“Appian Way, Queen of Long-Distance Roads, 312 BC ” by Joan Y. Edwards
On October 2, 2023 I was fortunate to visit Rome, Italy. I went to see the Appian Way…the oldest road there. I heard that it was the Queen of Long Distance Roads and wondered why. Oh my!
I discovered that although this road is technically more than 2,335 years old, ten miles of it still exists!!! I actually stood and walked on it. Sometimes you have to witness something in person, in picture, or video to understand the strength of things built to last. I’m not sure that Appius Claudius Caecus knew the strength of this highway, but he knew that it was desperately needed to carry troops from Rome to the southern part of Italy.
The first section to Capua near Naples was approximately 120 miles and in 244 BC it was expanded to reach Brindisi along the Adriatic Sea on the west coast of Italy was about 400 miles long. From Brindisi, it was easy to sail to Greece and Egypt.
The Appian Way was built to move troops swiftly and easily during the Samnite Wars. They built forts along this highway, too. Appian Way was the first long distance road. They built 19 other roads from Rome. Hence the saying, “All roads lead to Rome.” The Appian Way was celebrated by The poets Horace and Statius called it longarum regina viarum, or “queen of long-distance roads.” I definitely agree with that statement.
The Appian Way on an average was 20 feet in width. It was slightly convex to allow the rainwater to drain well. Heavy stone blocks formed the foundation of the road. They were cemented together with lime mortar. Many sided blocks of lava were smoothly and expertly fitted together. They say this early road was very smooth, not bumpy or rough edged. No potholes.
Today there is a red light at the intersection. In this picture you can see the sign for Appia Antica.
Later times they built the roads like this. They were not and are not known for being smooth like the old Appian Way. So if you go to Italy or other towns where there are cobblestone roads, be careful not to twist your foot. I twisted mine. I am glad to say it healed nicely in about 3 weeks.