Roads to Rome Mapping Project

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All roads lead to Rome- but does this adage ring true in the modern world? Since the Middle Ages the phrase “all roads lead to Rome” was considered literally- all roads did lead to Rome, since the Roman Empire had been integral in building the vast majority of them.

The Roman Empire reached from the United Kingdom to North Africa and up into places now occupied by Russia. The Roman Empire was a massive entity, and roads from major trading cities and urban centers had their own path back to Rome.

The modern world is a lot more complicated than it was during the reign of the Romans. Three men had the idea to answer their own version of the old question, “Do all roads still lead to Rome?” They enlisted their expertise as digital geographers and interactive designers to create an interactive map that charts what roads still lead back to the ancient capital of Rome.

Benedikt Groß, Philipp Schmitt, and Raphael Reimman marked the modern roads that people would take from Europe’s capital cities to Rome. Using their skills they figured out a way to mark what roads are the most commonly used; these roads show up as darker lines on their map, while less travelled roads are displayed as narrower.

From nearly 400,000 cities around Europe they found the paths  that lead to Rome one by one.

The Roman Empire was blocked by expansion from a lack of modern technology to use to get over the big oceans in their way. To account for the connectedness of the modern world, the team mapped roads in the United States to nine different cities also named Rome.

Map showing roads leading to the nine places in the United States that are named "Rome".
There are nine places with the name “Rome” in the United States.

As it turns out, there is a city called Rome or Roma located on every continent (a total of 3,375,746 journeys). Once they had reached their goal of mapping the Roads to Rome, the team turned their hand to urban centers to find out what makes the most perfectly designed town. They determined that a perfectly designed town would have straight lines with roads leading directly to a city’s center; of course, very few cities meet this distinction.

The Roads to Rome project answered its ultimate question and created a series of visually beautiful depictions of the interconnectedness of the world both in the age of the Roman Empire and today.

Visit: Roads to Rome

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