Apian way roman road Minturno_Via-Appia wikiemdia public domain 645
Apian Way. (Source: Wikimedia, public domain)

Any review of the history of civilization will bring forth the linkage between infrastructure and the expansion of civilization. Roman civilization is well known for having mastered the four primary types of enabling infrastructure—roads, sewers, aqueducts, and ports—necessary for the creation of permanent settlements of large numbers of people and the necessary trade between these settlements. For example, the famed Roman Appian Way (Via Appia) was part of an extensive network of carefully engineered and constructed, stone-paved roads that totaled about 50,000 miles in length. These were a fraction of the total length of nearly 250,000 miles of paved and unpaved roads spanning the empire. These roads were just a part of the entire logistical network of roads, ports, river travel, coastal sea travel, and open sea travel that linked the entire political/trading empire together. An illustration of the extent of this logistical network is shown below in the Orbis map from Standford University. (Clink on the map to open the Orbis site.) While Rome is generally thought of in terms of its military conquests, emperors, buildings, etc., the underlying enabler for Rome’s success was its logistics. Becoming part of the Roman empire was becoming part of civilization. For upwards of 100 million people at its peak, this was progress.

Stanford Orbis model example
Example Orbis Map (