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Walks in Rome - The Ancient Appian Way

  • Via_Appia_Antica.pdf

  • The_Ancient_Appian_Way.pdf

The Appian Way is one of the best preserved roman roads today.
The road was opened in 312 BC by the censor Appius Claudius Caecus, who widened a pre-existing road that went as far as the hills of Albano. It soon became known as the regina viarum, -the queen of roads and in 191 BC, it was extended as far as Brindisi thus becoming the main gateway to Rome for commerce with the East.
The road, which flanks the sea and was more distant from conflict zones, was faster and safer than via Latina and quickly assumed a military and strategic role.
Almost immediately, the first tombs were erected along the roadway such as those of the Scipioni, Servilii, Metelli and Catalino families. This tradition was continued by the Christians who constructed some of their most important catacombs here.
From the end of the 2nd century BC with the increased use of free standing funerary monuments, the road slowly assumed the aspect which it mainly preserves today - a roadway lined on both sides by almost uninterrupted sepulchre of various shapes that alternate between family tombs and collective burials sites known as columbarium.
The roadway's surface in the best preserved ancient tract is called basolato. The term takes its name from the ancient paving stones which are made from enormous blocks of volcanic basalt. With the fall of the Roman Empire, the road was abandoned and unused for a long period of time.
Throughout the Middle Ages, it was used as a pilgrim's route both because of the catacombs, and because it led to Brindisi from where pilgrims embarked for the Holy Land.
It was only during the Renascence that the road began its slow recovery which was largely due to the efforts of numerous archaeologists and enthusiasts. Their contributions as well as recent works have now restored the Ancient Appian Way to its former glory.

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