When we launched "WALKS WITH FAITH", we were far from imagining that this name, in a metaphorical way, would make perfect sense in the current scenario. If we are unable to do them physically, we will travel these paths together through narration. This narration will be based on personal experience, some interpretative publications and the viaromanas.pt website. Completely wrong to say that everything mentioned is absolute truths, because if we cannot explain the complexity of so many subjects in our era, the information age, much more still has to be unraveled about bygone times, in this case constructions with 2000 years that were undergoing changes. And as in any other subject, what we know tomorrow today can be refuted with other evidence through the constant investigative work that is being carried out.
We hope that this way I will also be able to immerse you in my passion for the Walks, mainly for Roman Roads and in the future you will be able to join us to materialize each word described here.
Contextualization “Geira Romana”, Via Nova, Via XVIII
For 5 centuries, between 27 BC and AD 476, the Roman Empire prospered as one of the greatest empires in history with territorial expansion across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. In addition to economic, political and military power, they showed great civilizational, technological and engineering advances. It is surprising to realize that with the technological means of 2000 years ago, they resorted to advanced concepts such as durability, modularity, proportionality, local materials and the use of the forces of nature as the driving force of the machinery applied to construction, which we now so acclaim, sustainability.
His legacy, which we can still see today, is proof of this: Forums, Coliseums, Temples, Mansions, Mutations, Housing, Sewerage, Military Camps, Spas, Thermal Baths, Aqueducts, Aras, Bridges, and what makes me want to walk the rest of life, the Roads, a way to unite this entire empire and facilitate military actions, mineral extraction and trade, in order to enhance the wealth of each region.
There are more than 402,000 Km of known Roman roads, it is more than the distance to the Moon !! 372 great roads connected the 113 provinces of the Empire. In the province of Hispania, (currently northern Portugal, Galicia, Asturias and León), in the region of Gallecia there is a political-administrative and road triangle between Bracara Augusta (Braga), Luco Augusti (Lugo) and Asturica Augusta (Astorga), capitals of each territory, Conventus.
From Braga there were 5 routes, with Via XIX connecting Bracara Augusta to Luco Augusti and via XVII Bracara Augusta to Astúrica Augusta. The numbering of the roads and their study, has as an invaluable source the Antonino Itinerary, which is the road survey carried out at the time, presumed in the 3rd century, with an indication of the stop stations, Mansiones and Mutationes, and the respective distances expressed in miles.
The Mile, measured by the Romans (equivalent to about 1.5 km), measured 1000 steps from the army. To mark each mile, the distance to each destination and information about the construction, they placed a cylindrical monolithic pathway, called Marco Miliário. Whenever there were changes to the layout, repairs, changes in the Emperor, they place a new Milestone, without removing the previous one, so that for the same mile we can find several milestones. The milestones are the main evidence of the passage of the road, since, unlike sidewalks and bridges, there is no doubt about its Roman origin. However, some are displaced, damaged, unable to read, increasing errors and increasing doubts about the true route of passage.
The Roman Geira appears later with a diagonal route, alternative to Via XVII, hence the name Via Nova. This second route facilitates the connection between the two capitals of the Northwest Peninsular, shortening the distance, as well as allowing access to the mountainous regions of the territory and exploration of mining areas. But what makes this Via Romana so special? It is the best preserved in Portugal and UNIQUE IN THE WORLD, an open air museum as it has more than 230 Milestones along the route to Astorga (215 miles), many of which are still epigraphed (Yes after 2000 years !!! ) and whose density per mile is a fact unparalleled in the Roman world, in addition to countless vestiges of walls, parts of sidewalks, vestiges of mansions, mutations, military camp, bridges, etc. The surrounding landscape makes this road even more monumental, with imposing reliefs that reach altitudes above 1500 meters (Serra do Gerês, Serra do Burgo). However, the Via, with the exception of 3 points, never exceeds 900 meters, in general it is a smooth, harmonious route, without great slopes, curves with correct curvature arches, use of the terrain accidents, such as stones, characteristics common to the Roman Roads that demonstrate the use of mathematics and precision measurement instruments in their construction. It is almost impossible to imagine that these paths were not designed after topographical studies and modern engineering, without aerial images! The search for the true layout of the Roman Roads causes me a paradox of feelings and that is why I fall in love! If, on the one hand, you would like answers, certainties, on the other, the permanent discovery of new possibilities, the search for more information and knowledge (which, instead of clarifying, creates even more doubts 😊), the adventure of backpacking, talking with people around their tracks and childhood memories, make these paths unfinished no matter how much you walk on them! Tomorrow we “leave” Braga in the first stage of this adventure. Combined? "I am taking revenge once again, looking at this Roman Geira and its milestones. I am revenging myself on how many Caesars the world has given, convinced that it is enough to have sidewalks and bridges made, to record the era and name in a column, so that eternity will be on them. ” Miguel Torga, Diary IV