Itineraria romana. Itineraria Antonini Augusti et Burdigalense edidit Otto Cuntz ; conspectum librorum recentiorum adiecit Gerhard Wirth. Ed. stereotypa editionis primae, 1929. Stutgardiae 1990 (Bibliotheca Scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana).
The title of the work known as the Itinerarium Antonini seeks to attribute the collection of itineraries that it contains to the emperor Antoninus Augustus, usually identified with Antoninus Caracalla (r. 211-217) or one of the other Antonines. In fact, it contains the work of one or more redactors whose identities are now unknown to us. It is nevertheless clear that the text was assembled during the late empire (4th-5th c.) by collecting and recomposing diverse material that originated in various periods.
The work is a pamphlet composed of two independent sections: first is the so-called Itinerarium provinciarum, which lists a series of over-land routes (itinera) across Italy and the provinces of the Roman empire; second is the Itinerarium maritimum, which provides navigation instructions for over-sea journeys on the Mediterranean and Atlantic. As the work proceeds, it mostly reads like a catalogue or descriptive text, a sort of inventory of places from the ancient world ordered according to the web of roads connecting the empire. It can be attributed to the genre of geographical writing, yet does not appear to have been composed with any practical intent (i.e. for planning a trip), but rather with aims that are broadly cultural and literary.
The most recent critical edition is Otto Cuntz’s Teubner (1929, reprinted 1990). Reference to the pages and lines of Peter Wesseling’s Vetera Romanorum itineraria (Amsterdam 1735), however, is often provided when citing individual passages, a practice that Cuntz maintained in his edition.
Taken together, the Itinerarium provinciarum contains descriptions of 256 itinera, i.e. over-land routes. Each of these is defined by a rubric or short title indicating the place of departure, the place of arrival, and the total distance, as well as intermediary legs with their respective partial distances. An example: A Vercellas Laude m. p. LXX: Laumello m. p. XXV, Ticino m. p. XXII, Laude m. p. XXIII (It. Ant. 282.2-283.2). Here, the individual legs correspond to easily identifiable urban centers, and the sum of the partial distances equals the total distance of the route. The distances are normally given in Roman miles (indicated by the initials “m. p.”). From a philological vantage, these represent the most challenging parts of the text, since abbreviations of this sort are prone to errors of transcription that are quite difficult for modern critics to correct. The length of individual legs varies considerably, but on average amount to about twenty miles. In many cases the description is abbreviated, and minor way stations are passed over.
Description of the over-land routes begins at the Pillars of Hercules, which represents the western limit of the known world at the time; it then stretches across northern Africa to Egypt before covering Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica; from there it follows Italy and the eastern provinces of the empire, ending with the Danube regions and the western territories (the Gauls, Spain, Britain). The list is composed according to a strict hierarchy that passes from a territory’s primary to its secondary axes, branching out - quite literally - towards the outlying areas.
There are a total of 71 itinera related to Italy: of these, 17 are concerned with the three major islands (7 for Sardinia, 1 for Corsica, 9 for Sicily) and 54 with the peninsula itself. By charting all the routes onto a physical map, one can assemble a detailed outline of the web of paved roads in Italy between the 3rd and 4th c. A few roads (and their byways) that are known from other sources are missing, however, while others are described more than once (e.g. the Via Aemilia). The chief thoroughfares that stretch out from Rome are for the most part identified by their ancient names, which in a few cases ought properly to apply only to the initial leg of the route (e.g. the name Via Appia is used to identify the entire paved road from the capital to Reggio Calabria, yet we know from other sources that this designation only applied to the road as far as Capua).
The importance of different centers within the communication network of the peninsula can be deduced from the number of times each one is mentioned as a point of departure or arrival. Among these Rome is of course the most common (14 itinera), followed by Milan (8 itinera), Aquilieia (6 itinera), and Lucca (5 itinera).
The source of the over-land routes has been a topic of scholarly discussion, with speculation that they were drawn from reliable, official lists maintained by the imperial administration. It must have required some effort, however, for the redactor to gather and arrange them according to a geographical criterion that sought to respect the divisions of the provinces and to select as points-of-reference the central nodes of every region (e.g. the northern Italian cities of Aquileia, Milan, Bologna, and Rimini).
Even so, the path of the various routes must be said to derive from subjective choices that are devoid of real practical value; indeed, the organizing principle of a true atlas would require the presentation of direct routes from Point A to Point B, but the Itinerarium provinciarum often includes detours and deviations that cannot be justified on any obvious topographical grounds.
In formal terms, one may also note the inclusion of a group of routes clustered around Milan that are unique for the detail they provide about trips to civitates, vici, and mansiones. This appears to have been done in order to highlight Milan’s importance as capital of the western empire.
The Itinerarium maritimum is a section completely independent of the Itinerarium provinciarum, and draws on material of various natures that differ even in their formal characteristics. It begins with a navigation from Greece to Africa by way of Sicily, with distances provided in stades. This is followed by a few direct routes between ports located in diverse parts of the Mediterranean, by the navigation of cabotage from Rome to Arles, and lastly by a few routes that use islands within the Mediterranean and in the Atlantic between Gaul and Britain as resting points. One also finds economic and mythological notations that parrot clichés common in the geographical works of late antiquity.
The maritime section focuses on the western part of the Mediterranean basin, passing over the eastern area almost entirely (e.g. Constantinople is never mentioned). This suggests that the work was compiled in stages between the end of the 4th c. and the start of the 6th c. (thus Uggeri and Arnaud). [M. Calzolari; tr. C. L. Caterine].