Appian Way/Via Appia: The Via Appia was often referred to in ancient Roman times as "longarum regina viarum" -- "queen of highways" -- because it was the first and in many ways the most important of Roman roads. It also was the only road that really led to Rome.

The hicks from the sticks, including ourselves, might think "All roads lead to Rome", but the insiders, real ancient Romans from Rome, not just generic "Romans" who were granted citizenship for political purposes, no, the real Romans all knew better. Roman roads always went from Rome, not to Rome: from Rome to the other nearby cities that needed conquering, from Rome to the countryside where produce and natural resources were to be taken, from Rome to those neighboring countries that eventually also needed conquering, from Rome to those far away places from England to Arabia and from the Danube to North Africa that also eventually needed conquest and exploitation. Rome built more than 80,000 miles of paved highways, all of which led from Rome to somewhere. Roads were military structures designed, built and maintained, and guarded by specific legions, which used them to get from Rome to wherever they needed to be. So roads always were from Rome.

Always, except for the Via Appia. Romans knew that this particular road came to Rome and from Alba Longa. Romans learned, as part of the "founding myths" of Rome, that Romulus and Remus, after they had been raised by the wolf and by the shepherd Faustus, and after they had slain the usurper Amulius and restored their grandfather Numitor to the throne in Alba Longa, had come back to Rome on the old unpaved road that led from Alba Longa to the base of a hill (the Palatine) next to the Tiber. That road was there before Rome -- it led to Rome.

By 312 BC Rome was well under way (but not built in a day), and the censor Appius Claudius Caecus started to pave and extend the road and to transform it into the first Roman highway. Curves were straightened, hills were lowered, and valleys were crossed by causeways and bridges. The first paved section was from Capua (near Naples) to Rome, but extensions continued to be built, and by 264 BC the Via Appia stretched from Brunduisium (Brindisi, on the Adriatic halfway down the heel of Italy's boot) to Rome. Its southernmost point was actually at Tarentum (Taranto, at the apex of Italy's "instep.") A spur, called the Via Appia Traiana, later connected Barium (Bari) to Rome.

The Via Appia, and especially the stretch just south of Rome, with its long stretch of tombs and monuments, was the haunt of footpads and highwaymen and, so the Romans thought, of Lemurs.

The Lemurs were ghosts, spirits of Romans who didn't get all the proper burial rituals or who needed to take revenge for their untimely deaths or who needed to punish grave plunderers. They hung around cemeteries until they were propitiated or avenged. The thieves were real enough and were especially numerous during disturbed times such as the last fifty or so years of the republic, and then during Caesar's civil war with Pompey. Augustus finally got them under control after he got sole power in 30 BC, but they reappeared whenever imperial control flagged. Nero and others of Rome's insane emperors were said to have personally participated in the brigandage.

There are now, of course, two Via Appias, the Antica and the Nuova. The Nuova is useful but completely without character or interest. The Antica is Appius Claudius' road. Its Roman terminus was near the southern end of the Circus Maximus, that is, the southeast corner of the Palatine, just outside the Servian wall. When it was first paved, it apparently ran just a little bit north of the present Via delle Terme di Caracalla and the Via di Porta San Sebastiano, but already in late Empire times its course had been shifted southward pretty much to where those roads are today. It certainly went through Aurelian' wall at what was called the Porta Appia, the name used for the San Sabastiano gate at least until the 12th century. (What you see now at the gate is mostly 12th century. Many archeologists now think that the "Arco di Druso", just inside the gate, and long thought to be a wayward triumphal arch, was probably just an ornate structure to carry the Antoniniana aqueduct over the Via Appia.)

The Via di Porta San Sebastiano is one of the nicest and most picturesque roads inside of the Aurelian walls because the area has escaped modern, that is, post-Renaissance, redevelopment. The area is park-like, with several Renaissance "rural" villas and casinas between the Piazzale Numa Pompilio and the Porta San Sabastiano. Vehicular traffic on this road is light, but that makes it all the more dangerous for pedestrians, because drivers go much too fast. There are no sidewalks along most of this road.

Outside of the gate, the road regains its ancient name and is lined for miles with tombs, catacombs, funeral monuments, and other antiquities. Among the most spectacular and famous sites are the catacombs, of course, and the well preserved (and open to the public) tomb of Caecilia Metella. There were similar things along other roads leading from Rome, but those on the Via Appia had a better survival rate simply because the city developed in other directions.

The Via Appia Antica continues southward toward Naples. It was along this stretch that six thousand rebellious slaves captured in the final battle of the two-year-long Spartacus slave revolt were crucified in 71 AD on the orders of Crassus, whose wife was Caecilia Metella.  Spartacus missed being crucified, because he was apparently killed in the battle.  His body was never found, so there were rumors that he (and Hitler) might someday return.

Internet links:

Via Appia inside the walls:

Via Appia near Rome:

Via Appia from the walls to Brindisi:

Via Appia in the Platner and Ashby Topographical Dictionary:*/Via_Appia.html

Via Appia Park (in Italian):

Italian language guide for the first six miles outside the walls:

French language notes and a good sketch-map of the first two miles:

Porta Appia/Porta S.Sabastiano from Platner and Ashby:*/Porta_Appia.html

Images old and new from Koskimies:

Tomb of Caecilia Metella:

Spartacus: and Crassus