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

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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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15 sep 2019






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Today I Found Out
Today I Found Out Hace 8 meses
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
4D bullshit Patroll Hace 15 días
I'd say the veiwer was using a business name, "Marble ezy", not "Marb-leesy"
NutsinBrazil Hace un mes
Malavoy L thank you for your reply
Malavoy L
Malavoy L Hace un mes
@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 Hace un mes
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 Hace 4 meses
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.
An Ngo
An Ngo Hace 13 horas
Wait, Simon is on here too?
nunya biznez
nunya biznez Hace un día
The question shouldn't be "How did the Romans build strait roads?" The question should be "Why couldn't anyone else build a strait road?" I am perplexed personally, how there are so many people who don't understand basic mechanical concepts and keep insisting that everything that ancient people did were all so mysterious and impossible to understand. Everything from ancient pyramids to ancient Rome to the Incas and Aztecs and Mayans. Light travels in a mostly strait line so all you have to do is follow light to get a strait road. You should be able to keep any road strait at least on a mile by mile basis to within a few feet using nothing but your eye and a half way decent amount of sunlight barring obstructions that one might have to go around. All you do is eyeball it. You eyeball as far as you can and most people can eyeball a mile or more with 30 seconds of training. Then you go to about half way along that mile and you line up an additional half mile with the half mile remaining ahead of you. This will keep a road strait to within a few hundred feet every mile which while admittedly isn't perfect it is straiter than 90% of all the roads in the US today. Add in one solid marker and track the sun and you can get an even better strait line to within a few feet for every mile. Now you want something damned near perfect you have a line of men a few hundred feet apart from each other for the length of road in question. have every one of them have a marking pole at the ready. Then when the shadow of the sun hits the spot where the road begins then have each and every man in the line mark the road where the shadow hits. Again this isn't perfect and will if long enough result in a curve but for a north to south road it should be pretty strait if everyone is at the same altitude. One can use long poles to correct for altitude if one knows the altitude of each spot which the ancients in Greece had a pretty good handle on thanks to Hipparchus. In fact trigonometry has been used in European construction ever since. Even before Hipparchus came up with trigonometry ancient Greeks, Egyptians and others came up with work arounds.
nunya biznez
nunya biznez Hace un día
The longest strait Roman road ever built in the UK is no more than about 50 miles.
JJAK Family
JJAK Family Hace un día
Because they built over already established roads from previous civilizations
Dancinfanz Hace un día
If you want a detailed breakdown Metatron a real Italian does good video on Roman roads.
Scot Coon
Scot Coon Hace un día
Many people on the Oregon trail had a tachometer on a wagon wheel to figure distance.
Canned Nolan
Canned Nolan Hace un día
Just think of the technology and knowledge that was lost with the fall of Rome.
Valkaneer Hace 2 días
They made super durable roads by not driving tractor trailers and other heavy vehicles on them.
LadyCroMag BuntCitch
I bring nothing to the table...
Beach Boy
Beach Boy Hace 4 días
One topic at a time please please, run out topics otherwise
Beach Boy
Beach Boy Hace 4 días
The roads topic amazing
MTF lambda-12
MTF lambda-12 Hace 4 días
Watch one of your videos after every wank. (This is true)
chris zag
chris zag Hace 5 días
done without modern tech.. lol we still use string to get straight lines
jerkyturkey007 Hace 6 días
If the Egyptians could build a four sided pyramid centuries before the Romans built straight roads, meh!
RedLikeWater Hace 6 días
The Romans didn't build any of the things attributed to them.
Modar Daboul
Modar Daboul Hace 7 días
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
Jose Moreno Porras Hace 8 días
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 Hace 8 días
The Christians that were burned is where we get the term "Roman Candle". BTW
Joey Redmon
Joey Redmon Hace 8 días
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 Hace 8 días
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 Hace 8 días
*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 Hace 9 días
DAMN! The massive amount of planning and work involved in that era just boggles the mind.
Justin Hace 10 días
5:05 Why is the surveyor in the photo wearing chainmail?
Hafman Hace 10 días
So basically, Nero was up against the fake news media.. lolol.. damn CNN.
Michael Hace 10 días
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 Hace 11 días
Do massive trucks and high speed vehicles travel on these ancient roads?
ProBro Goofy
ProBro Goofy Hace 11 días
@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 Hace 12 días
Woah, private Roman roads?
Mike Scharding
Mike Scharding Hace 13 días
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 Hace 13 días
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 Hace 15 días
What was the weight limit on Roman roads? Less the 40 tons (36,000kg) I bet.
Peter M. Eggers
Peter M. Eggers Hace 15 días
Thanks, very much enjoyed this episode.
1rider3 Blue
1rider3 Blue Hace 16 días
Because they don't have gas water and electric lines in them . That's why we can't stacked roads
David Peters
David Peters Hace 17 días
So why can't we build roads this good today?
Tommy Krieger
Tommy Krieger Hace 18 días
Simon is awesome
Laurie Huntley
Laurie Huntley Hace 18 días
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 Hace 20 días
They didnt have a billion 100,000 lb plus semi's raging at 80+mph all day everyday lol
Adam Hoague
Adam Hoague Hace 21 un día
Oh idk string? Didn't bother watching lol
balamstudios Hace 21 un día
Couldn't bother to sue metric system?
Mo mo
Mo mo Hace 22 días
This bitch looks like Babish
David Walters
David Walters Hace 22 días
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 Hace 23 días
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 Hace 23 días
Nero. . . The concept of "urban legend" has a long and noble history.
daniel alfieri
daniel alfieri Hace 25 días
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 Hace 26 días
If the Ancient Romans would see our today's roads...
C A Hace 28 días
They didn’t use cheap Mexican labor.
Kalle Konttinen
Kalle Konttinen Hace 28 días
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 Hace un mes
All roads lead to Rome
moreno franco
moreno franco Hace un mes
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 Hace 26 días
Yeah im sure Romans borrowed technology from tribes in Germany and Gaul lmao
Kyle Fleetwood
Kyle Fleetwood Hace un mes
Snow plow it let’s see how durable it really is
Senior Batman
Senior Batman Hace un mes
They weren't union and all the guys worked. It wasn't 8 white guys, watching one mexican dig.
Gary Snook
Gary Snook Hace un mes
Sounds like CNN covered that fire with the whole “Nero fiddled” story.
Herry Bells
Herry Bells Hace un mes
I've been to Italy many times and I can tell you they have forgotten about road quality all together
fatal_ error
fatal_ error Hace un mes
Seneca's letter to St. Paul seems to be a forgery of the 4th century though.
Imre Horvath
Imre Horvath Hace un mes
I thought you where vsauce
John Heath
John Heath Hace un mes
Ahhhhhhh, you sad BC not BCE, bell end
Earl Ziegler
Earl Ziegler Hace un mes
way to stay on topic. NOT
Jackson Redstar
Jackson Redstar Hace un mes
so basically, CNN has its roots back as far as ancient Rome....
Martin Arvidsson
Martin Arvidsson Hace un mes
"How did the Romans build straight roads?" Well.. they were not stupid. Just primitive..
Voltaic Fire
Voltaic Fire Hace un mes
Yet my council, with over 2000 years of technological improvement, can't fix the bloody pot holes in my village.
Rick Leib
Rick Leib Hace un mes
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 Hace un mes
Not built by the lowest bidder for one thing
Losh Hace un mes
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 Hace un mes
Is this European vsauce?
Salman Ramdani
Salman Ramdani Hace un mes
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 Hace un mes
Lloyd Grossman v 2.0
Cranberry Ripper
Cranberry Ripper Hace un mes
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 Hace un mes
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 Hace un mes
So Nero was a victim of fake news.
Phil Doubleday
Phil Doubleday Hace un mes
Hi VSauce!
Sicom Hace un mes
Wait, you're not Vsauce.
Patrick Combs
Patrick Combs Hace un mes
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 Hace un mes
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 Hace un mes
All roads lead to rome. But not a single one leads back home.
Scott de Brestian
Scott de Brestian Hace un mes
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 Hace un mes
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 Hace un mes
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 Hace un mes
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.
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