Among all the historical ways that still go through the Peninsula, perhaps the one known as the Silver Route is the most authentic and ancestral. As it happens with almost all the roads that Rome set up and regulated, its course was a path used during the Prehistory, in charge of connecting the West of the two Plateaus separated by the abrupt passing of the Central System in this area. With its pleasant and varied design, Rome linked two of the main Augustan cities of the Hispanic West: Emerita Augusta, Merida and Asturica Augusta, Astorga, in the days when the conquest of the North-eastern area was consolidated, the last one of the Peninsula to be under Roman rule, during the last century before the Age.
Its name seems little to do with the metal to which it refers to, but with the corruption of the pronunciation of the Arabian balath (way, pavement, solid ground), from where blata and, finally, plata (silver), in an expression that it was maybe misunderstood thanks to the supposed metal trade that the first scholars who studied it would attribute to this main route. Vía de la plata would mean “way of the way” (something like the bridge of Alcantara which literally means “bridge of the brigde”).
Way, therefore, par excellence, because once Roma fell down, its route went on providing the backbone of these different regions of Hispania, for the transit of the Visigoths, or, above all, for the use of the Peninsular Islam, either for their troops (Almanzor's would reach Compostela over here) or for their merchants and travellers in general.
But those who used them as their dearest route were the Mozarabs, fled from Al-Andalus to the lands of the Reign of Leon, who transmitted the knowledge and the tastes of the refined Muslim society to the coarse northern courts, and from there, to Europe. Through this itinerary Santiago was also reached before the French way would concentrate pilgrims beyond the Pyrenees. Here, the (re)-conquest of the Christian kings was led towards mid-day; over here, armed retinues and troups, from Fernado III to Napoleon, crossed magnificent landscapes in pursuit of ambitions today trivial.
But the route goes on. A Route that was always the spin of a peculiar region, shaped with its transit, and an occasion for interchange and the cultural amalgam, the historical event, military or social, and for the everyday stun. A historical way whose beginning (or ending, depending on the point of view) is synthesized and it presents the modern Astorga in the old Asturica Augusta, departure and destination of a millenarian route which traces history back to us.
Luis Grau Lobo
The historical ways are essential to lay the foundations of that Europe of the nations which so many aspire to. The Silver Route, the Roman road between Mérida and Astorga, still visible in much of the route, and which keeps the highest number of milestones “in situ” of all the Roman routes of the continent, deserves to be spread and promoted and, at the same time, to defend itself against its falsifications.
With the denomination of Silver Route or Silver Way, private entities and institutions justify investments unconnected with such road, and identify as such a road of around a hundred years between Gijon and Sevilla, or the pilgrim road that takes to Santiago de Compostela from Sanabria and Orense. All, with purely commercial purposes, regardless of historical criteria and against of the protection of the real route.
This went through big cities but also through small towns set up in an ancestral way that the Romans definitely consolidated when it was included in their road network.
In its more or less constant use during centuries, the Roman road has also been a way of pilgrimage. Not in vain, its destination, Astorga, is a crossroads which the French Santiago Way passes by. Any year at all can be a good moment for the pilgrims or travellers to travel around the original itinerary. Apart from personal motivations, the relics of the engineering work of more than two thousand years, the beautiful natural spots and the outstanding cultural heritage are enough reasons to enjoy and claim the bi-millenarian Silver Route.
While some try to misappropriate and make a false story valid to claim tourist itineraries through roads of scarcely a hundred years ago, the Roman Road of The Silver Route disappears because of the abandonment of the administrations in such a way that the words of Father Moran, about it, are still valid 60 years after his researches:“I was following the old way with the pride of that one who is in good company, when I see an unfortunate wall cutting the road perpendicularly, and on the other side a wheat sown field appears. This property, indicated by the wall, trapped the Road, hid it, broke it up, ploughed it and sowed it. Up to this point, I have always seen the rights of the passers-by respected when passing by the Road. Now, we are deprived of that right and we are forced to surround it by one side. We have to be apart from our beloved Road, as it would be too much sacrifice, a vain sacrifice, to jump over walls, go through ploughed fields, suitable to break in horses and to expose oneself to the anger of the landowner, who I do not know to what extent he has any right to block the way as it is nowadays”.
Father Moran. Salamanca, 1946.
Association of Towns in Defence of The Silver Route
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