Network Analysis to Understand the Roman Commerce. Connectivity and Transport Costs of the Roman Networks

Posted on 02 February 2016

Talk: Pau de Soto (University of Southampton), “Network Analysis to Understand the Roman Commerce. Connectivity and Transport Costs of the Roman Networks”


Date: Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Time: starting at 17:00 c.t. (i.e. 17:15)

Venue: DAI, Wiegandhaus, Podbielskiallee 69-71, D-14195 Berlin (map)


In recent times, several methodological approaches have been used to analyse the Roman transport. Some of them had very traditional archaeological backgrounds (ancient sources, pottery distribution). However, this project is based on the analysis of Roman infrastructures to understand the transport costs and the commercial routes and processes. This is an indispensable way to know the benefits and shortcomings of the transportation system created in Roman times. It is well known that the Roman Empire built the first big transport network in Western Europe and also in parts of Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa. This overwhelming task included not only the construction of roads with their correspondent bridges, but also the building of river ports and maritime harbours. Such a huge effort aimed to create an integrated economy covering all the Roman provinces on the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.

In the last few years, we have attempted to reconstruct the Roman transport conditions by modelling travel costs and times with the help of GIS and Network Analysis applications. The main geographical focus of this project was the NE of Hispania. It was necessary devote a significant effort to the gathering, documentation, analysis and digitisation of Roman communications with high precision. With the aim of using these methodology in a much broader geographic frame, the entire Iberian Peninsula, Italy and Britain were analysed with less detailed transport networks . It allows us to discover very interesting patterns. The results of such applications provide us with new information to understand the distribution of commodities, product competition and problems of stagnation in ancient economies such as that of Ancient Rome.

A thorough analysis of each distribution models set (both temporary and costs) provides valuable information for understanding the mechanisms of the Roman economy and society. It is therefore obvious that the combination of all of the approaches (archaeological material, ancient sources, network simulation…) should allow us to obtain a more global perspective of the Roman economy, especially in matters of movement of goods.

Therefore, it has been possible to observe how the construction of a complex communication network, especially based on the creation of land routes, meant an important element for the integration of new territories to the Roman provincial model. To understand the morphology of these networks, we have applied the analysis of the Centrality Degree of each of the urban areas in this territory, but with some variations. The value of each node of the network had depended on the number of edges that relate to them but giving different values to each edge depending the kind of transport that they represent.

Finally, the ability to see graphically and numeral those costs values which until now they could only be guessed, can open new perspectives and justifications to the speeches made on the work done until today. In fact, the comparison between these results and the analysis of archaeological and historical interpretations should complement each other, clarifying and offering more elements for a global vision.


Or you can download the slides from here (30 MB).



Or download the video from here (460 MB).


Or download the video from here (234 MB).