Episode 43 – The Appian Way – Part Two

— The wheelbarrow as we know it, made its appearance in Europe around the tenth century, at the height of the Dark Ages.

Part Two of the Appian Way. Tools, laws, and lists of other Roman roads, used at the time.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast. The Tale of Rome, Episode 43 — The Appian Way – Part Two.

— “One more step, to your left!”

The boy, holding the heavy groma, and some 40 paces away from the surveyor, didn’t hear the order. 

And so — he didn’t move.

— “To the left, I told you,” the surveyor yelled.

The boy, now startled, jumped to his left. The poor apprentice couldn’t get a single word, because of the strong gale blowing east from the sea. 

— “A single step, I told you!” The surveyor was running out of time and patience. “What a stulte, this boy,” he muttered to himself.

Stulte was the word for “slow” in Latin, especially when someone was — sort of, slow to understand things.

In plain English, it would also mean dumb, or dim-witted.

So when the boy tried to get back to where he thought the man wanted him to stay, he tripped on a rock.

As he tried to avoid the fall, he held on to the groma, and its ferrous tip bent into an awkward angle. 

And to make matters worse, one of the handles of the groma broke off, as the apprentice tried to hold on to it.

The main pole hit the ground, and so did the boy.

Like that, the groma was useless.

[…]

Miles and miles of swamps, infested with cattails, frogs, mosquitoes and the ocasional corpses of animals and men, that just couldn’t make it through the land.

Here, I would like to add two things.

One one hand, the Appian Way wasn’t built in all its length in the year 312 BC. That year, it only got to Capua.

And later on — in the year 291 BC, to be more precise, the road would reach the locality of Venusia. We are still some 20 years away from that.

And then — another 10 years later, the Appian Way would finally reach Tarentum.

By that time, we will be dealing with a whole new topic.

The upcoming wars against Pyrrhus of Epirus.

And then — after that, the Appian Way will go all the way to the heel of Italy. That is Brundisium.

And after that, the road will make a giant U-turn, and snake its way to the other end of Italy. The point where the continent is at its nearest with the island of Sicily.

Centuries later, under the reign of Emperor Trajan, the Appian Way will become a true masterpiece for its times.

OK, and on the other hand, I need to make a short list of Roman roads — or ways, rather, that ALREADY existed before the construction of the Appian Way.

[…]

Episode 40 – Livy and Virgil

— Instead, people die the day nobody ever talks about them, or even thinks about them.

A biography episode in The Tale of Rome. We compare and contrast two giants of their time. Livy and Virgil.

Partial Transcript

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

The Tale of Rome, Episode 40 — Livy and Virgil.

Virgil and Livy — Livy and Virgil. At the end of the day, the order of these two names doesn’t really matter. However — I felt like sharing why I chose to name this episode, the way I did.

Our podcast started with a story where a guy named Aeneas was fleeing from a city called Troy. This was obviously brought to us by Virgil.

Still — I decided to put Livy’s name first, on the cover of the episode.

And no — the reason is NOT their looks. I can promise you that. This is not a beauty contest!

But, after I picked the two pictures that would illustrate this episode’s cover, I ended up having Livy — full front, and Virgil, seen from a side.

So…

Had I placed Virgil on the left side of the cover, he would be facing away from Livy. Not nice!

And since we — and when I say “we,” I mean the vast majority of readers in the western world — since we usually write from left to right, the title ended up being “Livy and Virgil,” because — well… Livy was on the left, and Virgil was on the right.

All right, that’s sorted out!

And now, let’s start this story, and let’s start it this way…

We are in the year 18 AD — AD, as in ANNO DOMINI, or “after the birth of Christ.”

A ship was arriving in Rome’s port. And I am not talking about the port of Ostia, the one built by the fourth king of Rome — Ancus Marcius.

I am talking about another port — a few hundred miles south.

Portus Julius.

[…]

SIX — While Livy would sometimes write up to 20 pages a day, Virgil had days where not even a single sentence was created.

Furthermore, if it wasn’t that Virgil’s death wish was deliberately disobeyed, today we would not have his works. Nothing.

That’s right. The whole Aeneid would have been burned. That was the wish of Virgil, on his deathbed. And what’s even more curious, Virgil never considered his Aeneid as a complete work of art.

On a personal note, that’s understandable. Artists are often like that.

[…]