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Bill Thayer

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An article from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, now in the public domain.
Any color photos are mine, © William P. Thayer.

Vol. I
Via Aemilia

Aemilia Via, or Aemilian Way.

(1) A highroad of Italy, constructed in 187 B.C. by the consul M. Aemilius Lepidus, from whom it takes its name; it ran from Ariminum to Placentia, a distance of 176 m. almost straight NW, with the plain of the Po (Padus) and its tributaries on the right, and the Apennines on the left. The 79th milestone from Ariminum found in the bed of the Rhenus at Bononia records the restoration of the road by Augustus from Ariminum to the river Trebia in 2 B.C. (Notiz. Scav., 1902, 539). The bridge by which it crossed the Sillaro was restored by Trajan in A.D. 100 (Notizie degli Scavi, 1888, 621). The modern highroad follows the ancient line, and some of the original bridges still exist. After Augustus, the road gave its name to the district which formed the eighth region of Italy (previously known as Gallia or Provincia Ariminum), at first in popular usage (as in Martial), but in official language as early as the 2nd century; it is still in use (see Emilia). The district was bounded on the N by the Padus, E by the Adriatic, S by the river Crustumium (mod. Conca), and W by the Apennines and the Ira (mod. Staffora) at Iria (mod. Voghera), and corresponds approximately with the modern district.

(2) A road constructed in 109 B.C. by the censor M. Aemilius Scaurus from Vada Volaterrana and Luna to Vada Sabatia and thence over the Apennines to Dertona (Tortona), where it joined  p257 the Via Postumia from Genua to Cremona. We must, however (as Mommsen points out in CIL V p885), suppose that the portion of the coast road from Vada Volaterrana to Genua at least must have existed before the construction of the Via Postumia in 148 B.C. Indeed Polybius (III.39.8) tells us (and this must refer to the time of the Gracchi if not earlier) that the Romans had in his time built the coast road from the Rhone to Carthago Nova; and it is incredible that the coast road in Italy itself should not have been constructed previously. It is, however, a very different thing to open a road for traffic, and so to construct it that it takes its name from that construction in perpetuity.

[T. As.]

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Page updated: 12 Jul 08