All roads lead to Rome

All roads may or may not lead to Rome, but the very notion that this saying is in fact an Italian proverb… well, that’s a misconception. The origin of this phrase can be traced to the medieval French poet Alain de Lille (c. 1128–1202) who famously wrote at the time when the city of Rome was considered one of the most attractive and spiritually reqarding pilgrimage destinations:

Mille viae ducunt homines per saecula Romam
Qui Dominum toto quarere corde volunt.

(A thousand ways forever lead to Rome the men who wish with all their heart to seek the Lord)

Unfortunately, I was unable to find out how exactly and when this phrase was modified to assume its current vulgar form (All Roads lead to Rome, Tous les chemins mènent à Rome, Alle Wege führen nach Rom, Все дороги ведут в Рим etc.). There must have been a common source for this proverb, now found in virtually all European languages. It is highly unlikely that the source is Italian, however, because in Italy the phrase exists in two variations: Tutte le strade portano a Roma and Per pio vie si va a Roma. This seems to indicate that there was no single literary source for the Italian phrase. I searched Latin texts, Classical and medieval for a similar phrase that predates the Middle Ages and found nothing.

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