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Greek Roads in South Attica*

  • J. H. Young (a1)

‘Although the Greeks seem to have undertaken the founding of their cities most successfully looking for beauty and security of position, harbours, and fertile country, the [Romans] planned best those matters which the Greeks made light of, laying down roads, and bringing in water … They laid a network of roads over the countryside, adding cuttings over the hills and embankments along the valleys, so that their wagons can accommodate whole shiploads’

So says Strabo (v. 3.8), stating concisely a great deal that has since been written contrasting the beauty-loving Greeks with the practical Romans. S The justly admired roads of the Romans have long been a symbol of Rome at her best. The Greeks come off very poorly indeed when contrasted with Rome in the matter of roadbuilding—so poorly that their apologists have often felt constrained to explain it away : the mountain-terrain, and the division into unco-operative city-states were hostile to the development of road-building. Yet both these excuses are groundless, for under certain circumstances the Greeks did build roads over difficult terrain and across state boundaries. Roads from quarries to temple-sites are good examples of the first difficulty overcome, sacred roads of the second. The truth is that the Greeks could build good roads if the need for them was sufficiently compelling, but they had no sense of the ROAD, as the Romans did, and as we do to-day.

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1 Travlos in Praktika, 1938, pp. 25 ff.

2 LG. II2, 1582, 1, 116; it is probably also that in Hesperia, 19 (1950), p. 210.

3 For a photograph, see Hesperia, 10 (1941), p. 178.

4 Cf. that illustrated in Miss Lorimer’s article in J.H.S. 23 (1903), pp. 132 ff.; the example on a familiar Cabeiric cup shown by her is better illustrated in Wolters-Brunn, Kabeirenheiligtum, pl. 11.

This paper, in a slightly different form, was read at the 56th General Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America; an abstract appears in A.J.A., (1955), p. 175. Two good studies of Greek rods may be cited: the one by E. Curtius in Abhandlungen Akad. Berlin, 1855, the other by Th. Despontopoulos in Technika Chronika, 17 (1940), pp. 329 ff.

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  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
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