The beginnings of travel as of so many other human institutions are hidden in obscurity. No doubt the search for food or better accommodation was a primary motive in early times. Soon would supervene that love of gain which was eventually to send the merchant princes of Rome on long sea-journeys to the bounds of the Empire and beyond.
So Horace, Carm I. xxxi. 11 ff.:
Dis carus ipsis; quippe ter et quater
Anno reuisens aequor Atlanticum
A later motive still would be curiosity, the desire to obtain knowledge. We learn, for instance, that Germanicus, the adopted son of the Emperor Tiberius, turned aside from his official journey to visit Egypt cognoscendae antiquitatis (Tac. Ann. ii. 59, etc.). Indeed, Egypt was as much a show plane in ancient times as it is now. Pliny the Younger tells us that in his day (about a.d. 100) people would take the longest journeys to see wonderful sights, while blind to the equally wonderful at their own doors. Journeys were also undertaken in those days for purposes of health. The inhabitants of low-lying coast towns resorted to the villages on the uplands in the hot season. There are multitudes of references in the Latin authors to the holiday-resorts near Rome, such as Praeneste, Tibur, Tusculum, to which in the height of summer the jaded Roman resorted. Many journeys were made in pursuit of military or other official duty. There were, however, nearer analogies to the tours of apostles than those mentioned: for long, teachers of philosophy and rhetoric had been wanderers from place to place, and the ancients were also familiar with the wandering priests of various religious cults, between these two classes stand the apostles like Paul.
1. Conveyances.-In ancient times we hear very little of walking, except for short distances. Dispatch runners, however, are sometimes mentioned as covering distances in an incredibly short space of time. Nor do we hear much of riding, except in the cavalry divisions of the army and in the formal reviews of the equestrian order, etc. Driving was the favourite method of locomotion on land. It was not permitted within the city of Rome itself. The streets were narrow, and any one who wished to be carried in the city had to be conveyed in a sedan-chair (lectica). On reaching a gate of the city the traveller entered the carriage which would be found waiting. It is a curious fact about Roman conveyances that nearly all the Latin words for them are borrowed from the Celtic language of the Gauls. It would seem, therefore, that most types of conveyance were obtained by the Romans from the Gauls, The favourite was the two-horsed carriage. Such it was, doubtless, that St. Paul took when wearied by his final long journey towards Jerusalem (ἐπισκευασάμενοι, Acts 21:15,
means, ‘having equipped
horses’; cf. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller, p. 302). From the mention of this detail here and here only, it may be inferred that his usual method was the healthiest, safest, and surest, namely, walking.
(1) Construction.-The Roman system of roads has never been surpassed. Some account, therefore, of the method of their construction is of interest. Perhaps the most detailed description that has survived is that of Statius, in his Siluae (iv. 3), describing the Via Domitiana, a road which the Emperor Domitian caused to be made between Sinuessa and Puteoli on the west coast of Italy. The problem there was of some difficulty, as the engineers had to deal with rivers, marshes, hills, and forests. The pcet describes how on the old track the traveller was jolted, how the wheels stuck in the ground while the pole was high in air, how the populace had all the terrors of a sea-voyage on land, added to the discomfort of the painfully slow progress. The journey that once took a whole day now takes ‘scarcely two hours’! First the track was marked out, then balks were cut through, and the earth, was removed to a considerable depth all the way along. The bed thus obtained was then filled up with fresh material. This consisted of layers of sand and stones of various sizes. The stones were kept in position partly by means of dowels connecting one with another, partly by the use of wedge-shaped stones driven into interstices at the sides of the road. The building of the road involved extensive labour of various kinds. Hills had to be stripped of their trees, stones and beams had to be planed, pools had to be drained, the courses of streams tube diverted, bridges to be constructed, etc. Our own country provides many examples of Roman roads, some in excellent preservation. Sometimes one may have the change of seeing a Roman road in section, for instance that between Alcester and Dorchester (Oxon.) in a quarry on Shotover Hill. The upper surface of the best roads consisted commonly of square blocks of basalt (saxum silex) placed angularly, with the corners pointing towards the sides and the direction of the road. Such blocks may be seen in position on the Appian Way near Terracina, at Tusculum as one ascends the hill, and also at Ostia, where the recent excavations have produced marvellous results.
(2) Upkeep.-The upkeep of the roads was naturally a matter of the greatest importance. The thoroughness of the initial construction was such that the ordinary upkeep was not so serious a matter as it would otherwise have been. Landslides and other accidents must have been comparatively rare, but everyone knows that even a good road, like a good house, requires careful watching, if it is to be kept in perfect condition. During the Empire such duties were entrusted to definite officials. Augustus in 27 b.c. took in hand the repair of the roads of Italy, In 20 b.c. he appointed curatores uiarum, who appear to have had a general oversight of the roads of Italy. In Claudius’ time we hear of curatores of particular roads, men who had already held the praetorship. Curatores of equestrian rank are seldom found, and had charge only of the second-class roads. The praetorian curatores had under them subcuratores. The Italian roads seem for the most part to have been supported out of the public treasury, though the local authorities and the Imperial treasury had a share in the cost of the upkeep. We hear of tabularii, Imperial officials concerned with disbursements for this purpose (cf. Hirschfeld in the Literature). The streets of Rome itself were under the charge of another department.
(3) Purpose.-The original purpose with which the Roman roads were made was military, not commercial. It was not so much the army that followed in the wake of trade, as trade that followed the army. As soon as a particular district had been garrisoned by the Romans, it was a necessary part of the scheme of defence and subjection that the garrison should be connected with Rome by a road or series of roads, along which, in the event of a rising (tumultus) of the enemy, an army could be brought as rapidly as possible. But though military in their origin, such was the effectiveness of the pax Romana that for the most part these roads were used for political and commercial purposes, or for those of general travel.
Perhaps the most important use to which the roads were put in Imperial times was the service of the Imperial post. This was established by Augustus, perhaps on some Eastern model, for the effective dispatch of business. By the arrangement entered into between Augustus and the Senate, half the provinces were under the control of the Emperor, and he had his financial agents (procuratores) in the other half. Centralization of government was a feature of the Roman Empire from the first, and in the exaggerated form which it attained in the 4th cent. a.d. was one of the causes, probably the chief cause, of its disintegration. The Roman Emperors were as a class hardworking men who took administration seriously. Pliny the Younger tells that his uncle, the Elder Pliny, used to help the Emperor Vespasian x dawn (Ep. iii:5), it being the Roman practice to gain time by getting up early rather than by sitting up late. It is obvious, therefore, that the land and sea routes were both in constant use by Imperial dispatch-carriers. For this purpose the roads were all provided with mansiones or stopping-places, where the Imperial dispatch-carriers could obtain relays of horses and thus reach their destination as early as possible. The Imperial post was strictly reserved for Imperial purposes. Even governors of provinces were unable to use the service for their own ends unless they had received a diploma or passport from the Emperor himself entitling them to do so (Pliny, Ep. ad Traianum, 45, with Hardy’s note
(4) Milestones.-The roads were provided with a system of milestones. The Roman mile was one thousand passus, and by a passus was meant a double-step, after which the feet were in the same relative position as at the first. As this measure was estimated at about 4.85 English ft., a Roman mile was 430 English ft. shorter than an English mile. All milestones in Italy were measured from the miliarium aureum, set up in the Forum at Rome by Augustus. Placed at every thousand passus, they measured about 6 ft. high on an average, and were cylindrical in shape, often with a square base belonging to the same block (as sometimes also in modern England). The stone was inscribed with the name, titles, and year (of office) of the reigning Emperor. Thousands of these stones have been discovered, and every year adds to the number. In the provinces systems of mile-stones counted from various important centres have been found.
(5) Inns.-Inns provided accommodation for travellers. From all accounts these seem to have been not only very humble in character, but also brothels at the same time. This is no doubt partly the reason why Cicero and other travellers in Republican times spent the nights of a journey either in their own country-houses or in those of their friends, as far as possible. Certainly it explains the apostolic insistence on hospitality (Romans 12:13, Hebrews 13:2, 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8, 1 Peter 4:9
). By ‘hospitality’ (φιλοξενία, lit.
5 ‘love of strangers
’) in such passages is intended the entertainment, not of fellow-citizens, but of strangers from a distance. The inns were no fit places for persons whose lives were dedicated to chastity and all holy living. From the scanty references to them in literature one can see that they were avoided by all respectable persons, as were the cook-shops of the cities (‘dignitoso homini popinam ingredi notabile est,’ pseudo-Augustine, Quaestiones Veteris et Noui Testamenti CXXVII. no. 102, 5, ed. Souter, Vienna and Leipzig, 1908).
(6) Perils of the road.-From what has been said it will be gathered that the roads were on the whole safe, and this was indeed the case. The pax Romana told against brigandage as it told against revolt. But there were certain districts where brigandage was a real menace; one was the Isaurian mountains in the neighbourhood of Pisidian Antioch and Lystra. Nothing is said in the Book of Acts about this, but the general reference in 2 Corinthians 11:26
serves to fill out the Acts narrative (cf. Pelag. on 2 Corinthians 11:23-25
: ‘haec in Actibus non omnia repperiuntur, quia nec in Epistulis omnia quae ibi scripta sunt continentur’). Ramsay has suggested (Church in the Roman Empire3, London, 1894, p. 24) that ‘perils of robbers’ refers to the journey from Perga in Pamphylia across Mt. Taurus to Pisidian Antioch and back again. That brigands played a considerable part in the life of the time is shown not only by the story of the Good Samaritan, but also by the frequent references to brigands as well as pirates in the Greek romances of the Early Empire.
(7) Chief road-systems.-We may now proceed to enumerate the chief road-systems of the Roman Empire, or rather those of which the apostles seem to have had some experience. The reader who desires a full, or approximately full, list will have to consult the works enumerated in the Literature. For our purpose, Britain, Germany, Spain, North Africa, Mcesia, and Thrace may be left out of account. The remaining countries we shall take in order,
(a) In Italy the Via Appia, ‘longarum regina uiarum’ (Slat. Siluae, ii. 2, 12), deserves mention as the oldest of the great Roman roads, built by the censor Appius Claudius Caecus in 312 b.c. It left Rome by the Porta Capena in the south, and passed by Aricia, Tres Tabernae (Acts 28:15
), and Forum Appi (Acts 28:15
) to Tarracina (Anxur) (modern Terracina), the white cliffs of which are often referred to by ancient authors. Up to this point the road is perfectly straight, having been built over the marshland of the Campagna. Much of this land is now drained, but with as yet poor results to agriculture. The building of the road over this country was a great engineering feat for those days. After Tarracina its course is inland by Fundi to Formiae, the fabled home of the Laestrygonian cannibals in the Odyssey, then to Minturnae (Menturnae), where the great Gaius Marius hid among the reeds in his days of adversity, then by Suessa Aurunca to Sinuessa, where it again reaches the sea. Turning inland again, it makes its way to Casilinum and then to Capua. It was here that St. Paul reached it by a road which ran between Capua and Puteoli (Acts 28:13
). A generation after his time Domitian built the road called after him Via Domitiana, direct from Puteoli to Sinuessa, which saved the detour necessary before that time. After Capua the Via Appia lakes its final inland course, which eventually ends in Brundisium (Brindisi) on the other side of the peninsula. The intervening chief stations are Calatia, Caudium, Beneventum, aeclanum, Venusia, near which Horace was born, and Tarentum, where the sea is at last reached. The terminus Brundisium is attained by a straight road across the ‘heel of the boot.’ The elastic description of a journey on this road by the pcet Horace and his friends (Sat. i. 5) will be referred to below. The importance of this Via Appia cannot be over-rated. By it almost every person who travelled between Rome and the East by sea had to go for part of his journey, whether he took ship at Puteoli on the west coast, or at Brundisium on the east. Such a traveller could avoid it only by travelling northwards and taking the overland route (the Via Egnatia) to Macedonia and Thrace, or else by following the Via Ostiensis, and taking ship at Ostia at the mouth of the Tiber.
Other Italian routes had their importance also. Perhaps the greatest of them was the North Road, called the Via Flaminia, which enters modern Rome by the Porta del Popolo, below the Pincian gardens in the N., and corresponds in its Roman part to the modern Corso Umberto Primo, the Bond Street of Rome. The Via Flaminia went by Falerii, Ocriculum (modern Otricoli, where the famous bust of Jupiter was found), Narnia, Interamna (where the Emperor Tacitus was born), Nuceria, to Fanum Fortunae, where it reaches the Adriatic, then along the coast through Pisaurum to Ariminum (modern Rimini), its terminus. From Ariminum the Via aemilia started, and went by Bononia (modern Bologna), Mutina (modern Modena), Parma, Placentia (modern Piacenza), to Mediolanium (modern Milano). A fourth road in Italy was a branch of Via Appia from Capua by Forum Populi and Thurii to Ad Columnam, whence the crossing to Messana (modern Messina) in Sicily was easy. A fifth, the Via Aurelia, ran along the west coast to Centum Cellae (modern Civitá Vecchia) Pisa, Luna (famous for Carrara marble) to Genova.
(b) Routes in Gaul may be briefly referred to. After reaching Milan the traveller had a choice of various Alpine roads, built by Augustus and his successors. For Gaul he would probably take that by Susa and the Mont Génèvre. By this route the journey to Arelate (modern Arles) was only 395 Roman miles. Another road led by Augusta Praetoria (Aosta) and the Little St. Bernard to Vienna (modern Vienne, much less important than its ancient counterpart), and Lugudunum (modern Lyons) and through Genava (modern Geneva) and Vesontio (modern Besançon) to Argentoratum (Strasbourg, Strassburg). There were also important roads linking up the chief cities in Western Gaul. Gesoriâcum (Boulogne-sur-Mer) was the point from which crossings were made to Rutupiae (Richborough) on the British coast.
(c) For Pannonia and Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10
) on the east side of the Adriatic the traveller went from Bononia (Bologna) to Patanium (Padova) and thence to Aquileia, if he desired a land route. The journey presupposed in 2 Timothy 4:10
would be undertaken across the Adriatic from Brundisium to Dyrrhachium (Durazzo), as also the journey to Nicopolis (Titus 3:12
(d) The student of the Apostolic Age is more nearly concerned with the routes in the eastern provinces. In the province of Syria and neighbouring districts there were several well-marked routes. Taking Jerusalem as a centre, we may indicate several roads. There was the road ‘going down from Jerusalem to Gaza’ (Acts 8:26
) in a south-westerly direction. It passed over ground which in apostolic times was very sparsely populated (Acts 8:26
). It was doubtless by a branch road going off to the right that Philip found his way to Azotus (Ashdod) (Acts 8:40
). The eunuch of the Candace would continue his way to Gaza, and then by the coast-road into Egypt, thence southwards to Abyssinia. Philip proceeded from Azotus through Joppa and Antipatris to Caesarea (Acts 8:40
) on the coast. The part between Caesarea and Antipatris was the same as that gone over by St. Paul on several occasions (Acts 9:30
; Acts 18:22
; Acts 21:8
; Acts 23:33
; cf. Acts 15:3
; cf. Acts 15:30
), passing through Lydda, where St. Peter had been in the early days also (Acts 9). The shortest route from Jerusalem to Damascus was to cross the Jordan and go via Gerasa. from Damascus there was a road passing through Caesarea Paneas to Tyre, and another to Sidon.
(e) The land-journeys of St. Paul in the peninsula of Asia Minor have been finally fixed by the researches of W. M. Ramsay. We are not informed as to the way in which Barnabas and Saul journeyed from Antioch to Jerusalem (Acts 11:30
), but there is little doubt that Saul was fetched from Tarsus to Antioch (Acts 11:25
) by the coast-road passing within the bend between Asia Minor and the province of Syria. It was probably along the southern coast of the island of Cyprus that Barnabas and Saul journeyed between Salamis and Paphos. Reaching land at Attaleia in the province of Pamphylia they sailed up the river Cestrus as far as Perga. From there they took the road northwards by Adada to ‘Pisidian’ Antioch (described best in Ramsay, Church in Roman Empire3, p. 16 ff.; cf. also The Cities of St. Paul, London, 1907, p. 247 ff., Athenaeum for 12th Aug. 1911, p. 192 f., ‘Iconium and Antioch’ in Exp.
, 8th ser., ii.
149 ff.). Then for part of the route they retraced their steps and journeyed eastwards to Iconium, then S.S.W. to Lystra, then S.E. to Derbe. The ‘Imperial Road,’ however, mentioned in the Acta Pauli in connexion with the Thecla legend, passed direct from Pisidian Antioch to Lystra, and did not touch Iconium (Ramsay’s discovery, told in Studies in the History and Art of the Eastern Provinces of the Roman Empire
, pp. 241-243). This road ‘passed about seven or eight miles south-west of Iconium’ (Ramsay). The return route taken by St. Paul and Barnabas from Derbe to Attaleia (Acts 14:21-25
) was the same as the outgoing.
The second journey (Acts 15:41
) was, as far as Tarsus, by the same route as St. Paul had taken when he was first brought to Antioch (Acts 11:25
). We may conjecture that one of the ‘churches’ referred to in Acts 15:41,
and nowhere else, was at Issos; for Issos was on this route. On leaving Tarsus St. Paul and Silas no doubt struck straight to the north by the historic road, which becomes the pass through the Taurus mountains known as the Cilician Gates (this route has been graphically described with illustrations by Lady Ramsay in Travel, vol. ii. no. 23
494-498). On reaching the northern side of this great mountain range the travellers went by Podandos, Loulon, Halala, (the later Colonia Faustiniana, Faustinopolis), Kybistra, and Laranda to Derbe. From Derbe they travelled by their old route to Lystra, Iconium, and ‘Pisidian’ Antioch. Between Iconium and Antioch they would pass through Vasada and Misthia. After Antioch they followed a direction new to them. It is probable that the direction taken was west to Lysias, then northward through Nakoleia to Dorylaion on the Tembrogios. There they were κατὰ Μυσίαν (opposite Mysia), and from there a road went N.N.W. to Nicaea in Bithynia, which was the province that they desired to visit. Dorylaion was a parting of the ways. ‘The spirit of Jesus suffered them not’ to go to Bithynia. They therefore took the other turning, went west-wards along the left bank of the river Rhyndakos, through Artemeia, across the river Granikos, and then S.W. to Troas (Acts 16:8
On arriving at Neapolis, the port of Philippi in Macedonia, they made their way by the Via Egnatia to Philippi itself (Acts 16:12
). From there they travelled along the Via Egnatia to Amphipolis, Apollonia, and Thessalonica. This important road went from Apollonia and Dyrrhachium on the Adriatic Sea to the river Hebrus beside Kypsela. If the name be derived from the town of Gnathia or Egnatia in Apulia (Italy), as is generally believed, then it is clear that from early times it must have been regarded as the overland route from South Italy to the East. Even before the days of Roman pre-eminence it was evidently an important trade route between the Adriatic and the aegean and Black seas. In Cicero’s time it was regarded primarily as a military road (for its direction see below). From Thessalonica St. Paul and Silas were spirited away to BerCEa. From there St. Paul was hurried to the sea-coast, probably to the nearest harbour, as matters were urgent (Acts 17:14
). From Athens (Acts 17:15
to Acts 18:1
) he went, by sea no doubt, to Corinth, and from there by the short land journey to the southern port of Corinth, Cenchreae (Acts 18:18
). Luke sketches the sea-journeys that followed, Cenchreae to Ephesus, Ephesus to Caesarea, with great rapidity (Acts 18:19-22
). In Acts 18:23
the same journey is implied as is described in Acts 15:41, Acts 16:1-6, Acts 19:1
takes St. Paul through a district where he had never journeyed before. Acts 18:23
has brought him as far as Pisidian Antioch, and then be is said to have crossed τὰ ἀνωτερικὰ μέρη and thus reached Ephesus (Acts 19:1
). W. M. Ramsay has clearly explained what is meant by this phrase ‘the higher-lying parts.’ There was a well-recognized, important, and ancient route to Ephesus by Apollonia, Apamea-Celaenae, the Lyeus valley, Colossae, Laodicea, the Maeander valley, Antioch, and Tralles. St. Paul purposely avoided this route, probably because of fatigue, and thus never visited either Colossae or Laodicea (cf. Col., passim). He chose the higher-lying, quieter, and healthier route over the hills, where the traffic was light. The unimportant places he passed through-Lysias, Metropolis, Seiblia, Dionysopolis, Teira, etc.-are never mentioned in sacred story. What route was taken by him from Ephesus to Macedonia (Acts 20:1-2
) must remain uncertain, but it is probable that he coasted northwards to Troas and then repeated the journey of Acts 16:11
ff. Whether he took the sea-journey to Athens on this occasion also from the unknown port near BerCEa is uncertain; but to Athens and Corinth he went. He then returned through Macedonia, no doubt by his former route, and once more back to Troas (Acts 20:3-6
). A coasting voyage followed to Tyre (Acts 21:3
) and Ptolemais (Acts 21:7
) and Caesarea (Acts 21:8
). From Caesarea he went by the old land-route to Jerusalem, It is specially mentioned that horses were hired for this stage (Acts 21:15
): St. Paul was weary in body and spirit, and knew the importance of arriving in Jerusalem as fresh as possible.
(f) We have thus followed all the land-routes along which St. Paul is known to have travelled, Before going on to refer to sea-routes, it will not be without interest to give some account of one or two land journeys by others recorded in ancient literature.
From Cicero’s letters we are able to reconstruct some of his itineraries in the middle of the 1st cent. b.c. In 58 b.c. he was exiled from Rome. He journeyed south by the Appian Way, as far as Capua, and then took the road to the right referred to above, as far as Vibo Valentia in the country of the Bruttii. From there he found his way to Brundisium, from which he crossed the Adriatic to Dyrrhachium (Att. iii. 8). From there he reached Thessalonica on 22nd May, having gone cast by the Egnatian Way referred to above. The complete course of the Via Egnatia was as follows: Dyrrhachium, Clodiana (where the branch from Apollonia met it), Scampa, Lychnidus, Scirtiana, Nicaea, Heraclea, Cellae, Edessa, Pella (where Alexander the Great was born), Thessalonica, Apollonia, Amphipolis, Philippi, Neapolis, Porsulae, Brendice, Tempyra, Doriscus, Dyme, Cypsela, Syracellae, Apri, Bisanthe, Heraeum, Perinthus, Selymbria, Melantia, Byzantium (later Constantinople). Cicero returned by the same way by which he had come.
The journey he took to his province Cilicia in 51 b.c. may also he followed with interest. He left Rome in the beginning of May and arrived at his villa at Arpinum (his birthplace), among the hills, about the 3rd May. From there he went by the Arcanum of his brother to Aquinum (afterwards the birthplace of Juvenal), and reached Minturnae on the 5th. He then went by the Appian Way to his villa at Cumae, and from there by Puteoli to his villa at Pompeii, reached at latest on the 9th. The 10th and 11th May were spent at the villa of a friend at Trebula, from which he went to Beneventum (11th May, evening), Venusia (night of 14th spent there), Tarentum (arrived 18th May, departed 21st May), Brundisium (arrived 22nd May, departed 10th or 11th June). The whole journey from Beneventum to Brundisium was of course on the Appian Way. From Brundisium he crossed the sea, and we hear of him at Corcyra (12th June), the Sybota Islands (13th June), and Actium (14th June). We next hear of him at Athens (arrived 25th June, left 6th July), On 6th July he sailed from the Piraeus, the harbour of Athens, to Zoster, from there on 8th July to Ceos, on 9th July to Gyaros, on the 10th to Syros, on the 11th to Delos, He then went by Samos to Ephesus (arrived 22nd July, departed 26th July). On the 26th July he began his inland journey. His province, named Cilicia, comprised a very large territory, indeed the whole of what was afterwards Southern Galatia, as well as Lycia, Pamphylia, Cilicia (proper), etc. He proceeded along the great road already mentioned, and reached Tralles (27th July), Laodicea (arrived 31st July, departed 3rd August, early). Laodicea was the first city of the province on the west. Henceforth it was an official progress that he made. Neither the rate of his progress from place to place nor the actual time he stayed in each place can be fixed with certainty. The dates given by O. E. Schmidt (Der Briefwechsel des M. Tullius Cicero, Leipzig, 1893, p. 78) are not reliable (Ramsay in Exp.
, 8th ser., ii.
149 ff., repeated in The First Christian Century, London, 1911, p. 145 ff.). The best account is by L. W. Hunter (aided by W. M, Ramsay) in JRS
74 ff. It is probable that he travelled at the rate of about 21 or 22 English miles a day, and certain that he stayed at Apameia (for which he must have diverged from the main road) and Philomelion, about three to five days in each. At Laodicea Combusta he left the great road and took the branch to the right for Iconium (reached