The ancient Via Appia, or Appian Way, is one of the most evocative places in Rome.
The road was built in 312 BCE by the censor, Appius Claudius Caecus, to link Rome to Capua, a city 120 miles to the south. In time the Via Appia ran all the way to Brindisi, a port on the south-east coast of Italy.
The Romans would go on to build a huge network of paved roads throughout its empire, but the Via Appia would remain the regina viarum (queen of roads).
For the first few miles the Via Appia served as a cemetery for Rome's patrician class and was lined with tombs. The best to survive is the monumental tomb of Cecilia Metella, which stands at the third milestone and was built during the reign of the emperor Augustus (r. 27 BCE-14 CE). This extremely well-preserved tomb is 100 Roman feet in diameter (29.5 m) and, for centuries, has been the most famous landmark on the Via Appia.
The Via Appia was also used by the early Christians as a site for their underground cemeteries, or catacombs.
In 71 BCE the Via Appia was the setting for a very gruesome event: the crucifixion of 6,000 slaves. In 73 BCE the ex-gladiator, Spartacus (c. 111-71 BCE), led a slave revolt against the Romans. Spartacus and his slaves defeated several Roman armies in a conflict that lasted two years before being defeated in 71 BCE by the Roman general, Marcus Licinius Crassus (c. 115-53 BCE).
Blogging about Rome:
its art, history and culture.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
small-group walking tours
Search Walks in Rome: