How Did the Ancient Romans Manage to Build Perfectly Straight, Ultra Durable Roads?

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In this video:
The ancient Romans were a people famed for their architectural prowess, something no better demonstrated than by their ability to build almost perfectly straight and incredibly durable roads spanning expansive distances. For example, in Britain alone, the Romans built well over 50,000 miles of roads with the longest ruler-straight stretch spanning over 50 miles. They did all of this in an era without modern surveying tools, construction equipment, or even very accurate maps of precisely where their destination was for many of the areas. So how did they do it?
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Sep 15, 2019




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Today I Found Out
Today I Found Out 8 months ago
Thanks again to Brilliant for sponsoring this one! If Brilliant sounds interesting to you, please do go help support Todayifoundout using this link: brilliant.org/todayifoundout Thanks!
4D bullshit Patroll
I'd say the veiwer was using a business name, "Marble ezy", not "Marb-leesy"
NutsinBrazil Month ago
Malavoy L thank you for your reply
Malavoy L
Malavoy L Month ago
@NutsinBrazil Because the English wouldn't have known what a lyre was. Also, 'lyre' sounds like the English world 'liar' which means 'one who lies', and the structure of the saying would have required them to use 'lyred' which would not have made sense. A fiddle is a name for a violin, but it is also a verb which means 'to touch or fidget in a nervous way', a description of what playing a violin would look like. Hence you can have the saying in English as it is structured with the verb implying the instrument being played, even if there weren't any violins in Nero's time.
NutsinBrazil Month ago
In Portuguese we say that "Nero played the lyre while Rome burned". I don't know why the English version is that he "fiddled".
Malavoy L
Malavoy L 4 months ago
Though I'm running across this a bit late, the odometer you refer to was invented by Archimedes. Before the Romans went to war with Sicily, they hired him to develop a way to measure a mile accurately. And as you said, Da Vinci used the description of the device to try to make one, but use the type of gears typical in the renaissance. The triangular toothed gears would have been easier for the ancients to make with a file.
LadyCroMag BuntCitch
I bring nothing to the table...
Beach Boy
Beach Boy Day ago
One topic at a time please please, run out topics otherwise
Beach Boy
Beach Boy Day ago
The roads topic amazing
MTF lambda-12
MTF lambda-12 2 days ago
Watch one of your videos after every wank. (This is true)
chris zag
chris zag 2 days ago
done without modern tech.. lol we still use string to get straight lines
jerkyturkey007 3 days ago
If the Egyptians could build a four sided pyramid centuries before the Romans built straight roads, meh!
RedLikeWater 3 days ago
The Romans didn't build any of the things attributed to them.
Modar Daboul
Modar Daboul 4 days ago
The thumbnail image is near my village in Syria
Anonymous Libertarian
Dude, Nero's servants STARTED THE FIRE so Nero could rebuild Roma in his own image. The crime solely belonged to him. The early Christian sources are 100% correct and they did not lie. Nero was a MONSTER and whoever excuses his crimes or covers up for him is also a MONSTER.
Jose Moreno Porras
This video has a ton of WRONG INFO. Streets in the city had paved/stone surface,roads were build outside of the city,made of smooth gravel. This is very a common mistake. Roman horses had their feet naked,no horseshoe on Roman horses. Then you have a 5 metric tons (max payload) wooden wheels cart,very massive running all over the Empire. Roman roads are like modern highways,same principals all over the Empire,same methods. Wood wheels do not run over stones fine,like horses with no horseshoe,so no paved roads. Street(via)=stone road=gravel. Roman Roads are truly massive,by far much more impressive than any paved Roman street. Almost every people I know have the same wrong concept in their minds,even well educated people. This subject is well know from centuries,but We still think in stone paved street as Roman roads, those are city streets,thought to walk over it mostly. Most of the true Roman roads are in the middle of nowhere fossilized and buried underground,cos in many places they were unused by centuries. It is something relatively new the discovery of some of this roads,you need a plane and LIDAR images and very good historic clues to find them.
Joey Redmon
Joey Redmon 5 days ago
The Christians that were burned is where we get the term "Roman Candle". BTW
Joey Redmon
Joey Redmon 5 days ago
Technically 'decimated' means to remove 10% of 'something'. It came from an ancient Roman military disciplinary action. If a general et al, was not happy with his troops performance, 10% of them would be killed.
Jeremy Broussard
Jeremy Broussard 6 days ago
You never said anything about how they made the roads straight. You mentioned how they leveled something, but not how they made a straight path.
Scottie D
Scottie D 6 days ago
*Nerd comment warning*- at 8 mins and 5 seconds you said, "funnily enough" which I wouldn't think twice about BUT you had mentioned during the cast with Davin about words and dictionaries and whatnot that even if it's written in a script you usually go with, "funny enough" because that's what is more natural to you. I'm not bitching, I'm just claiming my spot as an o.g. legend. Haha. As always, good stuff!
mangojulie123 6 days ago
DAMN! The massive amount of planning and work involved in that era just boggles the mind.
Justin 7 days ago
5:05 Why is the surveyor in the photo wearing chainmail?
Hafman 7 days ago
So basically, Nero was up against the fake news media.. lolol.. damn CNN.
Michael 7 days ago
Those letters between Seneca and Paul are well known to be obvious forgeries written centuries later, so they certainly can’t be taken as any indicator of contemporary reactions to anything.
Mike McCafferty
Mike McCafferty 8 days ago
Do massive trucks and high speed vehicles travel on these ancient roads?
ProBro Goofy
ProBro Goofy 8 days ago
@Today I Found Out ...Did you say that "Nero cut the price of corn"? Wasn't corn not even discovered until the discovery of the New World?
mtownzach 9 days ago
Woah, private Roman roads?
Mike Scharding
Mike Scharding 10 days ago
How did the Romans build great roads? Answer: with slave labor. You look at it with different eyes now. A symbol of tyrant and oppression.
Mr. Pavone
Mr. Pavone 10 days ago
I bet it had something to do with them not having 1000 tractor trailers per day driving over their roads.
Piper A R
Piper A R 12 days ago
What was the weight limit on Roman roads? Less the 40 tons (36,000kg) I bet.
Peter M. Eggers
Peter M. Eggers 12 days ago
Thanks, very much enjoyed this episode.
1rider3 Blue
1rider3 Blue 13 days ago
Because they don't have gas water and electric lines in them . That's why we can't stacked roads
David Peters
David Peters 14 days ago
So why can't we build roads this good today?
Tommy Krieger
Tommy Krieger 15 days ago
Simon is awesome
Laurie Huntley
Laurie Huntley 16 days ago
Ugly fact. The romans gave the order to kill Jesus. It wasn’t the Jewish People. Herod was Just a Roman Puppet and fought this idea. But Herod still carried out the death of this man named Jesus
Dustin noneya
Dustin noneya 18 days ago
They didnt have a billion 100,000 lb plus semi's raging at 80+mph all day everyday lol
Adam Hoague
Adam Hoague 18 days ago
Oh idk string? Didn't bother watching lol
balamstudios 18 days ago
Couldn't bother to sue metric system?
Mo mo
Mo mo 19 days ago
This bitch looks like Babish
David Walters
David Walters 20 days ago
This is so strange, I'm in Canada and this video isn't blocked! We may pave just to create potholes, but perhaps this will pave the way for using ground compactors more.
John Campbell
John Campbell 20 days ago
This must be Simon's Family Hour version of the video. Although I'm speculating here, I can't imagine that the businesses springing up around the way stations did not also include brothels, given the Roman predilection for the pleasures of the flesh.
Old_Guard 20 days ago
Nero. . . The concept of "urban legend" has a long and noble history.
daniel alfieri
daniel alfieri 22 days ago
Always interesting looking back and observing. You can have a more objective and dispassionate view of things but it will lack something for the audience of course. Which is probably who the original writers were considering or selling to. I’m pretty sure we all knew those historians were looking at the event through a tainted lens however reputable they may have been. The details seems to support the premises of myth and biased against Nero, yet as the time equates with ego, cruel treatment of differing classes and his own apparent questionable mental health; probably he was not exactly fully responsible with his actions of the time. There could’ve been a simple plan put in place to have the fire started while he is away and he comes back to pass himself off as the hero while gaining access to property he needed for his new project? But what information would support that except what came to light years later? Conjecture is always fun, lol. Of course it does make sense the details of opening up his garden for the displaced and performing for them and that becoming the basis for his playing an instrument (that did not exist yet) and watching it burn (there always seems to be at least a little truth within the myth). Anyway, nice job but I guess we still don’t know “the rest of the story” just yet.
Luna Imperia
Luna Imperia 23 days ago
If the Ancient Romans would see our today's roads...
C A 25 days ago
They didn’t use cheap Mexican labor.
Kalle Konttinen
Kalle Konttinen 25 days ago
To mark shap line in terrain you need just sticks that are sharp from top. Just look line back and put third stick in line with previous and continue that.. You can easily make straight line of 10 km..
Touch Me
Touch Me 27 days ago
All roads lead to Rome
moreno franco
moreno franco 28 days ago
The Roman's "borrowed" a lot of these technologies from the lands they conquered, then passed them off as their own. Or more correctly we attribute the romans for inventing these things without doing our homework first.
@SKANDERBEG there where people before the romans, and people they conquered in the Mediterranean smart ass.
SKANDERBEG 23 days ago
Yeah im sure Romans borrowed technology from tribes in Germany and Gaul lmao
Kyle Fleetwood
Kyle Fleetwood Month ago
Snow plow it let’s see how durable it really is
Senior Batman
Senior Batman Month ago
They weren't union and all the guys worked. It wasn't 8 white guys, watching one mexican dig.
Gary Snook
Gary Snook Month ago
Sounds like CNN covered that fire with the whole “Nero fiddled” story.
Herry Bells
Herry Bells Month ago
I've been to Italy many times and I can tell you they have forgotten about road quality all together
fatal_ error
fatal_ error Month ago
Seneca's letter to St. Paul seems to be a forgery of the 4th century though.
Imre Horvath
Imre Horvath Month ago
I thought you where vsauce
John Heath
John Heath Month ago
Ahhhhhhh, you sad BC not BCE, bell end
Earl Ziegler
Earl Ziegler Month ago
way to stay on topic. NOT
Jackson Redstar
Jackson Redstar Month ago
so basically, CNN has its roots back as far as ancient Rome....
Martin Arvidsson
"How did the Romans build straight roads?" Well.. they were not stupid. Just primitive..
Voltaic Fire
Voltaic Fire Month ago
Yet my council, with over 2000 years of technological improvement, can't fix the bloody pot holes in my village.
Rick Leib
Rick Leib Month ago
The Romans are a small blip in the history of Britain. Before them is a whole plethora of cultures and the impact that each had on the countryside and topography in general are all well documented. There is good reason to believe that many of the roads attributed to the Romans were already “set out” and being used by the long distant travellers of eras before. The method of laying a straight Walkway, as apposed to building a road, relied upon feelings that relate to water-dowsing, in as much as that the long distance walker was usually a holy-man/ Druid. It has long been established in this country that ley lines are the geodesic compass of these men, and that they traverse this country. Those that were sensitive to the transmissions/ vibrations from natural geological faults, could range the whole country over, with important buildings or markers being erected at important junctions of these ley lines. That the Romans built roads to convey whole armies and their associated wagonloads of (everything), then it is fair to say ‘that they would be cutting of their nose to spite their face’, to not use an already well established line-of-March, so to speak.
Don Neale
Don Neale Month ago
Not built by the lowest bidder for one thing
Losh Month ago
Gosh. The Romans sound like modern freeway or motorway builders and city planners. It's such a shame that it ended and everyone went backwards in technology.
Karter Month ago
Is this European vsauce?
Salman Ramdani
Salman Ramdani Month ago
It's interesting to me how we see the people of the past so lowly, They're just a bit smarter than we thought.
Adam Jones
Adam Jones Month ago
Lloyd Grossman v 2.0
Cranberry Ripper
They didnt get paid to do the bare minimum like the people who built roads in north america. Literally get fucked every winter and the shoulders falling into the ditch. Then they get paid again to patch the mistakes year after year
Bill Hamilton
Bill Hamilton Month ago
Simon your babbling sure can become annoying after a while... do you ever take a breath or time off or read your copy just a little different? Ever?
Knights Edge
Knights Edge Month ago
So Nero was a victim of fake news.
Phil Doubleday
Phil Doubleday Month ago
Hi VSauce!
Sicom Month ago
Wait, you're not Vsauce.
Patrick Combs
Patrick Combs Month ago
By using blood, sweat and tears. Maybe literally blood. Blood or maybe milk added too the concrete they had then made it get and be stronger over time.
pbowser89 Month ago
So if 132 private homes were damaged and that was only 7% of the private homes then I think there was between 1,885-1,887 private homes. I wouldn't be surprised if I was wrong though, I am not good at math whatsoever.
davekachel Month ago
All roads lead to rome. But not a single one leads back home.
Scott de Brestian
This video doesn't really answer the question -- the assertion is made that 'surveyors would set markers on points like hills', but the question is how that was done in such a way to ensure the road was straight. I haven't come across a good explanation for how that would be done.
pbowser89 Month ago
I tried to find an answer for you but it seems that what I found is pretty much the same as what Simon said in the video. I did find one thing that I'm not sure was mentioned in the video, I may have totally missed Simon mentioning it. I'm gonna paste the answers that I found along with the links to where I got them at the bottom of this comment. "The simple answer is that they used a form of surveying tool called a groma. This basically consisted of two pieces of wood nailed together to form a square cross with right angles in all corners. Each piece of wood had lead weights attached to the end, and they determined they had a straight line when the lead weight from one piece of wood lined up with the one in front of it. Wood posts would be used to stake out the boundaries of the road in order to help maintain a straight line over an extended distance." - history.stackexchange.com/questions/8971/how-did-the-romans-build-straight-roads-that-stretched-very-long-distances "Of course, you would think certain natural features - steep hills and valleys - of the landscape could affect the straightness of the via munita. Not so, Roman roads went straight up the most precipitous of slopes without winding back and forth in hairpin bends like modern roads. This is because a marching man on foot can go straight up a steep hill and then rest to recover before moving on much quicker than if he wound around a gently rising slope." - www.historyextra.com/period/roman/why-did-romans-build-straight-roads-lines/ This is one of the tools that was uses along with the Groma "Chorobates The chorobates is described as a rod 20ft long with duplicate legs attached perpendicularly at each end. Diagonals connect the rods and legs. Both diagonal members have vertical lines scriven in them over which plumb bobs hang. When the instrument is in position and the plumb lines strike both the scribe lines the instrument is level. If the wind interferes the water level at the top of the horizontal is used. Vitruvius instructs the groove should be 5 ft long 1 digit wide and 1.5 digits deep." I couldn't get a link for that because it came from a PDF. But the title of the paper and the author is. How Did the Romans Achieve Straight Roads? Richard Adrian HUCKER, United Kingdom
Azula of the Firenation
When Romans declared that Rome will last thousands of years, they took it to heart.
John Williamson
John Williamson Month ago
You had put out very interesting videos in the past with a small amount out advertising. Now 1/3 of the video's length is advertising?! I am considering canceling my subscription because of this. I'm quite sure that I am not alone in this.
Carl Witt
Carl Witt Month ago
A whole lot of similarities to a certain current world leader, wouldn't ya say? Blamed for things he had nothing to do with, accused of not doing enough for his people in a time of need when infact the exact opposite is true, wild stories about his behavior with literally zero evidence to support them, hated by the (Senate) established political parties but loved by the commoners...ect,ect,ect.
Shelly Mathews
Shelly Mathews Month ago
Hmm sounds like ancient Trump story.
Dudes Bad
Dudes Bad Month ago
The roads are far from perfect but still pretty awesome. They didn't have huge trucks with tons of weight driving down them every day..
DomesticHausCat Month ago
*A L I E N S*
glidercoach Month ago
I have no idea. They must have forgotten how because the roads in my village SUCK!
Jun Ier
Jun Ier Month ago
I can't be the only one who clicked because I thought it was Vsauce
They were Roman The end.
Lani Cotton
Lani Cotton Month ago
And remember, a lot of the stories about cruel the Romans were to Christians came from the Christians.
Mark T.
Mark T. Month ago
But the cruelty described by Tacitus, who was not a Christian, is nasty enough. (beaten to death, torn apart by dogs, tied up and set on fire in Nero's gardens...)
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