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Paving has even inspired poets such as the Roman poet Statius


First comes the task of preparing the ditches,

 Marking the borders, and, as deep as needed,

                        Cutting into the earth.

                        Then, second, with other stuff, making

                        a base for the crown of the highway.

                        So that the soil does not sink

                        on weakly made foundations.

                        That give the flagstones a false base.


                        Thirdly, they secure it with cobblestones,

                        Closely packed.

                        Now see how many hands are working together.

                        Some fell the trees ahead, others tumble the rocks.

                        While others cut and smooth the flagstones with iron tools.

                        Then the masons, with heated sand that is mixed with volcanic tufa,

                        Put this down as a base on which the flagstones are laid.

                        And still others go ahead to drain the pools

                        Bridging those thirsty streams that lie ahead.


"The first task is to begin the furrows and to open out the track, and then with deep digging to hollow out the soil between them.  Next they fill in the hollow trench with other materials and prepare a foundation (gremium) on which the road surface may be laid, lest the ground should give way or the spiteful earth provide an unreliable bed for the rammed blocks. Then with close-set kerb-stones (umbones), on both sides, and with many cramps, they bind the road together. Others work around the road itself. Here trees are cut down and the slopes of the hills are bared; there the pick-axe levels the rock or creates a log from a tree; there clamps are driven into the rocks and walls are woven from slaked lime and grey tufa. Hand-driven pumps

drain the pools formed by the underground water and brooks are turned from their course"

("the spiteful earth" - today, we would more usually define the properties of the subgrade in terms of a value determined by laboratory or field testing. We might for example define poor quality material as having a California Bearing Ratio of 3% but on the whole I feel that we would be safer road designers if we were to adopt Statius' more illuminating description)