The Roman Roads of Spain & Portugal Visualized as a Subway Map: Ancient History Meets Modern Graphic Design

Between the first cen­tu­ry BC and the fourth cen­tu­ry AD, Rome dis­played what we might call an impres­sive ambi­tion. In his project illus­trat­ing those chap­ters of his­to­ry in a way no one has before, sta­tis­tics stu­dent Sasha Tru­bet­skoy has shown increas­ing­ly Roman-grade ambi­tions him­self, at least in the realm of his­tor­i­cal graph­ic design. We’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured his mod­ern sub­way-style maps of the roads of the Roman Empire as well as the Roman roads of Britain here on Open Cul­ture. Today, we have his map of the Roman Roads of Iberia, the region today occu­pied main­ly by Spain and Por­tu­gal.

“This map was a blast to make,” writes Tru­bet­skoy. “I chose to fol­low the Anto­nine Itin­er­ary more strict­ly, which meant that I had to deal with many par­al­lel lines.” Also known as the itin­er­ary of the Emper­or Anton­i­nus or “Itin­er­ar­i­um Provin­cia­rum Antoni(ni) Augusti,” accord­ing to the Roman Roads Research Asso­ci­a­tion, the Anto­nine Itin­er­ary is “a col­lec­tion of 225 lists of stop­ping places along var­i­ous Roman roads across the Roman Empire.” Its val­ue “comes from it being one of a very few doc­u­ments to have sur­vived to mod­ern times which pro­vide detail of names and clues to the loca­tion of Roman sites and the routes of roads.”

Each list, or iter, that makes up the Anto­nine Itin­er­ary “gives the start and end of each route, with the total mileage of that route, fol­lowed by a list of inter­me­di­ate points with the dis­tances in between.” In cre­at­ing his Roman Roads of Iberia sub­way map, Tru­bet­skoy made each iter into its own “line,” though for some of them he had to draw from oth­er sources: “A cou­ple of Anto­nine routes were ambigu­ous and not eas­i­ly placed on a map, while a few impor­tant routes were miss­ing for which there is archae­o­log­i­cal evi­dence.”

It takes no small amount of work to con­vert this kind of often patchy and scat­tered knowl­edge from ancient his­to­ry into graph­ics as clean­ly and leg­i­bly designed as Tru­bet­skoy’s Roman-road sub­way maps. But the result, apart from offer­ing a nifty jux­ta­po­si­tion of past and present, reminds us of what the roads of the Romain Empire actu­al­ly meant: a degree of con­nect­ed­ness between dis­tant lands nev­er before achieved in human his­to­ry. You can sup­port Tru­bet­skoy’s efforts to show this to us in ever greater detail by mak­ing the US$9 sug­gest­ed dona­tion to down­load a high-res­o­lu­tion ver­sion of the Roman Roads of Iberia map. Rome was­n’t built in a day, much less its empire: the com­plete sub­way-map­ping of Rome’s roads will also require more time and labor — but then, would the builders of the Roman Empire have described their task as a “blast”?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

The Roman Roads of Britain Visu­al­ized as a Sub­way Map

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

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.


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