The Via Nova (or Via XVIII) was one of the main roads of antiquity through the northern peninsula. Of the 3 great roads described in the Antonine Itinerary that cross current Galicia, it would seem that the Via XVIII was the most recently built, since its oldest milestones belong to the years 79-80 AD, when Emperor Titus, second of the Flavian dynasty, reigned in Rome.
Unlike the roads XIX and XX, which connected Braga and Astorga across the central-northern sector of Galicia, or the XVII, which described a wide arch through the Zamora and Leon plains, the road XVIII crosses the mountainous massifs of what today are the provinces of Orense and León, and the northernmost territories of neighbouring Portugal. It reached Asturica Augusta (Astorga), where it connected with other important main roads in the north and northwest of the peninsula.
Despite the fact that there are still unknown areas in its layout, it can be said that as a whole it has been quite well known for a long time, compared to the other great Roman roads in Galicia.
The general orientation of the road in this section goes in the SW-NE direction.
|Army stop||Roman miles||Current towns (approximately)||Distance from start (miles)|
|Bracara Augusta –||Braga (Portugal)||0|
|Saliniana||XXI||Portela del Homem (Portugal)||21|
|Aquis Originis||XVIII||Riocaldo baths (Lobios, Orense)||39|
|Aquis Querquennis||XIV||Bande baths (Bande, Orense)||53|
|Salientibus||XVIII||Molgas baths (Orense)||87|
|Praesidium||XVIII||El Burgo (Orense)||105|
|Nemetobriga||XIII||Mendoia (A Pobra de Trives, Orense)||118|
|Forum||XIX||A Rúa de Valdeorras-A Cigarrosa (Orense)||137|
|Gemestario||XVIII||Portela de Aguiar (El Bierzo, León)||155|
|Castro Bergidum||XIII||Castro Ventosa-Cacabelos (El Bierzo, León)||168|
|Interamnium Flauium||XX||San Román de Bembibre(El Bierzo, León)||188|
|Asturica Augusta||XXX||Astorga (León)||218|
So we know the road crossed the Limia river at the height of Pontepedriña, with documentary evidence of a Roman bridge which today is under the waters of the Las Conchas reservoir. It continued along the northern slope of the valley, passing through the vicinity of the Roman fort. Here, near the thermal springs, an army stop (mansio) was built, which was a hostel or market that received the name of Aquae Querquennae. The Via nova then crossed the Cadós river to head towards Sandiás following the Limia valley.
Depending on the area, the road was between 5-7 m wide, and its construction technique was very simple. In the first place, the area destined for its layout would be cleared, then the terrain would be levelled. Where the road passes through uneven terrain or in the middle of a hillside, clearings or embankments would be made; in fact, this road had a preference for the latter, which was quicker and cheaper.
The next step would be to bound the strict layout by digging ditches on its sides to collect the runoff water. Only then would the road itself begin to be laid. First, a layer of medium and small-sized stones would be placed as a platform to raise the ground level and facilitate drainage. It would be covered by other layers of sand and gravel until reaching the surface course, for which very different solutions could have been adopted.
Unfortunately, the Via Nova was found to be severely deteriorated at the time of its renovation, so it is not possible to define exactly what its upper layers were like. In addition, it is very possible that, with the passage of time and constant repair work, its appearance varied significantly with respect to the moment its foundation was laid.
Despite frequently crossing mountainous terrain, the road is smooth and tends towards the horizontal, avoiding steep slopes, with a documented maximum slope of 5.5-6°. It also attempts to fit to the terrain, with frequent curves and bends to overcome the local topographic conditions.