New Section Of Famous Roman Road ‘Via Domitia’ Discovered In France

Archaeologists at the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP) have discovered a new portion of the Via Domitia (Domitian Way), the ancient Roman road that once linked Spain and Italy via southern France. The discovery of the Roman road section was made prior to laying a hydraulic pipe to secure the water supply between the southern French areas of Montpellier and Narbonne.

An aerial view of the new Roman road section, part of the legendary Via Domitia, discovered in the scrublands above the town of Loupian, France. ( INRAP)

Via Domitia: A Key Roman Road That Went From Italy to Spain

According to  INRAP’s initial report , the new section of the Via Domitia, linking northwestern Italy to  the Pyrenees , was found in the scrublands above the town of Loupian, France. The excavations were carried out on behalf of the French government as part of the third phase of the Aqua Domitia project, which will draw water from the Rhone River to supply the Montpellier- Narbonne region.

In a statement related to the find on the  INRAP website , the archaeologists note

 “The excavation carried out in the hills of Moure, north of the village of Loupian (Hérault) concerns a section of track located between the ancient road station of Forum Domitii (Montbazin) and the Relais de Marinesque. The stripping carried out over a hundred meters long makes it possible to specify the position of the track in these reliefs, where its passage was not assured.

Despite the fame of this road, few excavations have so far brought to light its route. The few operations that tell us about its implementation were carried out in an urban context, in connection with stopover locations or the location of watercourse crossings. Only rare cross-sectional observations in roadside embankments allowed us to get an idea of ​​its appearance in the countryside.”

The Via Domitia (also known as the Domitian Way) was conceived by Domitius Ahenobarbus, who became a  Roman consul  in 54 BC. He was an enemy of  Julius Caesar  and a strong supporter of the aristocratic (Optimates) party in the late Roman Republic.

For the perpetually warring Roman empire, the Via Domitia Roman road was a strategic asset that allowed Rome to exert its dominance and regularly allow the entry and exit of troops between Spain and Italy, on a well-built route.

Chariot ruts in the Via Domitia which connected eastern France (Briançon; about 250 km or 155 miles east of Loupian where the new section was recently discovered) to La Junquera, Spain. (Benoît Strepenne /  CC BY-SA 3.0 )

The Loupian Roman Road Section: Initial Evidence

The structure of the Via Domitia roadway comprised two secondary roads (which functioned like aisles) flanking a central roadway. The central track was built from  limestone blocks  and clay shards, while the side aisles were made of limestone blocks, gravel and old blocks from earlier earthworks. The central road was paved above this formation, and then flattened with earth and soil to solidify the base.

Due to the passage of carts, troops and  beasts of burden , ruts were commonplace in Roman roads, and this was also true of the recently discovered section in the scrublands above Loupian.

The 3-aisle Loupian Roman road section is 18 meters (59 feet) wide, with each aisle measuring almost 6 meters (19 feet) in width. The Loupian aisles were roughly constructed and randomly packed with sand and stony sections. There were no planned embankments.

Carts obviously passed along these aisles based on the evidence found so far at the Loupian site. So far, French archaeologists have unearthed  pulleys, harnesses, and  cart remnants , which have all been dated to after the 1st century BC, right up to the 4th century AD.

Top image: The scrublands above Loupian, France where the Roman road section of the ancient Domitian Way that linked Italy with Spain, was recently discovered by French archaeologists.                                                                 Source:  INRAP

By Rudra Bhushan

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