History for the Rest of Us

All Roads Lead to Rome – Milliarium Aureum

In 20 BC, Augustus, as curator viarum or inspector-in-chief of a road or roads, erected the Milliarium Aureum. This monument was most likely a marble column sheathed in gilded bronze and was adjacent to the Rostra on the opposite side from the Umbilicus Urbis. A huge marble cylinder matching this description was found in 1835 near this location. All roman roads were considered to begin from this point and distances in the Roman Empire were measured relative to that point. Hence, the saying ‘All roads lead to Rome’ was surely a reference to the Milliarium Aureum.

Milliarium Aureum location

Location of the Milliarium Aureum relative to the Rostra, and Umbilicus Urbis

There are three main hypotheses about what the inscription on the monument contained:

1. It contained only the name and title of the Emperor.
2. It contained the names of the most important cities of Italy and the Empire with the distances to them from Rome.
3. It contained the names of the roads out of Rome and the men who had been made curator viarum to oversee the upkeep of them.

The Milliarium Aureum - monument representing the fact that 'All Roads lead to Rome'. Image from our upcoming book and video game 'Revenge of the Praetorian'.

The Milliarium Aureum – monument representing the fact that ‘All Roads lead to Rome’. Image from our upcoming book and video game ‘Revenge of the Praetorian’. http://www.revengeofthepraetorian.com Twitter:@RevengeOTP

While there are marble fragments in the Forum Romanum labeled Milliarium Aureum, scholars tend to believe these fragments actually are from the Umbilicus Urbis. The derived diameter of these fragments match the diameter of the Umbilicus Urbis and would have probably been too large for a milestone monument.

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