Roads and Water

The Infrastructure of the Roman World

At the heart of the conquest of Rome’s vast territory was a sophisticated infrastructure: a network of roads for the efficient movement of troops, and an abundant fresh water supply to allow for the growth of what would become the most populous city the world had ever seen. We will visit the Baths of Caracalla, part of the ancient Appian Way – “the Queen of Roads”, and a section of the longest of the Roman aqueducts. We will discuss how these developments facilitated Rome’s expansion.

When the Colosseum was built, Rome had a population of a million people: the largest city the world had ever seen. The city was, at its peak, the hub of an Empire which stretched from Scotland to the Sahara, and from the Atlantic to Iraq. The growth first of the Republic, and then of the Empire, and the maintenance of those territories, was made possible by a network of roads which allowed the relatively rapid movement of troops and communications. The first paved Roman road was laid out in 312 BC during the consulate of Appius Claudius, for whom it was named. Also known as the regina viarum, the Queen of Roads, the route set a precedent and soon “all roads led to Rome”, as the saying goes.

It was also during Appius Claudius’ consulate that the first aqueduct, the Appian Aqueduct, was laid out. Channelling water from the volcanic hills south of the city into the city using the (as yet unidentified) force of gravity it ran eight miles. Over the next five centuries a total of fourteen aqueducts would be built, and imperial Rome had the highest per capita water supply of any city ever, before or since. It is estimated that one cubic metre (250 gallons) of water entered the city per person, per day. It was this vast water supply which allowed the city’s population to grow as fast as it did, and for the first time Rome was a civilisation with more water than it knew what to do with. Fountains, both decorative and functional, ab ounded in the city and bath complexes provided entertainment for the people, and kept their minds away from plotting revolution.

Without the infrastructure of roads and water, the city of Rome could never have become as populous as it did, and the Empire would never have stretched as far as it did.

On this tour we take a private driver service and head away from the chaos of the centre in search of evocative ruins in a rural setting. The Appian Way has been protected as a Regional Park since the 1950s and the area offers an evocative glimpse of the campagna romana so beloved of the 18th and 19th century visitors on the Grand Tour. The ruins of tombs and villas line the road, amid pines and cypresses, in an oasis of calm a short distance from the city centre.

We visit the vast ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, the largest Roman bath complex to survive; a section of the ancient Appian Way where the ruts of centuries of carriages are still visible in the paving; and a spectacular section of ancient aqueduct.

This visit requires a private driver service.

This itinerary is 3 hours.

Longer itineraries of 4 hours can also include the Villa of the Quintili or a catacomb complex.

A full day tour of 6 hours visits all of these sites with a short lunch break.

  • Visit to the Appian Way and the Baths of Caracalla
  • private car service
  • half-day and full-day options available

3, 4, and 6-hour options available