Rome Top Destinations

Via Aurelia: The Roman Empire’s Lost Highway

French amateur archaeologist Bruno Tassan fights to preserve a neglected 2,000-year-old ancient interstate in southern Provence

In 7 B.C., at a point along the Via Aurelia, the Romans erected a monument to the emperor Augustus. (Clay McLachlan)
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"You can see that the two aqueducts were built side by side," Tassan pointed out. "One fed the water mill just below, the other provided water to Arles. Now we're going to see something unusual." We followed the second aqueduct as it veered sharply to the right, away from the promontory, through an olive grove. Then, abruptly, it disappeared.

"What happened here?" I asked him.

He shrugged. "It could have been destroyed by the barbarians, to cut off the water supply to Arles," he replied. "But that's just a hypothesis. Nobody knows."

Tassan stood pensively beside the last stone arch for a time. Then, he pulled out his tape measure, got back down on his hands and knees, and began examining one more set of chariot-wheel grooves on the ancient road.

Writer Joshua Hammer is based in Berlin.
Photographer Clay McLachlan works from Paris.

About Joshua Hammer
Joshua Hammer

Joshua Hammer is a foreign freelance correspondent and frequent contributor to Smithsonian magazine.

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