Sunday afternoon I visited the Appian Way, “ancient Rome’s most important military and economic artery”. Built in 312 BC, the road is one of the “oldest roads in existence” and called the “Queen of Roads”!
“The Appian Way was a crucial road for the Roman Empire. It connected Rome to its most distant settlements. Originally built by Appius Claudius Caecus, the censor of Rome, the road connected Rome to Capua near Naples. Eventually, it extended more than 300 miles to the Adriatic Coast, making it the widest and longest road in existence at the time.”
Catacombs Along the Appian Way
“The road is made of large, flat stones firmly set in place by thousands of years of rain, wheels, and feet passing over them….”
The Appian Way starts at Via Appia south of the Coliseum. Circo Massimo metro station is the best access point. For me getting there was an effort and required connecting through metro lines A and B, and then taking a bus. It’s a beautiful area and I enjoyed the afternoon despite the heat. The Appian Way is best seen on bicycle using the worn dirt tracks along the road. On Sundays, cars are not permitted.
I walked portions of the incredibly well-preserved road and visited the Catacombs of San Sebastiano and San Callisto. The road is made of “large, flat stones firmly set in place by thousands of years of rain, wheels, and feet passing over them”.
Walking gives you a funny feeling wondering whose footsteps previously passed on the historical road – “emperors like Julius Caesar, merchants, saints, and maybe St. Peter”. In 71 BC, before the road was built, gladiator and slave leader Spartacus was crucified on Via Appia.
“The Ancient Appian Way was the first and greatest, a surviving testament to the mighty Roman Empire.”
Points of Interest
You can continue for miles though about 30 roads fanning out from Rome. Beginning at Porta San Sebastián, there are various points of interest:
- Domine Quo Vadis 19th Century Church where St. Peter saw a vision of Christ while fleeing Nero
- Catacombs of San Sebastiano and San Callisto, burial sites for early popes
- Tomb of Cecilia Metella, the daughter-in-law of Rome’s richest man
- Circus Maxentius Arena where chariot races were held
“The Ancient Appian Way was the first and greatest, a surviving testament to the mighty Roman Empire. The road is strewn with historic tombs and ancient ruins, all nearly unchanged since the 4th century.” There is so much ancient Roman history along the Appian Way – you would need lots of time there to absorb it all!
Dedication to My Parents
This post is dedicated with love to the memory of my mother and father whose birthdays are June 10 and 11th.