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.

[…]