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The Magnificent Bridge Connecting Rome to Istanbul: Egnatia Road

Gabriele Martino- Every road that connects cultures has a traveler. They pass and go, leaving their traces on stony, dusty roads. The roads that collect the traces left by human beings and turn them into dust of history await their new passengers. The interconnected paths continue to shine from the past to the future, like a comet. The King’s Road, Hadrian’s Road, Silk Road and Amber Road are among the important roads that extend from the past to the present as cultural heritages. Egnatia Road, on the other hand, is one of the most important roads connecting the two important capitals of the period, Rome and Istanbul, shining like a culture star from past to present.


The Via Egnatia was among the first roads the Romans built outside of Italy. It was a branch of the magnificent road network that surrounded the borders of the empire that made Rome, Rome. It was built to connect Roman colonies stretching from the Adriatic Sea to the Bosphorus. Connecting with the Appian Way in the west and the Silk Road in the east, Via Egnatia has been connecting east and west for over 2,000 years. The Romans first created an east-west route that cut the Balkan peninsula between the Otranto Canal and the Gulf of Thessaloniki, connecting the Ionian and Lower Adriatic to the northern Aegean; later connecting the two capitals of the empire, projecting Rome to the East, expanding it into Byzantium-Constantinople. This road maintained its importance alone until a new road was opened further north during the reign of Emperor Augustus.

Egnatia, which is the road of all times from the Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans to our age, was also used as the main connection road in the Roman empire in the Eastern Mediterranean. Egnatia, which was constantly destroyed due to civil wars, was repaired in the 6th century during the reign of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. They made all their trades with the West through this route. After the Balkans came under Ottoman rule, the name of the road also had changed. Since the Ottomans called the routes they followed when they set out on a campaign as the right, middle and left arm, this road became the ‘Left Arm’ in Rumelia.

Egnatia, which takes its shine from the strategic and economic contribution it has made to the geography it covers, and what it has witnessed, also played an important role in several turning points in Roman history: During the great Roman Civil War in the late Roman Republic, the soldiers of Julius Caesar and Pompey along the Egnatia Road. had advanced; Mark Antony and Octavian had followed Cassius and Brutus along the same path; Emperor Trajan made his 113th campaign against the Parthians using this road…

Egnatia has also been one of the strategic actors in the spread of Christianity. Paul the Apostle used this route in his second missionary journey between Philippi and Thessaloniki. The Crusades were made on this road until Constantinople.

L'apostolo Paola in Via Egnatia
Le Crociate

Egnatia, which has been uniting the East and the West for nearly 2,000 years, becomes the most important actor in the intense exchange of cultures, languages, ideas and trade between Roman, Greek, Albanian, Slavic, Bulgarian, Jewish, Turkish and many peoples. It has affected the cultures of the people in the regions it passes through, such as music, food and art.

Via Egnatia played an important role especially during the Byzantine Empire, being one of the two ways to get to the Byzantine possessions, especially in the beautiful Sicily, just think of the beautiful city of Syracuse which had an important role, being in the Ionian coast, the which allowed to be reached by ships. In fact, the via Egnatia was the second way possible to arrive in present-day Southern Italy. The via Egnatia was the earthly road, while the second chance to cross the Mediterranean Sea to get from Constantinople to Syracuse.

The construction of the road, which started in 146 BC, took 26 years. The width of the approximately 1,120-kilometer road is about six meters wide “like the other main roads of Rome”. During the Roman period, round milestones were erected on the roads, showing their direction and distance from the center. The inscription on one of these stones exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki states that the construction of this road was organized by Gnaeus Egnatius, the Roman Governor in Macedonia. For this reason, it is thought that the name of the road comes from the Governor.

The Albanian route of the Egnatia Road, which connects Rome to Istanbul via Via Apria, starts from Durres (Dyrrachium), reaches Peklin (Claudiana), then passes to the village of Pojani (Apollonia) and finally reaches Elbasan (Masio Scampa). Egnatia, passing through Albania and then North Macedonia, first reaches Ohrid (Lychnidos) and then Monastery (Heraclea Lyncestis). Later, Egnatia, passing to the Greece stage, tours the cities of “Florina (Florina), Vodina (Edessa), Alakilise (Pella), Thessaloniki (Thessalonica), Amphipolis (Amphipolis) and Kavala (Neapolis). Finally, Egnatia, which passed to Turkey at the last stop, Ipsala (Kypsela), Enez (Aenus), Edirne (Adrianople), Kermeyan (Aproi), Çorlu (Caenophrurium), Marmara Ereğlisi (Perinthus), Silivri (Melantias), Küçükçekmece (Rhegion), Bakırköy (Hebdomon) reaches Istanbul (Byzantion) by passing through Istanbul (Çatalca).

Egnatia still remains attractive today. Those who are interested in art, culture and history from all over the world explore through road tourism to follow the traces of this rare cultural star, to be alone with their imagination and to experience different excitements…


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