Via Egnatia

The ancient road Via Egnatia led from Durrës (Albania) via Thessaloniki (Greece) to Istanbul (Turkey).

Via Egnatia-en
Via Egnatia at Philippi
Via Egnatia at Kavala

This article is an itinerary.

. . . Via Egnatia . . .

The Via Egnatia was a Roman road that ran as an eastern continuation of the Via Appia between Rome and Istanbul (Constantinople, Byzantium), the two great metropolises of the late Roman Empire. Built between 146 and 120 BC, the army road was named after Gnaeus Egnatius, proconsul of Macedonia. He had commissioned the construction. In places, Macedonian royal roads were included in the construction. The ancient road ran through today’s Albania, North Macedonia, Greece and Turkey. The starting point was Durrës on the Albanian Adriatic. A southern branch began in Apollonia (at today’s Fier), which was also an important port city at the time. In the valley of the Shkumbin, the two branches first came together again. In the area of Lake Ohrid, there were again two routes that met near Heraclea Lynchestis (now Bitola). Then the route led south to Thessaloniki, from there it went eastwards to Istanbul.

Along the road, stations were built at regular intervals, in part at the beginning of the imperial era, about every 15 km horse changing stations (mutationes) and about every 40 km rest stops (mansiones), initially mainly for the state postal and courier service. Later, they were expanded and then used by travelers and traders, who then traveled from one rest area to another in one day, consisting of stables and horse cart depots, as well as dining and guest rooms. Among the larger service areas were also workshops and comfortable rest houses (praetoria) with baths (balnea). Vici (settlements) often developed in the vicinity of heavily frequented “mansiones” with other craft enterprises and larger bathing facilities, some of which developed into cities that still exist today (Thessaloniki) or have perished again (Philippi, Anastasiopolis).

The road was used by the apostle Paul on his second missionary journey when he traveled from Philippi to Thessaloniki (Acts 16-17). It also played a crucial role in several important moments of Roman history: the armies of Julius Caesar and Pompey marched during the civil war of Caesar along the Via Egnatia, and later the legions during the civil war between Mark Antony and Octavian and those of Cassius and Brutus who met for the Battle of Philippi. Milestones found prove that Emperor Trajan carried out extensive road repairs before his campaign against the Parthians. However, due to political instability in the region, the road was largely abandoned and maintained in the 5th century AD. A fifth-century historian noted that the western parts of Via Egnatia were in such poor condition that travelers could barely travel on it, which also had economic consequences for the places along the road.

ts important strategic and economic importance was not lost even after the decline of the Roman Empire. Also in Byzantine times, the Via Egnatia was one of the important roads. Crusaders and Ottoman invaders also used this route. The route changed partially in Byzantine times. In later years, the Via Egnatia was revived as the key road of the Eastern Roman Empire. Procopius (Procopius of Caesarea was a late antique Greek or early Byzantine historian of the 6th century AD. He is considered the last great historian of antiquity) reports on repairs of the East Roman Emperor Justinian I from the 6th century, since the dilapidated road now even in rainy weather was virtually unusable. Almost all Byzantine overland trade with Western Europe went along Via Egnatia. During the Crusades, the armies that traveled east by land followed the road to Constantinople before arriving in Asia Minor. Even in Ottoman times, this land route still had an important role.

Exact maps of the Via Egnatia do not exist, as the route has changed over the millennia and its remnants have been severely damaged in the 20th century by land development for agriculture. Further in Greek part of Thrace some remains of the Via Egnatia were uncovered. There, the route is known more precisely.

Preserved by the old Via Egnatia are only short sections, especially in Albania and partly also in Greece. Whoever wants to move along the Via Egnatia today, does so mainly because of the impressive landscapes in touristy uncrowded areas, the typical places that are not shaped by tourism, as is the case on the coastal towns and not least, to the to taste different dishes and wines that can be discovered along the more than 1000 km. The Via Egnatia is also part of the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

If you like the bathing pleasures by the sea, you will find excellent beaches along the Via Egnatia in Greece near Asprovalta, Kavala and Alexandroupolis.

. . . Via Egnatia . . .

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. . . Via Egnatia . . .

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