Our presentation on renovating the Surrey Heath milestones, that’s by Reg Davis and me, to Camberley and District Probus Club, went far better than Reg and I had anticipated. Funnily, it’s the first opportunity we’ve had to talk about milestone renovation project, so we should thank the club for taking a chance on two old blokes.
I won’t put the presentation here, as it’s not really the right format for it. What I will do is share with you some parts of our presentation. I began our talk by describing the history of milestones. Here’s that history.
The Romans introduced milestones throughout their empire. Remains of them have been found in France, Spain, North Africa, Israel, and of course in Britain. The Romans laid good quality, mostly straight, metalled roads in Britain. Their key purpose was to move soldiers and supplies quickly across their Empire.
They indicated distances by erecting milestones. “A Roman unit of distance was the mille passum, which translates to ‘thousand paces.’ A pace was five Roman feet, meaning a Roman mile measured 5,000 feet. Hadrian’s Wall is 80 Roman miles long, and each mile was marked by a milecastle fort. These were used for controlling the movement of people, goods and livestock along the Wall.”¹
The first Roman milestone was erected in 20 BC in the Forum in Rome, from which all road distances were measured. It is known as the Golden Milestone – Milliarium Aureum. While no proven evidence of this pillar remains, a reference in Plutarch’s, Life of Galba, refers to an imposing gilded column. There are some supposed fragments of Milliarim Aureum in the Forum in Rome.
Here’s a photo of the fragments in the Forum, and the imagined Golden Milestone. [Click on image to expand].