Do they, actually? In the final Maphead of 2015, Ken Jennings goes down an old path in modern Istanbul to discover the "on-ramp" come roads across the recognized world.

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Visitors come Sultanahmet Square in modern Istanbul probably know that this plaza was once the Hippodrome that Constantinople, the circus wherein the biggest city in the civilization held that chariot races and also other out events. But many tourists miss out on the square's most exciting landmark. Angling for a better photo the the Blue Mosque, they may stumbling across a small stone pillar. It's every that's left the the monument that was the center of the world for more than a thousands years.

When Constantine the an excellent rebuilt the city of Byzantium right into his imperial resources in the 4th century, that modestly change the name it "Constantinople." however many called it "Nova Roma" because it to be the brand-new capital the the roman Empire, and was laid out with numerous of the very same landmarks. One of the most sophisticated monuments to be a twin triumphal marble arch flanked by statues that goddesses and emperors and topped v a large dome. Within was a golden column known as the Milion.

The Milion was the on-ramp to roadways all the way across the recognized world.

The name "Milion" came from the Latin "mille," i beg your pardon was the word for "thousand" and a unit the distance. The roman inn mile was identified to it is in one thousands paces that two steps each—roughly 4,850 English feet, and really close come our contemporary mile. The Milion marked the start of the Mese, the main thoroughfare of Constantinople, and by expansion the Via Egnetia, the roman inn highway that ran across Macedonia. Every travel distances within the byzantine Empire—at its optimal a 3,000-mile-wide swath that the Mediterranean extending from Spain come Egypt and also Persia—were measured from this one gold column, and those distances were carved in marble on its façade.

All roads did literally lead to Rome.

Constantine obtained the idea of a "zero-mile" monument from the Milliarium Aureum (Golden Milestone) in Rome, which stood in the Forum come measure ranges throughout the empire and gave us the proverb "All roads cause Rome." yet the gold Milestone is unable to do today. Scholars think the fragments there this particular day actually belong to the Umbilicus, a (similar) nearby monument whose surname literally method "the Belly button of Rome." through contrast, the column in Istanbul actually is the last remaining component of Constantine's arch, uncovered by archaeologists in 1967 and also placed top top end similar to the original Milion.

America's milestone, by contrast, doesn't yes, really measure anything.

Many modern nations follow the Roman tradition by noting a "kilometer zero" or "mile zero" native which every road ranges are measured. France's marker sits opposite Notre Dame cathedral; Japan's is in the middle of the Nihonbashi bridge in Tokyo. The American Zero Milestone is a granite monolith at the north edge that the White House's Ellipse, however it's no actually the official "zero" for any type of roads external of Washington, D.C. It's a completely symbolic landmark inserted there in 1923 by reformers lobbying for far better highways. Don't shot to journey to mile zero, though! E Street has been closed to cars due to the fact that 9/11, and also the an enig Service won't evaluate you walking off-road.

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Explore the world's oddities every week v Ken Jennings, and check out his book Maphead for more geography trivia.