THE ROMAN YOUTHS
AS you have seen, the Romans were generally victorious
in the wars which they waged against their neighbors.
They were so successful, however, only because they were
remarkably well trained.
Not very far from the citadel there was a broad plain,
bordered on one side by the Tiber. This space had been
set aside, from the very beginning, as an exercising
ground for the youths of Rome, who were taught to develop
their muscles in every way. The young men met there every
day, to drill, run races, wrestle, box, and swim in
These daily exercises on the Field of Mars, as this
plain was called, soon made them brave, hardy, and expert;
and, as a true Roman considered it beneath him to do
anything but fight, the king thus had plenty of soldiers
at his disposal.
Ancus Martius had greatly encouraged the young men in all
these athletic exercises, and often went out to watch
them as they went through their daily drill. He also
took great interest in the army, and divided the
soldiers into regiments, or legions as they were called
As the city was on a river, about fifteen miles from the
sea, Ancus thought it would be a very good thing to
have a seaport connected with it; so he built a harbor
at Ostia, a town at the mouth of the Tiber. Between the
city and the port there was a long, straight road,
which was built with the greatest care, and made so solidly
that it is still in use to-day.
To last so long, a road had to be made in a different
way from those which are built to-day. The Romans used to
dig a deep trench, as long and as wide as the road
they intended to make. Then the trench was nearly filled
with stones of different sizes, packed tightly together.
On top of this thick layer they laid great blocks of
stone, forming a strong and even pavement. A road like
this, with a solid bed several feet deep, could not be
washed out by the spring rains, but was smooth and hard
in all seasons.
Little by little the Romans built many other roads, which
ran out of Rome in all directions. From this arose the
saying, which is still very popular in Europe, and
which you will often hear, "All roads lead to Rome."
The most famous of all the Roman roads was the Appian Way, leading from Rome southeast to Brundusium, a distance of three hundred miles. This road, although built
about two thousand years ago, is still in good condition,
showing how careful the Romans were in their work.