Appian Way

Appian Way

The Appian Way (Latin and Italian: Via Appia) was the most important ancient Roman road. It is also called the "the queen road". [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Past Catches Up With the Queen of Roads |url= |quote=In ancient times the Appian Way, which links Rome to the southern city of Brindisi, was known as the regina viarum, the queen of the roads. But these days its crown appears to be tarnished by chronic traffic congestion, vandalism and, some of its guardians grumble, illegal development. |publisher=New York Times |date=April 5, 2008 |accessdate=2008-04-05 ] It connected Rome to Brindisi, Apulia in southeast Italy. Its importance is indicated by its common name, recorded by Statius ["Sylvae", 2.2] :

:"Appia longarum teritur regina viarum" ("the Appian way is commonly said to be the queen of the long roads")


Need for roads to the Roman army

The Roman army, for its success, depended on the use of highways to prepare for battle and to refresh and re-equip afterwards. The specific Via Appia was used as a main route for military supplies for many years since the mid-4th century BC. Bases allowed the Romans to keep large numbers of soldiers in the field waiting for the opportunity to strike. By the late Republic, the Romans were masters of road construction, but rarely did so until their territory expanded. The few roads outside the early city were Etruscan and were not used to connect bases or supply troops.


Rome always had an affinity for the people of Campania, who, like themselves, traced their backgrounds to the Etruscans. The Samnite Wars were instigated by the Samnites when Rome attempted to ally itself with the city of Capua in Campania. The Italic speakers in Latium had long ago been subdued and incorporated into the Roman state. They were responsible for changing Rome from a primarily Etruscan to a primarily Italic state.

Dense populations of sovereign Samnites remained in the mountains north of Capua, which is just north of the Greek city of Neapolis. Around 343 BC, Rome and Capua attempted to form an alliance, a first step toward a closer unity. The Samnites reacted with military force.

Pomptine Marshes

Between Capua and Rome lay the Pomptine Marshes (Pomptinae paludes), a swamp infested with malaria. A coastal road wound its tortuous way between Ostia at the mouth of the Tiber and Neapolis. The via Latina followed its ancient and scarcely more accessible path along the foothills of Monti Laziali and Monti Lepini, which are visible towering over the former marsh.

In the First Samnite War (343 BC-341 BC) the Romans found they could not support or resupply troops in the field against the Samnites across the marsh, but won anyway. A revolt of the Latin League drained their resources further. They gave up the attempted alliance. The rich lands and connections with Campania were being snatched away from them for the moment.

Colonization to the southeast

The Romans were only biding their time while they looked for a solution. The first answer was the colonia, a "cultivation" of settlers from Rome, who would maintain a permanent base of operations. The Second Samnite War (327 BC-304 BC) erupted when Rome attempted to place a colony at Cales in 334 BC and again at Fregellae in 328 on the other side of the marshes. The Samnites, now a major power after defeating the Greeks of Tarentum, occupied Neapolis to try and ensure its loyalty. The Neapolitans appealed to Rome, which sent an army and expelled the Samnites from Neapolis. Then a new fight for Campania began.

Colonies alone apparently were not the answer. In 321 BC, a Roman army was trapped in the mountain passes north of Capua, at Caudium. At the Battle of the Caudine Forks they were kept penned in without supplies, especially water, until the Senate bought their release in exchange for a treaty the Romans considered humiliating, by which they provided hostages and gave up the colonies. The treaty was a 5-year one. Rome used the time to defeat the Italic tribes around Samnium. In 316 BC, at the end of the treaty, Samnium joined the universal war of Italics against Rome, which was badly beaten again at the Battle of Lautulae in 315 BC. By 312 BC, the situation was bleak for Rome and became bleaker when, in 311 BC, the Etruscans in Etruria and Campania decided to go over to the Samnites.

Appius Claudius Caecus

In 312 BC, Appius Claudius Caecus became censor at Rome. He was of the gens Claudia (also sometimes called Clodia), who were patricians descended from the Sabines taken into the early Roman state. He had been given the name of the founding ancestor of the gens. He was a populist, i.e., an advocate of the common people. A man of inner perspicacity, in the years of success he was said to have lost his outer vision and thus acquired the name "caecus", "blind".

Without waiting to be told what to do, Appius Claudius began bold public works to address the supply problem. An aqueduct (the Aqua Appia) secured the water supply of the city of Rome. By far the best known project was the road, which ran straight, across the Pomptine Marshes to the coast northwest of Naples, where it turned north to Capua. On it, any number of fresh troops could be sped to the theatre of operations, and supplies could be moved en masse to Roman bases without hindrance by either enemy or terrain. It is no surprise that, after his term as censor, Appius Claudius became consul twice, subsequently held other offices, and was a respected consultant to the state even during his later years.


The main part of the Appian Way was started and finished in 312 BC.

The road began as a leveled dirt road upon which small stones and mortar were laid. Upon this gravel was laid, which was finally topped with tight fitting, and interlocking stones to provide a flat surface. Some of the stones were have said to fit so well that you could not slide a knife into the cracks.The road was crested in the middle (for water runoff) and had ditches on either side of the road which were protected by retaining walls.

Between Rome and Lake Albano

The road began in the Forum Romanum, passed through the Servian Wall at the porta Capena, went through a cutting in the clivus Martis, and left the city. For this stretch of the road, the builders used the via Latina. The building of the Aurelian Wall centuries later required the placing of another gate, the Porta Appia. Outside of Rome the new via Appia went through well-to-do suburbs along the via Norba, the ancient track to the Alban hills, where Norba was situated. The road at the time was a via glarea, a gravel road. The Romans built a high-quality road, with layers of cemented stone over a layer of small stones, crowned, drainage ditches on either side, low retaining walls on sunken portions, and dirt pathways for sidewalks. The via Appia is believed to have been the first Roman road to feature the use of lime cement. The materials were volcanic rock. The surface was said to have been so smooth that you could not distinguish the joints. The Roman section still exists and is lined with monuments of all periods, although the cement has eroded out of the joints, leaving a very rough surface.

Across the marsh

The road concedes nothing to the Alban hills, but goes straight through them over cuts and fills. The gradients are steep. Then it enters the former Pomptine Marshes. A stone causeway of about 19 miles led across stagnant and foul-smelling pools blocked from the sea by sand dunes. Appius Claudius planned to drain the marsh, taking up earlier attempts, but he failed. The causeway and its bridges subsequently needed constant repair. No one enjoyed crossing the marsh. In 162 BC, Marcus Cornelius Cathegus had a canal constructed along the road to relieve the traffic and provide an alternative when the road was being repaired. Romans preferred using the canal.

Along the coast

The via Appia picked up the coastal road at Tarracina. However, the Romans straightened it somewhat with huge cuttings, which form cliffs today. From there the road swerved north to Capua, where, for the time being, it ended. Caudine Forks was not far to the north. The itinerary was Aricia (Ariccia), Tres Tabernae, Appii Forum, Tarracina (Terracina), Fundi (Fondi), Formiae (Formia), Minturnae (Minturno), Sinuessa (Mondragone), Casilinum and Capua, but some of these were colonies added after the Samnite Wars. The distance was 132 miles. The original road had no milestones, as they were not yet in use. A few survive from later times, including a first milestone near the porta Appia.

Victorious outcome

The road achieved its purpose. The outcome of the Second Samnite War was at last favorable to Rome. In a series of stunning blows the Romans reversed their fortunes, bringing Etruria to the table in 311 BC, the very year of their revolt, and Samnium in 304. The road was just the factor that allowed them to concentrate their forces sufficiently rapidly and keep them adequately supplied to become a formidable opponent.

Extension to Beneventum

The Third Samnite War (298 BC-290 BC) is perhaps misnamed. It was an all-out attempt by all the neighbors of Rome: Italics, Etruscans and Gauls, to check the power of Rome. The Samnites were the leading people of the conspiracy. Rome dealt the northerners a crushing blow at the Battle of Sentinum in Umbria in 295 BC. The Samnites fought on alone. Rome now placed 13 colonies in Campania and Samnium. It must have been during this time that they extended the via Appia 35 miles beyond Capua past the Caudine forks to a place the Samnites called Maloenton, “passage of the flocks.” The itinerary added Calatia, Caudium and Beneventum (not yet called that). Here also ended the via Latina.

Extension to Apulia and Calabria

By 290 BC, all was over for the sovereignty of the Samnites. The heel of Italy lay open to the Romans. The dates are somewhat uncertain and there is considerable variation in the sources, but during the Third Samnite War the Romans seem to have extended the road to Venusia, where they placed a colony of 20,000 men. After that they were at Tarentum.

Possession of the region and control of southern Italy was contested by King Pyrrhus of Epirus in neighboring Greece on behalf of the Greek presence in Italy. In 280 BC the Romans suffered another defeat at the hands of Pyrrhus at the Battle of Heraclea on the coast west of Tarentum. Making the best of it, the Roman army turned on Greek Rhegium and effected a massacre of Pyrrhian partisans there.

Rather than pursue them, Pyrrhus went straight for Rome along the via Appia and then the via Latina. He knew that if he continued on the via Appia he could be trapped in the marsh. Wary of such entrapment on the via Latina also, he withdrew without fighting after encountering opposition at Anagni. Wintering in Campania, he withdrew to Apulia in 279 BC, where, pursued by the Romans, he defeated them again at the Battle of Asculum. Withdrawing from Apulia for a Sicilian interlude, he returned to Apulia in 275 and started for Campania up the nice Roman road.

Supplied by that same road, the Romans successfully defended the region against Pyrrhus, who won his “Pyrrhic victory” at the Battle of Beneventum (not yet named that) in 275 BC, suffering such losses that he had to withdraw. The Romans lost twice as many, but they could replace those men, while Pyrrhus could not. As it is the habit of soldiers everywhere to twist place names, the Roman soldiers changed Maloenton to Maleventum, “the place of the bad outcome.” Consequently, Roman magistrates placing a colony there in 268 BC renamed it Beneventum, “the place of the good outcome.”

Exiting by the back door at Brundisium, the ancient port of embarcation for Greece, Pyrrhus left for easier fields of battle. The Romans pushed the via Appia to there in 264 BC. The itinerary from Benvenutum was now Venusia, Tarentum, Uria and Brundisium. The Roman Republic was the government of Italy, for the time being. Appius Claudius had died in 273, but in extending the road a number of times, no one had tried to displace his name upon it.

Crucifixion of Spartacus

In 73 BC, a slave revolt (known as the Third Servile War) under the ex-gladiator of Capua, Spartacus, broke out against the Romans. Spartacus defeated many Roman armies, but unwittingly moved his forces into the historic trap in Apulia/Calabria, where he hoped to escape from Brindusium. The Romans were well acquainted with the region. Legions were brought home from abroad and Spartacus fell into the very sort of trap the Romans had had to buy their way out of at Caudium and that Pyrrhus had tried so hard to evade: he was penned between armies. On his defeat the Romans judged that the slaves had broken their contract and had forfeited the right to live. In 71 BC, they were executed by crucifixion, a standard method. Some 6,000 crosses lined the via Appia all the way to Capua.

Extension by Trajan

The emperor Trajan built the Via Traiana, an extension of the Via Appia from Beneventum, reaching Brundisium via Canusium and Barium rather than via Tarentum. This was commemorated by an arch at Beneventum.

World War II battle at Anzio

In 1943, during World War II, the Allies fell into the same trap Pyrrhus had retreated to avoid, in the Pomptine fields, the successor to the Pomptine marshes. The marsh remained, despite many efforts to drain it, until engineers working for Benito Mussolini finally succeeded. (Even so, the fields were infested with malarial mosquitos until the advent of DDT in 1950s.)

Hoping to break a stalemate at Monte Cassino, the Allies landed on the coast of Italy at Anzio, ancient Antium, which was midway between Ostia and Terracina. When they landed, they found that the place was undefended. They hoped to move along the line of the via Appia to take Rome, outflanking Monte Cassino, but they did not do so quickly enough. The Germans swiftly occupied Mounts Laziali and Lepini along the track of the old Via Latina, from which they rained down a hail of shells on Anzio. Even though the Allies expanded into all the Pomptine region, they gained no ground. The Germans counterattacked down the via Appia from the Alban hills in a front four miles wide, but could not retake Anzio. The battle lasted for four months, one side being supplied by sea, the other by land through Rome. In May 1944, the Allies broke out from Anzio and quickly took Rome, although the German forces escaped to the north of Florence.

As an antique

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the road fell out of use; Pope Pius VI ordered its restoration. A new Appian Way was built in parallel with the old one in 1784 as far as the Alban Hills region. The new road is the "via Appia nuova" as opposed to the old section, now a tourist attraction, the via Appia antica. Wide parts of the original road have been preserved, and some are now used by cars (for example, in the area of Velletri). Along the part of the road closest to Rome, one can see many tombs and catacombs of Roman and early Christian origin. Also the Church of Domine Quo Vadis is in the first mile of the road.

The road inspires the last movement of Ottorino Respighi's "Pini di Roma". To this day the Via Appia contains the longest stretch of straight road of Europe [ [ Astronomical references in the planning of ancient roads] ] for 62km.

Monuments along the Via Appia

IVth mile

Porta Appia, the gate of the Aurelian Walls

Vth mile

* Mausoleum of the Orazi and Curiazi
* "Villa dei Quintili", with ninpheum, theatre, and baths
* Mausoleum of Casal Rotondo

VIth mile and beyond

* Minucia tomb
* Torre Selce
* Temple of Hercules
* "Berrettia di Prete" (tomb and later church)
* Mausoleum of Gallienus

Roman bridges

:"For an overview of the location of Roman bridges, see List of Roman bridges".

There are the remains of several Roman bridges along the road, including the Ponte di Tre Ponti, Ponte di Vigna Capoccio, Viadotta di Valle Ariccia, Ponte Alto and Ponte Antico.


See also

* Roman bridge
* Roman engineering
* Three Taverns
* Appian Way, Burwood, Sydney

External links

* [ Via Appia Antica From Torre In Selci To Frattocchie]
* [ Via Appia Antica From Cecilia Metella To Torre In Selci]
* [ The Via Appia And The Cities Of The Pontine Plain]
* [ Documentary Film about the Sassi di Matera and the Appian Way, Roba Forestiera, 44 min., 2004]
* [ New York Times article on condition of Appian Way in modern times]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Appian Way — the Appian Way the first important ↑Roman Road. It was built in 312BC and runs south from ↑Rome to Brindisi on the Adriatic coast …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Appian Way — Appian Ap pi*an, a. [L. Appius, Appianus.] Of or pertaining to Appius. [1913 Webster] {Appian Way}, the great paved highway from ancient Rome trough Capua to Brundisium, now Brindisi, constructed partly by Appius Claudius, about 312 b. c. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Appian Way — road between Rome and Capua, so called because it was begun (302 B.C.E.) by the consul Appius Claudius Caecus …   Etymology dictionary

  • Appian Way — [ap′ē ən] [after the Roman censor Appius Claudius Caecus, by whom it was begun in 312 B.C.] ancient Roman paved highway from Rome to Capua to Brundisium (Brindisi): c. 350 mi (563 km) …   English World dictionary

  • Appian Way — /ap ee euhn/ an ancient Roman highway extending from Rome to Brundisium (now Brindisi): begun 312 B.C. by Appius Claudius Caecus. ab. 350 mi. (565 km) long. * * * Latin Via Appia. First and most famous of the ancient Roman roads, running from… …   Universalium

  • Appian Way Oliva Cottage — (Fredericksburg,США) Категория отеля: Адрес: 986 Hayden Ranch Road, Freder …   Каталог отелей

  • Appian Way, Burwood, Sydney — Appian Way is a street located in the suburb of Burwood in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The state heritage listed Appian Way has been described as one of the finest streets of Federation houses in Australia. The picturesque houses create… …   Wikipedia

  • Appian Way — Ap′pi•an Way′ [[t]ˈæp i ən[/t]] n. anh geg an ancient Roman highway extending from Rome to Brundisium (now Brindisi): begun 312 b.c. by Appius Claudius Caecus. ab. 350 mi. (565 km) long …   From formal English to slang

  • Appian Way — /ˈæpiən weɪ/ (say apeeuhn way) noun an ancient Roman road extending from Rome to the seaport of Brundisium in south eastern Italy (now Brindisi); begun 312 BC. About 560 km …  

  • Appian Way — geographical name ancient paved highway extending from Rome to the Adriatic …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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