Facts, Images & History of the Appian Way

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History of the Appian Way

The Appian Way is one of the earliest and most important Roman roads of the ancient republic that changed the culture of Ancient Rome.

The Appian Way (Via Appia) is an ancient and strategically important Roman road. It connected Rome to Brindisium (Brindisi), in the southeast of Italy, and it was built between the late 4th and 3rd centuries BC. C. 

It is considered one of the greatest works of civil engineering of the ancient world for the economic, military, and cultural impact it had on Roman society. 

Large sections of the road are still open today.

Related articles: Old images of Pompeii, The mosaics of the Roman Villa del Casale

History of the Via Appia


The works for the construction began in 312 BC at the direction of the censor Appius Claudius Caecus, an important exponent of the gens Claudia, who restructured and expanded a pre-existing road that connected Rome to the Alban Hills, extending it to Capua, for some years placed under Roman control.  

Around the half of the III sec. BC the route was extended until Maleventum (then renamed Beneventum, Benevento). The construction work continued during the second half of the third century BC, when it was reached Tarentum (Taranto), and then until about 190 BC when it was completed the route to the port of Brundisium (Brindisi). 

The primary function of the route was to ensure a rapid movement of troops to southern Italy, in order to consolidate the rule of Rome on that part of the peninsula. Since the beginning the Appian Way became a key way of trade, facilitating commerce with Magna Graecia

the Appian Way

The route determined a great opening of the wealthy classes of Roman society towards the Greek culture: in the decades following the construction of the road the Greek culture gradually spread to Rome. 

In 71 BC about 6 000 rebellious slaves led by Spartacus, captured in battle, were crucified along the road from Rome to Capua, as a warning to the slaves on the Italian territory. The road was restored and widened during the rule of the emperors Augustus, Vespasian, Trajan, and Hadrian. Emperor Trajan between 108 and 110 built a branch called via Appia Traiana, connecting Benevento to Brindisi with a new route close to the coast. 

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire (476) the lack of maintenance works caused the gradual abandonment of segments of the route. In 535, the Byzantine historian Procopius described it as still in good condition. Although not fully open, in the Middle Ages the Appian Way and the Via Traiana were used by the Crusaders: in 1228, Frederick II sailed from the port of Brindisi to reach the Holy Land. 

Construction techniques

The paving stones (glareatum) helped circulation in all weather conditions, favoring the drainage of water through the lower layers in which the stones were installed. Starting from 258 BC (intervention of the brothers Ogulni) the road was equipped with large smooth stones of volcanic stone (basoli), and filling any remaining spaces with small wedges of stone.

Appian Way medieval and roman (author: Livioandronico2013)

The paving rested on several layers of rubble and earth, according to a system that ensured optimal drainage of rainwater. The road had a straight path and was 4.1 meters wide (14 Roman feet), flanked by two sidewalks for the pedestrian path. Milestones appeared on the Via Appia for the first time. 

Monuments and places of interest along the Appian Way

From Porta Capena to Porta San Sebastiano (I mile)

Porta San Sebastiano

Porta San Sebastiano is the largest and one of the best-preserved gates in the defensive walls of the Aurelian Walls of Rome.

Porta San Sebastiano (author: Patrik Kunec)

The original structure was constructed by Aurelian ca. AD 275. Later the towers were enlarged and linked, through two parallel walls, to the preexisting Arch of Drusus.

Porta Appia map of Giovanni Maggi, 1625

Baths of Caracalla

The Baths of Caracalla (Thermae Antoninianae, from the full name of the emperor Caracalla, belonging to the Severan dynasty) are one of the most important examples of imperial baths in Rome. The baths were likely built between AD 212 (or 211) and 216/217.

Baths of Caracalla (author: СССР)
Baths of Caracalla (author: T. Thielemans)

Saints Nereus and Achilleus

Saints Nereus and Achilleus is a basilica in Rome, built in the 4th century.

Church Santi Nereo e Achilleo (author: LPLT)

San Cesareo de Appia

The church of San Cesareo de Appia, also erroneously called San Cesareo in Palatio, is a Catholic place of worship in Rome, in the Celio district, near the Porta San Sebastiano, built in the 8th century on the remains of pre-existing Roman structures.

San Cesareo de Appia (author: LPLT)

Tomb of the Scipios

The tomb of the Scipios (sepulcrum Scipionum) is a funerary monument of the patrician Scipio family during the Roman Republic, not far from the Porta San Sebastiano. The tomb was built at the beginning of the 3rd century BC, after the opening of the Appian Way in 312 BC, probably by Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus, consul in 298 BC.

Tomb of the Scipios (author: Pippo-b)

From Porta San Sebastiano to Bovillae (II-IX mile)

Tomb of Priscilla

The tomb of Priscilla is a monumental tomb erected in the first century in Rome on the Appian Way, located in front of the church of Domine quo Vadis.

Tomb of Priscilla (author: Notafly)

Catacomb of Callixtus

The Catacomb of Callixtus includes the Crypt of the Popes (Cappella dei Papi), which once contained the tombs of several popes from the 2nd to 4th centuries. The catacomb forms part of an ancient funerary complex, the Complesso Callistiano, that occupies thirty hectares.

Catacomb(s) of Callixtus, The Crypt of the Popes (author: Dnalor 01)

San Sebastiano fuori le mura (Saint Sebastian beyond the Walls)

San Sebastiano fuori le mura is a church built in the 4th century with the ancient title of Saints Peter and Paul, on the site where the relics of the two apostles were transferred in 258 to save them from persecution.

San Sebastiano fuori le mura (author: Orlando Paride)

Catacombs of San Sebastiano

The Catacombs of San Sebastiano are an underground cemetery in Rome.

Catacombs of San Sebastiano (author: Palickap)

The Jewish catacombs of Vigna Randanini

The Jewish catacombs of Vigna Randanini are located on the side of a hill between the Via Appia Antica and the Via Appia Pignatelli. The catacombs have a system of galleries and tunnels that extend over an area of 18,000 m². The galleries are located at a depth of about 10 m and develop for a total length of about 700 m, today partly practicable on foot. It is difficult to date these catacombs, but the paintings and the remains found are dated between the end of the second and the fourth century AD.

author: sethschoen

Circus of Maxentius

The Circus of Maxentius is a Roman circus part of a complex of buildings erected by emperor Maxentius on the Appian Way between AD 306 and 312.

Circus of Maxentius (author: Livioandronico2013)

Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella

The Mausoleum of Caecilia Metella is a roman tomb located just outside Rome at the three mile marker of the Via Appia. It was built during the 1st century BC to honor Caecilia Metella, the daughter of Quintus Caecilius Metellus Creticus, a consul in 69 BC.

Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella (author: Palickap)

Roman baths of Capo di Bove

Capo di Bove is an archaeological site that contains the baths of a large landed property that belonged in the second century probably to Herodes Atticus and his wife Annia Regilla.

Roman baths of Capo di Bove (author: Luiza Serpa Lopes)



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