could be found.

In the section running from ancient Patavium (Padua) to Altinum (Altino), two staging posts (places offering respite for horses and travellers and including lodgings, baths and workshops) have been discovered: one at San Bruson and the other at Marghera. According to some scholars, the road they served used to run alongside the right bank of the Brenta River. According to others, the road ran alongside the left bank, because if it had been to the right of the river, then the staging posts would have been located at Dolo and Mestre. The difference of opinion relates to a question of the distance between Padua and Altino as measured by the ancients. Four milestones of the familiar short columnar form have been found on the section of road between Padua and Altino. The milestones, which usually showed the distance between two towns, were often put in place at the behest of emperors, who repaired and maintained the roads for many years after they were originally laid. One milestone was discovered in Stanga, on the edge of Padua, one at San Bruson, a third at Campalto and the fourth at Quarto D'Altino.

In the section between Porto Menai and Altino, and then south of Musile, the ancient highway was laid on a raised embankment because the surrounding area was prone to flooding. Owing to the difficult and changeable waters in this coastal area, the road was forced inland, where the encroaching marshes necessitated rebuilding work.

Numerous emperors marched down the road with their armies in the fourth century A.D. to defend the eastern confines of the Empire, and their names are remembered in five milestones found between Musile di Piave and Ceggia. The road continued eastwards, crossing an ancient branch of the River Piave over a three-arched Roman bridge, of which only the well-constructed foundations now remain. The road then turned south of Ceggia, where the remains of two of the piers and the head of another three-arched bridge are to be found. The bridge was made of large slabs of sandstone and carried the road over the Canalat (or Piavon as it was then known), a river that has since been filled in. The road led onwards to the River Livenza, which it crossed near Santa Anastasia by means of a bridge, remains of which survived into the last century. From here, the road headed north-east to Julia Concordia, now known as Concordia Sagittaria, formerly an illustrious Roman colony founded in 42 BC. In the late Empire, the town was a flourishing centre and contains so many significant archaeological remains that it is the most important early Christian site in the Veneto region after Aquileia.

Via Claudia Augusta

The via Claudia Augusta is one of the most important routes built by the Romans in Northern Italy. Unlike the via Postumia, via Popillia, via Annia and other roads being almost completely located in the Po River Basin, the via Augusta, thanks to its clearly transalpine route, served as a connection between the Po plain and the territories conquered by the Romans beyond the Alps...

Ancient routes as well as historical sources have kept no traces of the via Claudia Augusta, which marked out by Druso around 15th century B.C. during the war against the Raetians and later on consolidated by his son Claudio.

Evidence is only given by two milestones, of which the one found at Rablat near Merano in 1552 says:

Ti(berius) Claudius Caesar Augustus /German(icus) Pont(ifex) max(imus) /trib(unicia) pot(estate) VI co(n)s(ul) desig(natus) IIII imp(erator) XI p(ater) P(atriae) (vi)am Claudiam Augustam quam Drusus pater Alpibus bello patefactis derexserat munit a flumine Pado at (f)lumen Danuvium per m(ilia) p(assuum) CC.

(Sovereign Tiberio Claudio Cesare Augusto Germanico has been conferred the title of pontifex maximus for six times, of consul for four times, of emperor for eleven times, of homeland Father. Marked out by his father Druso leading his military campaigns beyond the Alps, the via Claudia Augusta ran from the Po to the Danube river for miles... )

Found in the church of S.Maria Maggiore at Cesiomaggiore in 1786, where it was used to bear the altar dedicated to Saint Antonio, the second milestone says:

Ti(berius) Claudius Caesar Augustus German(icus) Pont(ifex) max(imus) trib(unicia) pot(estate) VI co(n)s(ul) desig(natus) IIII imp(erator) XI p(ater) P(atriae) (vi)am Claudiam Augustam quam Drusus pater Alpibus bello patefactis derexserat munit ad Altino usque ad flumen Danuvium m(ilia) p(assuum) CCCL Sovereign

(Tiberio Claudio Cesare Augusto Germanico has been conferred the title of pontifex maximus for six times, of consul for four times, of emperor for eleven times, of homeland Father. Marked out by his father Druso leading his military campaigns beyond the Alps, the via Claudia Augusta ran from the Po to the Danube river for 350 miles.)

These two texts seem rather similar. They only differ in the starting point of the route, respectively near the Po river and in Altino. As a consequence, several authors have put forward different and conflicting hypotheses about the exact itinerary.

Via Timavo

 Via Timavo was a consular road leading Trieste to Trsat. [? - to be checked].

Several more main roads left the commercial and military centre of Aquileia, and traversed what was then and in the middle ages Istrian territory, the more important being that which passed through Vipaccio and Mansio Fluvio Frigido, a small post in use by the Roman empire and in 200 A.C. also known as Castra or Castrum ad Fluvio Frigido (now Ajdovščina, Slovenia) whose remains are still visible, and then led in the direction of Æmona (Ljubljana), or towards Prem, Germany.

Related roads:

  • Via Schlavonia - across northern Istria to Senj and on into Dalmatia, difficult route.
  • Via Canalis - Udine, Gemona and Val Canale to Villach in Carinthia and then over Alps to Salzburg or Vienna.
  • Via Flaminia - to Ariminum (Rimini), constructed in 220 B.C. by arrangement of the censor Flaminius after the Gallic tribes had submitted to Rome.
  • Via Domitia - first Roman road built in Gaul, linked Italy and Hispania through Gallia Narbonensis, across what is now southern France. The route that the Romans regularised and paved was ancient when they set out to survey it, so old that it traces the mythic route travelled by Heracles.
  • Via Æmilia - a trunk Roman road in the north Italian plain (Cisalpine Gaul / Galia Cisalpina - see map), running from Ariminum (Rimini), on the Adriatic coast, to Placentia (Piacenza) on the river Padus (Po). It was completed in 187 BC. The Via Aemilia connected at Rimini with the Via Flaminia to Rome, which had been completed 33 years earlier.
  • Via Egnatia, the first highway to cross the Balkan Peninsula, was the first road built by Romans outside Italy. It was constructed in the second century B.C. The road began in Dyrrachium (Durres), by the Adriatic sea, and passed through Serbia, Macedonia (Thessaloniki) and Thrace terminating at Cypsela (east of Evros River) and later extended up to Konstantinoupolis. The total length of the road from Dirrachium to Cypsela was about 750 km.


  • The Crusades and the Military Orders: Expanding the Frontiers of Medieval  Latin Christianity
  • Various texts -
  • Via Postumia -
  • Via Popilia -
  • Via Annia -
  • Via Annia (image) -
  • Via Annia -
  • Via Claudia Augusta -
  • Aquileia -
  • Via Giulia Augusta -

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Created: Thursday, December 04, 2008; Last Updated: Saturday, December 31, 2016  
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