Episode 42 – The Appian Way

— And more than once, it happened that clients would get the wrong door, and walk into the school, before they realized, there were no girls there, but young students instead.

The Roman road that would make Rome the undisputed powerhouse of Italy. And the life of Appius Claudius, the maker of that road.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 42 — The Appian Way.

No other road, path, or route of communication has changed the history of the western world as much as the Appian Way, today also known as the Old Appian Way.

Natural passage points, or itineraries, that people used by land — such as the Silk Road, the Amber Road, and their maritime counterparts — such as the Strait of Gibraltar — they all can claim their own importance, and yes, they did their fair share, to alter history in their own ways.

As another example, we have the pathway between the locality of Marathon and Athens, which was traveled by a Greek soldier in record time, so that he could pass the news, that the Persians had been defeated. Of course, the mere concept of this distance proved of so much importance in our western world, that today we have an Olympic sport, bearing the name and the distance, of that very pathway.

Marathon!

But — all these are not proper routes — properly designed, planned, traced out, and set up.

The Silk Road was never marked along the whole way. Yes, there were milestone points, and there were knots where people just had to pass through, but those were mostly dictated by nature, or by a government. Not by a designer.

And the Silk Road has never been methodically curated, kept up, and renovated, not by any stretch of the imagination. It served its purpose, sure. But the purpose was very different.

So, when we talk about a road, a cobbled road — and, to make it more specific, a Roman road, this road — the one we are talking about today, truly changed the course of the history of Rome.

Not only because it was the first of its kind, but also because until today, it still remains being the most famous one. And that’s just one of the reasons.

So, today we are dedicating our entire episode to the reasons behind this road.

And to why a Roman Censor, named Appius Claudius, a man of Sabine origin, was pushing so hard through the political system, to get this road done.

And — last but not least, we also wanna learn that this man wouldn’t be stopped from building this road, even as total blindness set in, during the last 15-or-so years of his illustrious life.

So much so, that we will know him as Appius Claudius, the Blind.

And since we will be talking of this man, we should not forget the other masterpiece of his, the just as famous Aqua Appia — in other words, the first aqueduct that brought clean water to Rome, from the mountains.

Yes — it was a subterranean waterway, but the merit still stands.

But before we go talk about Appius Claudius, and the Appian Way, or the Aqua Appia, I want to tell you guys about the dilemma I had to face this week.

When it was time to pick a celebrity phrase, to put it as some kind of GRAND SUBTITLE, for the Appian Way, I found out I had way too many choices.

Too many strategists, generals, writers, historians — past and present, had their say about the Appian Way, and so — it really wasn’t easy to make a choice.

So…

In the end, I picked what a certain Publius Papinius Statius said about the Appian Way, around the year 69 after the birth of Christ.

It was the year when this man — Statius, moved from Neapolis to Rome, and this is what he said:

APPIA LONGARUM — TERITUR REGINA VIARUM

[…]

How many times did Romans have to march from Rome to Capua, during the last — say, 10 years?

Yep. I didn’t count, but for sure — many, many times.

It becomes clear — almost immediately, that — rather sooner than later, someone would show up, and say, hey — we can’t keep dragging ourselves through the swamps that lay between Rome and the south.

— Let’s do something about it!

And this man, was Roman Censor Appius Claudius.

And yes — this was not a matter of “if” the road was going to be built some day. It was a matter “when.”

Besides, those swamps along the Italian coast were a breeding ground for disease.

Those swamps, called the Paudine Swamps, also known as the Pontine Marshes, were very characteristic of the region, where rivers were often short, and had not enough drag to make it through the lowlands, west of the Apennines.

That created large areas of marches. Breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

[…]

Episode 17 – The Conflict of the Orders

—”We can compare the social classes of Rome to a human body”

Seems like a whole new topic, but that’s nothing new to the Romans: internal struggles between their social classes appear every time, and as soon as there was no threat from the outside. But this time, they went overboard.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 17 – The Conflict of the Orders.

Last week we kicked the Latin League’s behind, in a battle that lasted far too long into the afternoon, and we all got hungry and ended up missing lunch.

Partly by superstition, Roman legionaries carried two types of food with them, at all times. Bread and olives. They also carried water, but during a battle, water would be both a waste and a discomfort, so olives just had to do, to make a soldier’s bread feel not too dry.

Did I mention that Romans were super superstitious? Well, in case I didn’t say it, here’s another one of their ideas:

Romans considered even numbers to be bad luck, and odd numbers to bring good luck.

Oh yeah. Just about half of the days in a month were no good to get married, offer sacrifices to the gods, provoke a battle, start a major business, a long journey, or even an affair, outside of one’s own home.

But, well, let’s get back to our reality, and the fact that Rome beat the Latins, together with that old Tarquin the Proud.

A year later, Tarquin will move from Clusium, where — after the death of gold ole’ King Lars Porsenna, people in Clusium kinda’ didn’t like him anymore.

Tarquin found lodging in another Etruscan town, where he lived for another year, before dying in exile. Without a throne, without a lot of money, and without that last son-in-law of his, who was killed during the battle at lake Regillus.

The name of the locality were Tarquin the Proud finally died was Cumae, and Cumae was ruled by another despot of the time, named Aristodemus.

[…]

The Roman Senate, thankful for the help of Latins, returned some 6000 prisoners of war to the Latins, and in exchange for that attitude, Latins sent a golden crown to be placed inside the temple of Jupiter in Rome.

The day the Crown was set in the temple, a large crowd joined the event, and that included those liberated Latin prisoners, who were—obviously grateful to Rome for their freedom.

[…]