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ROMAN ROADS in northwest Hispania, communication roads, conquest and the expansion of Romanisation and trade

One of the greatest gifts left by the Roman Empire is the network of roads that connected the most distant lands of the Empire with the capital. The old popular saying that suggests that all roads lead to Rome was true in the early years of the Christian era, especially when we speak about the Roman Roads, whose layouts are mainly recorded in the so-called Antonine Itinerary, an anonymous document from the 3rd century.

And that was how it happened in the northwest of the Iberian peninsula during the final years of the 1st century BC. The definitive conquest and annexation of the part of the peninsula that remained unconquered by the Romans took place in the northwest of Hispania.

Initially, there was a clash of civilisations: the urban Mediterranean and the rural Castro-Urdiales of the Atlantic finisterre. Apparently, Rome respected the civilising modules of the conquered countries, but it also sought their rapid transformation through the application of its greatly developed urban programmes.

The three legions based in the north of the peninsula were initially responsible for directing the transformation.

Three strategic urban centres were founded in the northwest to become capitals of jurisdictions established by Rome to organise its dominions in the area. They were large administrative areas whose capitals are Braga , Astorga and Lugo . The first came from almost nowhere and the other two were encampments from the conquest converted into civil settlements.


However, for the development and Romanisation of the area, as well as for founding settlements, they had to be connected by a stable, organised road network that was essential not only for the arrival of trade and Romanising influences, but also to allow the military control and operation of the local mines. It all coincided in time with a profound reorganisation, or rather, establishment, of the cursus publicus (public mail service) carried out by the emperor Augustus all over the empire; and the remote northwest of Spain was far from ignored by Rome .

The first of the roads to be built was that which connected Bracara with Asturica via Aque Faviae. It was begun around 10 BC and the first records of its opening date from 3-2 BC. It followed a more or less straight line which, according to the Antonine Itinerary, comprised the mansions of Salacia, Praesidium, Caldunum, Ad Aquas, Pinetum, Reboretum, Compeutica, Veniatia, Paetavonium, Argentiolum and Asturica Augusta.

The mansions where stop-offs on the road, normally established at a convenient distance from each other. They usually had attractions such as excellent countryside, bath water, an important town or city nearby, etc. A mutatio was an establishment for changing over animals and there was usually one every four or five miles. They had little more than a stable and the rustic dwelling of those who looked after the animals.

Along the Via XVII, the most important mansions were Ad Aquas, which became Aquae Flaviae in times of Vespasianus and is currently the Portuguese town of Chaves, the first known Roman town in the Northwest, and Paetavonium, currently Rosinos de Vidriales, whose surroundings mark the location of a famous military encampment which undoubtedly had a lot to do with the layout and construction of the road itself.


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