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 41 – The End of the Great War

— In the end, Gaius Pontius saw that his old father — Herennius Pontius, had been right all along. Samnia now had a deadly enemy called Rome, and all Romans could think of, was vengeance.

The end of the Second Samnite War, from the fall of Apulia, to the inspection of Samnia, by Consul Publius Sempronius.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Sanya, in the south of China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome. Episode 41 — The End of the Great War.

We are in the year 435 of the Founding of the City. By our accounts, that is the year 319 BC.

Early morning. It’s the first day of the year.

Not the first day of the Julian Calendar — that would come centuries later — but, the first day of the Calendar, as it was set by Romulus, and Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome.

And the business of this first day of the year, was to elect the two new Consuls for the year.

Serious business.

Senators old and young, were hurrying to the building of the Curia, for — two really important decisions, depended on today’s vote.

On one hand, somebody would have to deal with the consequences of what happened at the Caudine Forks.

And, on the other hand, there was a law that was going to — either pass, or not pass.

And that law, had nothing to do with war, or the humiliating defeat at the Caudine Forks.

That law, if passed, would take away one certain power from Consuls, and would give it to the new guys in town.

The Censors.

That’s right — if today’s law passed, Censors would become the ones, who would have the power to remove someone from the Senate, and there was a myriad of reasons why this could happen.

So, anyways.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of what was going on, I would like to read a short list of six items, on how a Senator’s day went on, when it was time to pass new laws, welcome new Senators into the house, and other (smaller) business at hand.

ONE — Before the start of any important session, Senators would go to the Augurs, or Oracles, and see if the day in question, was actually good for passing new laws, or any other business.

At that time, there were four guys with sufficient authority in all of Rome, to decide whether the day was auspicious or not.

We’ll talk more about this further down the line.

TWO — Before any voting, there were speeches. Always. Even if the voting was as trivial as the naming of a street, a speech was to be had.

THREE — Sometimes these speeches went really long. And I mean, long!

[…]

A huge army from Tarentum showed up on the horizon, just as Romans and Samnites were about to get running into each other’s throats.

Their trumpets stopped everyone, and the Tarentines announced that this battle was being ordered, canceled.

That’s right! Canceled! And the Tarentines even said that whoever made a move to attack the other side, the army of Tarentum would immediately join the other side, and make the aggressors lose the whole fight.

Right away, the Romans called up their oracle, and checked on their sacred chicken.

The chicken said — well, they didn’t say a thing — the oracle said, the gods were totally in favor of a frontal, brutal, battle, and that Rome was not to be afraid of the new arrival.

And so — they made their battle formations, and started to walk forward.

[…]

Episode 38 – The First Gladiators

— The Romans are a people who do NOT know how to remain quiet after a defeat.

Part two of the Roman defeat, at the Caudine Forks. Also, a tribute to those very first gladiators of Rome.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 38 — The First Gladiators.

If last episode’s thing was closure — or loss, then today’s episode thing is SHAME.

Yep — SHAME.

Last episode we had closures.

The Latin War. Decius Mus. Villages and peoples of Italy.

Marcus, the Gladiator. And his mother, Aeliana, who died less than a month after Marcia.

In this episode, the topics are shame and humiliation, and we’ll see why.

In Rome, news arrived that the troops got caught at the Caudine Forks.

No-one knew exactly, how many were caught, and all the details of the event, but this was more than enough for an emergency session at the Senate of Rome.

And even before that EMERGENCY SESSION went into gear, the Senators dispatched orders. A new army would be raised, because they didn’t know what exactly happened.

For all intents and purposes, the army could be dead by now. All of them.

Less than a week later, however, fresher — and more reliable news broke.

And that’s when the entire city felt the humiliation of the event.

Unbearable shame.

50,000 Roman soldiers surrendered — without ever drawing a single sword, to a guy called Gaius Pontius.

[…]

Well, to make a long story short, our old Marcus, knew that his next fight might as well be his last one.

And because of that, he invited his nephew, to watch him die.

—”Spurius,” Marcus said,  as they walked past markets and shops, “Rome will soon be the master of this whole region. Not just Capua, but the whole south of Italy. And I don’t want to be alive, by the time that happens.”

—”What are you trying to tell me,” Spurius asked.

—”In seven days I get to face Croccus,” Marcus said.

— “Croccus — The lion killer?”

— “That’s right.”

[…]