How far is the road to Rome, or even Virunum?

Roman horseman (Author photo)

Roman horseman (Author photo of Marcus Aurelius in the Capitoline)

Travelling in the ancient world was different, fundamentally different. Young (and not so young) men were by far the most mobile in the Ancient Rome over the whole period whether you count it to AD 476 (west) or 1453 (east) because they fought in armies. Next came the administrators, posted in a similar way to the military, to freeze their extremities off in Germania or Britannia for boil their brains in the provinces of Syria or Egypt. Both would be served by official couriers, messengers and supply chains speeding along the famous Roman roads serviced by way stations with basic personal resupply and accommodation facilities (mansiones).

Merchants, of course, were very familiar with trade routes; the same ones were used for hundreds of years. Wealthier individuals made journeys for education and recreation and their households (free or slave) went with them. 

Roman travelling coach carpentum (reconstruction), in the Römsich-Germanischen Museum in Cologne, Germany

Travel could be on horseback, ox cart, litters, travelling coaches, ship, barge, mules or Shanks’s pony (on foot). Soldiers just yomped with baggage trains trailing behind them, although to keep these baggage trains from becoming too large, in 107 BC General Gaius Marius made each man carry his own armour, weapons, personal equipment and 15 days’ rations, about 50–60 pounds (22.5–27 kg) in total.

Legionaries were issued with a forked stick to carry their load on their shoulders and were nicknamed Marius’ Mules (muli mariani in Latin) due to the amount of gear they had to carry themselves.

 

Officers like my tribune Lucius Apulius in ‘The Girl from the Market’ would have ridden a horse, had a servant riding a mule and made use of the mansiones if travelling away from his unit or between postings. At a fort, they would be lodged with other officers and even dine with the commander. Which is what happens to Apulius on his long journey from Britannia to Virunum in Roman Noricum (approximately modern Austria). But he was rained on and hated sleet and snow like any other serving soldier and was pleased to be wearing his paenula scortea, leather poncho as he rode along.

So what route did Apulius take in AD 370?
Firstly, he took a ship (military transport) across the Oeanus Britannicus from Dubris to Bononia (called Gesoriacum until the end of the third century), then on to Durocortorum (Rheims) and Vesontio (Besançon) on horseback. Apart from his own horse and the mule his servant rode, Apulius hired a travelling cart with driver and relief driver for his belongings and equipment.

Then it started to get sticky…

Apulius's journey

Apulius’s journey (Original map www.euratlas.com)

The Roman Empire’s effective northern border (limes) in AD 370 ran along the line of the the Rhine and Danube rivers. Today, the passage along the upper Rhine valley via Basel is an important transalpine route with a multi-lane motorway and railway line; in Apulius’s time it was a vital axis between Gaul and the East. If control of that passage was lost, the empire would be split in two.

The city of Augusta Raurica to the east of today’s Basel was a prosperous trading town whose innkeepers and traders probably made a tidy profit from passing trade. However, about AD 300, following the loss of  the right bank of the Rhine, the Roman army built a fort nearby called Castrum Rauracense. During the 4th century, it grew in strategic importance; emperors Constantius II and Julian assembled their armies at the Castrum Rauracense before marching to battle against the Alemanni, the ‘barbarians’ to the north. Given its physical vulnerability after its sacking by the Alemanni in 260 AD, Augusta Raurica was resettled on a much smaller scale on the site of the castrum (modern Kaiseraugst).

Augusta Raurica (Kaiseraugst, Google Maps extract)

Augusta Raurica (Kaiseraugst, Google Maps extract)

Here, Apulius was forced to change to mule trains and military escort. By 370 AD, slow moving carts and sole travellers (servants not counted) would have been easy pickings for any raiding parties. But the route was still relatively safe to Brigantium (Bregenz) where a Roman fleet was based to patrol Lake Constance. Not the easiest command with the ferocious Alemanni across the water, just waiting…

For the next stage, he needed a larger escort as he was crossing an open frontier zone where the risk of conflict with Alemanni war parties was almost inevitable, but once in Cambodumum (Kempten), he was back in Roman territory and relative safety on his way to Iuvavum (Salzburg) and Virunum, his posting in Noricum.

Conveying belongings is easy for us today; we chuck them in the car, or a strong suitcase, a high tech backpack with Wi-Fi connectivity and take a plane or train. Luggage in Apulius’s time was roped packs, panniers on mules, wooden chests on carriages or wagons, none of which was guaranteed waterproof unless covered by leather. (My sincere thanks to fellow scribe Ruth Downie for sending me copies from Lionel Casson’s ‘Travel in the Ancient World’ and Ann Hyland’s ‘Equus: the Horse in the Roman World’ to clarify this.)

And time, it took time. Using Stanford University’s ORBIS and the Italian https://omnesviae.org, I calculated the journey time by each form of transport, double checking  distances and physical landscape. And the more obvious routes in the area were starting to be inaccessible, not only from the weather, but as the empire literally lost ground. Apulius took about six weeks altogether. 

Virunum today (Photo: Wikipedia)

Virunum today (Photo: Wikipedia)

Today, to get to Maria Saal (nearest place to the site of Virunum), you can hop on a plane to Vienna, then one to Klagenfurt, hire a car and be there the same day seeing the same mountains Apulius would have seen. He may even have watched games in the amphitheatre being excavated in the photo above.

You can read about more Apulius’s journey and what happened to him in this backwater posting in ‘The Girl from the Market’ in ROMA NOVA EXTRA.

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, is now available in print and ebook.  Audiobooks are available for the first four of the series.

Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, FREE as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

So what's this 'Roma Nova' about?

The Roma Nova series covers
It’s about books. No, it’s about stories, stories of people, their aspirations, their dilemmas, their loves and their adventures.

Roma Nova is an imaginary country (except in the author’s head and in those of similar enthusiasts) which bears some physical resemblance to a small European country but nothing like or any other otherwise. Developing along an alternative timeline from ours, it’s a survivor from the mess at the end of the Roman Empire, its people value strength, service and loyalty.

Women have always been prominent from the first day they buckled on armour and stood side by side with their men to defend their tiny country. They run the government, businesses and families. But men are in no way disadvantaged.

Two trilogies centre round two tough but fallible heroines – Carina and Aurelia – both from the leading Mitela family. They are so similar in character, but their temperaments are different. Coffee is a must for both, but Aurelia likes a French brandy and Carina a chilled Castra Lucillan white wine.

Carina, warrior, councillor and mother

Carina, warrior, councillor and mother

Aurelia is a ‘bone-and blood’ Roma Novan brought up with Roman values that have endured for over fifteen hundred years. Carina, brought up in the Eastern United States, but tied by blood to Aurelia, has a less sure start, but she soon learns to become a solid Roma Novan, finding herself completely at ease in that society although she trips up on occasion.

Aurelia Mitela at different stages of her life in the series

Aurelia Mitela at different stages of her life in the series

Despite their service to the state in the elite Praetorian Guard and later as agents, then in government, both women find enduring love. However, that goes anything but smoothly for both of them and their children.

Conrad Mitelus, Carina’s husband

Miklós Farkas

Miklós Farkas, Aurelia’s partner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carina’s trilogy takes place in the ‘present plus’ and running underneath her adventures follows three themes – empowerment (INCEPTIO), betrayal (PERFIDITAS )and nemesis (SUCCESSIO).

Aurelia features in Carina’s story – she’s her grandmother after all – but as a young woman in the late 1960s (AURELIA) and in her forties in the 1980s (INSURRECTIO and RETALIO), she fights against an amoral criminal, later tyrant who threatens to destroy Roma Nova.

And the other two books? CARINA is a novella about what she did (or didn’t do) on her first mission overseas; ROMA NOVA EXTRA is a collection of shorter stories, uncovering hidden glimpses of our characters from AD 370 to 2029.

Roma Nova

Roma Nova

Triumphal arch

Triumphal arch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So if you’re looking for escapist thrillers with a Roman tone, special forces women, epic love, slightly off-piste heroines, loyalty, a sense of doing the right thing even if it’s not quite legal, a family with bad eggs and true heroes, tough men who have vulnerabilities, snappy dialogue and some provocations, you’re in the right place.

That’s a very quick run down. Take a look around the site – there’s a lot here for you…

*****

The giveaway is now finished

*****

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, is now available in print and ebook.  Audiobooks are available for the first four of the series.

Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, FREE as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

ROMA NOVA EXTRA - Fame at last!

Jumping up and down with excitement!

Barnes & Noble (yes, them) are featuring ROMA NOVA EXTRA in their new releases promotion, B&N Press Presents.
Okay, Bella André is on the first row of four and I’m on the sixth, but all the same…

 

And here it is!

 

So if you buy your books from B&N Press, formerly Nook, I’d love it if you would pre-order ROMA NOVA EXTRA today. 😉

Official publication date is 19 October!  Find out more about ROMA NOVA EXTRA here.

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, is now available in print and ebook.  Audiobooks are available for the first four of the series.

Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, FREE as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.