The Roman Roads of Britain Visualized as a Subway Map

Walk around Lon­don with some­one who knows its deep his­to­ry — not hard to arrange, giv­en the way Lon­don enthu­si­asts treat his­tor­i­cal knowl­edge as a hyper­com­pet­i­tive sport — and you’ll have more than a few paths of “Roman roads” point­ed out to you. Even in the city of Big Ben and Buck­ing­ham Palace, the Shard and the Gherkin, chick­en shops and cur­ry hous­es, there remain frag­ments and traces of the 2,000 miles of roads the Roman Army built between British towns and cities between 43 and 410 AD, Britain’s cen­turies as a province of the Roman Empire.

Though some of Britain’s Roman Roads have become mod­ern motor­ways, most no longer exist in any form but those bits and pieces his­to­ry buffs like to spot. This makes it dif­fi­cult to get a sense of how they all ran and where — or at least it did until Sasha Tru­bet­skoy made a Roman Roads of Britain Net­work Map in the graph­ic-design style of the sub­way maps you’ll find in Lon­don or any oth­er major city today. Tru­bet­skoy, an under­grad­u­ate sta­tis­tics major at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go, first found car­to­graph­i­cal fame a few months ago with his “sub­way map” of roads across the entire Roman Empire cir­ca 125 AD.

“Pop­u­lar request,” he writes, demand­ed a Britain-spe­cif­ic fol­low up, a project he describes as “far more com­pli­cat­ed than I had ini­tial­ly antic­i­pat­ed.” The chal­lenges includ­ed not just the sheer num­ber of Roman Roads in Britain but a lack of clar­i­ty about their exact loca­tion and extents. As in his pre­vi­ous map, Tru­bet­skoy admits, “I had to do some sim­pli­fy­ing and make some tough choic­es on which cities to include.” While this clos­er-up view demand­ed a more geo­graph­i­cal faith­ful­ness, he nev­er­the­less “had to get rather cre­ative with the his­tor­i­cal evi­dence” in places, to the point of using such “not exact­ly Latin-sound­ing” names as “Watling Street” and “Ermin Way.”

Still, bar­ring a rev­o­lu­tion­ary dis­cov­ery in Roman his­to­ry, you’re unlike­ly to find a more rig­or­ous exam­ple of sub­way-mapped Roman Roads in Britain than this one. And for $9 USD you can have it as a “crisp PDF” suit­able for print­ing as a poster and giv­ing to any­one pas­sion­ate about the his­to­ry of Britain — or the his­to­ry of Rome, or graph­ic design, or maps that aren’t what they might seem at first glance.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ancient Rome’s Sys­tem of Roads Visu­al­ized in the Style of Mod­ern Sub­way Maps

Rome Reborn: Take a Vir­tu­al Tour of Ancient Rome, Cir­ca 320 C.E.

How Did the Romans Make Con­crete That Lasts Longer Than Mod­ern Con­crete? The Mys­tery Final­ly Solved

The Rise & Fall of the Romans: Every Year Shown in a Time­lapse Map Ani­ma­tion (753 BC ‑1479 AD)

A Won­der­ful Archive of His­toric Tran­sit Maps: Expres­sive Art Meets Pre­cise Graph­ic Design

“The Won­der­ground Map of Lon­don Town,” the Icon­ic 1914 Map That Saved the World’s First Sub­way Sys­tem

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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