Listed under categories:

- Ancient Rome

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Facts:

Names:

- Via Appia, The Appian Way, Via Appia Antica.

 

Constructed:

- Year 312 BC.

 

Main engineer:

- Appius Claudius Caecus.

 

Function:

- Allow quick troop movement.

 

Total length:

- 560 kilometers.

 

Today:

- One of the best preserved ancient Roman roads and a popular hiking road.

 

 

 

 

 

Traveler reviews:

 

Me and my friend followed the Appian Way during our stay in Rome. I can recommend it if you have an interest in historical sites, as there are several interesting sites along the road!

   

- theone_Gina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Europe » Italy » Rome » Appian Way

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Appian Way, Rome

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Appian Way history

 

Of all the roads that led to Rome, the Appian Way was the most famous and the most strategically important road in ancient Rome. It eventually stretched all the way from Rome to the seaport of Brindisi in southeast Italy, through which trade with the East was funneled.

 

The main purpose of the road was however not to transport goods, but to allow for quick troop movement. The Appian Way was the first road built specifically for troop transportation.

 

 

Masters of the road

During this era, the Romans were the masters of road construction and had some of the very finest engineers in the world. All their roads were connected to Rome, where the Master Itinerarium was located. This was a list of all the destinations along each road all the way to the border of their empire, hence the expression - "All roads lead to Rome.”

 

 

The importance of roads

The road network was an important factor in Roman warfare. The Roman army’s success was partly due to their smart use of strategically placed forts. The forts allowed the army to prepare for battle and quickly refresh and re-equip afterwards.

 

However, the bases needed to be connected by quality roads for easy access and supply from Rome. In the First Samnite War in 343 BC, the Romans were forced to a ceasefire, as they could neither support nor resupply their troops quickly enough.

 

During the Second Samnite War, which followed shortly after the first, the Romans suffered another humiliating loss. This time, a Roman army became trapped in the mountains without supplies. The army quickly became surrounded by the enemy and the Senate was forced to negotiate for their release. After this, the Romans had had enough.

 

 

Via Appia

The solution became the great road known as the Appian Way. Its Latin name, “Via Appia” derives from the man who was responsible for its construction; Appius Claudius Caecus. He became a Roman censor in year 312 BC and both started and finished major parts of the new road the very same year.

 

 

Construction

The construction process was very advanced. Prior to the construction of the road itself, bridges across rivers were built, heights were flattened and valleys filled - all to make the road as straight at possible.

 

The road was built using layers of cemented stone together with gravel and lime cement. The road also had drainage ditches to prevent the road from being flooded. The surface was said to have been so smooth that you could not distinguish the joints in the road. The surface of today’s road is however very rough, as much of the cement has eroded.

 

 

Served its purpose

The finished road achieved its purpose, as the Romans later defeated the Samnites. The main factor was this great road, which allowed them to concentrate their forces and keep them well supplied.

 

Over the following years, the road was expanded southwards and soon reached Italy’s southeast coast. With this, the impressive 560 kilometers long road we know today stood completed.

 

 

 

Why visit the Appian Way ?

 

Several interesting sites are located along the Appian Way - the majority close to Rome. One of the first sites from Rome is Church of Domine Quo Vadis. According to Christian tradition, this church was the place where Peter encountered the vision of Christ, which caused him to go back to the city to face subsequent martyrdom.

 

 

The Catacombs

There are also entrances to Rome’s many catacombs along the road. The two most prominent ones are the Catacombs of San Sebastiano and the Catacombs of San Callisto.

 

These catacombs were where early Christians buried their dead and held their meetings during the worst times of persecution. They stretch many miles and are definitely worth a visit for anyone not suffering from claustrophobia.

 

 

Ancient sites

Other major sites close to Rome are the Circus of Maxentius and Tomb of Cecilia Metella. All these sites are located just a few miles from the road’s starting point. There are also signs along the road, so they are quite easy to find.

 

 

For the ambitious ones

However, for the most atmospheric stretch of the walk, continue onwards for an extra couple of miles. As the road leads on, travelers along the Appian Way will find themselves more and more on the countryside. After the first few miles, one can find several marble ruins, reliefs and broken statues.

The ancient paving stones are also more visible long this part of the road. A longer walk along the Appian Way is recommended for anyone who has the will and the stamina to do it.

 

 

 

Appian Way location

 

The Appian Way starts in the south-east parts ofRome, Italy. The road official starts at Porta di San Sebastiano, the gate of the Aurelian Wall. For the exact location of the Appian Way, check out the location map to the right.

 

 

 

Appian Way resources

 

appian way

Sign along the Appian Way. creative commons Allie Caulfield.

appian way

The Appian Way. © Mollye Knox.

appian way

Lush parts of the Appian Way. creative commons Philipp Pilhofer.

appian way bridge

Bridge along the ancient road. creative commons AlMare.

appian way pavement

Close-up of the paved road. creative commons Allie Caulfield.

appian way

Via Appia Antica. (public domain)

appian way

Via Appia Antica. (public domain)

Interactive location map. For a larger and more detailed map, check out our Italy map.

 

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