What did the Romans ever do for us?2nd September 2019
It will come as no surprise that the Romans made a name for themselves because of their incredible feats of ancient engineering, from their roads and bridges, to their mighty aqueducts and tunnels. The fact that many of these monuments are still standing today is testament to their craftsmanship and initiative, and the construction of them helped secure this civilization the power and respect that helped them maintain their dominance for centuries.
The Romans literally paved the way for the modern world with their approach to road-building. With routes that stretched from England all the way over to Egypt, these roads were built for trade and for Romans to assert their control over the territories they ruled. Our tours include visits to several famous Roman roads, beginning with the Via Appia, which was created from around 312 BCE and joined Rome with Capua – some 12 miles away. On our Hidden Rome tour, you'll visit villas of the senatorial aristocracy along the Appian Way, and our Latium - the Roman Rich tour includes a tour of Terracina, which was a significant Roman town situated on the Via Appia.
Elsewhere, explore the Via Egnatia on our Albania and Macedonia tour and follow the scenic route of the Roman Via Augusta – an ancient road built to link Spain with Italy – on our Romans, Visigoths and Viziers tour.
The first acqueduct constructed in Rome was the Aqua Appia back in 312 BCE, but there are many dotted around the world that showcase the incredible ingenuity displayed by the Romans where their water supplies were concerned. Many of these aqueducts employed the use of gravity for water flow and they could be significant in size. We visit a selection of staggering Roman aqueducts on our tours, two of which feature on our Spain & Portugal tour – namely the Aqueduct de Los Milagros and Amoreira aqueduct. If you book a place on either our Roman Provence or Cruising the Rhône tour, you'll discover the mighty Pont du Gard, the tallest-surviving aqueduct that carried water over a distance of 50km to Nîmes. Join us on our Tunisia - the Punic Wars tour and you'll visit the Zaghouan aqueduct, and the aqueduct el Pont de les Ferreres features on our new Ancient Catalonia trip.
One of the most staggering ancient feats of engineering, perhaps, are the ancient Roman amphitheatres of the world. Designed to hold thousands of spectators for events such as gladiator matches and public executions, these structures are spectacular to behold. Rome's iconic Colosseum is, of course, the most famous of them all (and we do visit this on a number of our Rome tours), but there are many others you can visit if you choose to travel with us.
In France, why not take a tour of Arles' magnificent amphitheatre? This two-tiered structure dates back to the 1st century BC and could hold up to 20,000 spectators. We visit this site on our Cruising the Rhône and Roman Provence tours. In Tunisia, stand before the mighty El Djem amphitheatre – the largest and best-preserved in all of Africa, and created to hold 35,000 people. We can take you here on our Tunisia - the Punic Wars tour, which departs multiple times throughout 2020. If you choose to book a place on our Pompeii, Herculaneum & Classical Campania tour next year, you'll get to explore the amphitheatre in Pozzuoli.
Construction of tunnels took a long time in the ancient Roman times, but this didn't stop them from getting on with the work. Ensuring that both ends of the tunnel met in the centre was a tough task, and there are some amazing examples on offer in the ancient world. On our Pompeii, Herculaneum & Classical Campania tour in 2020, we have secured private access to the Cave of Sejanus – an impressive tunnel that dates to the age of Augustus. On our Roman Provence tour, we will take you below ground to wander among the evocative cryptoporticus tunnels in Arles, which is UNESCO listed.
Another thing that the Romans did well was build bridges. Their methods changed over the years, from stone blocks held together using iron clamps to the inclusion of concrete, and many Roman bridges had dramatic arches, which are still standing strong today. Treat yourself to a place on our Roman Provence tour and we'll take you to the Pont Julien, a three-arch stone bridge named after Roman Emperor Julius Caesar. It was built during the 1st century BC and is around 80 metres long by six metres wide. Interestingly, traffic across the bridge was stopped back in 2005 as a means to protect and preserve it, but cyclists are still permitted to cross. In Mérida, on our Spain and Portugal tour, there is an optional walk to see the Roman bridge there on the fourth day. Built in the times of Emperor Augusto and located over the River Guadiana, this bridge has 60 arches and is 792 metres in length.