Format Hardcover
Publication Date 12/03/24
ISBN 9781639367603
Trim Size / Pages 6 x 9 in / 400

Request a review copy or press kit

The Roads to Rome

A History of Imperial Expansion

Catherine Fletcher

Inspired by original research and filled with color and drama, this is an exploration of two thousand years of history as seen through one the greatest imperial networks ever built.

"All roads lead to Rome” is a medieval proverb, but it's also true: today's European roads still follow the networks of the ancient empire—and these ancient roads continue to grip our modern imaginations as a physical manifestation of Rome’s extraordinary greatness.

Over the two thousand years since they were first built, these roads have been walked by crusaders and pilgrims, liberators and dictators, but also by tourists and writers, refugees and artists. As channels of trade and travel—and routes for conquest and creativity—Catherine Fletcher reveals how these roads forever transformed the cultures, and intertwined the fates, of a vast panoply of people across Europe and beyond.

The Roads to Rome is a magnificent journey into a past that remains intimately connected to our present. Traveling from Scotland to Cádiz to Istanbul and back to Rome, the reader meanders through a series of nations and empires that have risen and fallen. Along the way, we encounter spies, bandits, scheming innkeepers, a Byzantine noblewoman on the run, young aristocrats on their Grand Tour, a conquering Napoleon, John Keats, the Shelleys, the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, and even Mussolini on his motorbike.

Reflecting on his own walk on the Appian Way, Charles Dickens observed that here is "a history in every stone that strews the ground.” Based on vibrant original research, this is the first narrative history to tell the full story of life on the roads that lead to Rome.

Catherine Fletcher, a historian of Renaissance and early modern Europe, is the author of several books, including The Black Prince of FlorenceThe Beauty and the Terror: An Alternative History of the Italian Renaissance; and The Divorce of Henry VIII. She is a professor of history at Manchester Metropolitan University and broadcasts regularly for the BBC. Her impeccably researched and entertaining books have been featured with laudatory review coverage in both America and Britain. Catherine lives in Manchester, England.

Buy it now in print:

Buy it now in ebook:

Endorsements & Reviews

"In her magnificently imagined and vividly composed book, Catherine Fletcher gives new meaning to the word journeyman (these days journeyperson). Among her pages, we journey the thousands of miles of Roman roads from 500 BCE to the present and are never made timeless or homeless. Fletcher offers us justification for an infinity of plannable holidays or long hours of cozy reading at home. All readers should direct themselves to her Romes." Richard Bosworth, author of Mussolin's Italy 
"Catherine Fletcher’s mastery of history and storytelling converge beautifully in this captivating exploration of the Roman roads. She expertly leads us on a journey that reaches from Rome to Spain to Constantinople, and from the remote past into the present. A must-read for tourists and armchair travelers alike." Ross King, author of The Bookseller of Florence
"The Roads to Rome is a vibrant, enchanting and rich compendium. Catherine Fletcher is an essential guide to the many hidden layers of history beneath our feet." Kelcey Wilson-Lee, author of Daughters of Chivalry
"This is history quite literally following in the footsteps of the past: covering and uncovering the ways in which the Roman road network has become part of the DNA of every society since. It’s a magical and informative ode to the majesty and mystical power of the humble roadway."
Michael Scott, Professor of Classics and Ancient History, University of Warwick
"Past and present cleverly entwine in Catherine Fletcher’s erudite, entertaining and infinitely readable journey along the roads that stitch Europe’s history together." Helena Attlee, author of The Land Where Lemons Grow
"With verve and expertise, Catherine Fletcher has tramped the far-flung Roman roads of Europe and created a delightful, novel and authoritative history from the ground up." Judith Herrin, author of Byzantium
"[A] rich narrative of the long afterlife of Rome's roads." New Statesman
"Elegantly plotted. It is no easy task to condense 25 centuries of history into 300 pages and Fletcher, whose area of expertise is Renaissance Europe, rises to the challenge. For modern Grand Tourists, Fletcher’s book will provide an enjoyable distraction when the journey to Rome gets dull." The Times (UK)
"Roman roads run everywhere, and Fletcher has been on most of them. It has been her labor of love to crisscross an entire continent. Fletcher's book is an exemplar of history as a travelogue. It presents a familiar panorama—of Europe since antiquity—but from an unfamiliar, even original perspective. The roads themselves are Fletcher's stars: sources of prosperity but also danger, stages on which to compete for and assert status, vectors of destiny that take men from where they cannot stay to where they must go. The camaraderie she generates with fellow travelers, dead as well as living, engages and inspires." Literary Review
"Epic and witty. Fletcher is a thoroughly enjoyable narrator because she peppers her learned prose with wry humor, first-person asides, and comparisons between past and present. The Roads to Rome is a nuanced and perceptive book that interrogates 'the stories that we tell ourselves about who we are'" Observer