Motorway maximus: Roman super-highway built 1,900 years ago
But, eventually, the Romans left Britain and the magnificent highway they created was reclaimed by nature and seemingly lost for ever.
Now, some 2,000 years after it was built, it has been uncovered in the depths of a forest in Dorset.
Constructed by the Roman invaders as part of a route from London (Londinium) to Exeter (Isca), the 85ft wide earthwork stands more than 15ft high and consists of a sweeping road with deep ditches at the side.
It was so densely covered by trees, however, that although its existence was known about, it simply could not be found until now.
One of the country’s first roads, it was uncovered when the Forestry Commission, acting on advice from English Heritage expert Peter Addison, cleared the Norway spruce fir trees in Puddletown Forest.
Mr Addison said it was the biggest Roman road he had come across and that it was probably designed to make a statement. It is thought that it might have been built shortly after the Roman conquest in the first century and its scale would have been chosen to intimidate people living nearby.
The sight of a Roman legion marching along it would surely have had the desired effect.
It is thought the road would have been made from layers of gravel and the fact it still exists is testimony to the skills of the builders.
There is a central cobbled ‘street’, which would have been used for rapid troop movements, and outer ‘droving’ roads for livestock, as well as ditches for water drainage.
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