The Via Appia Antica is the most famous and best preserved of the ancient Roman so-called “consular roads”. It is also called Regina Viarum (“Queen amongst Streets”) and was built in 312 BC by the censor Appio Claudio Cieco, who had earlier had the first aqueduct built in Rome. The English name for the street is Appian Way. The best way to visit the street is either on foot or by bicycle.
Via Appia Antica Rome
History and description
The choice of the name Appia was unusual: Streets were not normally named after their builders, but for their function (the Via Salaria was the street of the salt) or their destination (like the Via Tiburtina, the Via Nomentana, and the Via Praetoriana)
The Via Appia initially only went as far as Capua, then it was extended to Benevento and finally up to Brindisi, where one of the two columns that indicated the end of the street can still be seen. Construction was finished in the beginning of the 2nd century B.C.
The Via Appia started at Porta Capena, next to the Circus Maximus. When the Aurelian Walls were built, the entrance of the city came to be at the present Porta San Sebastiano. Nowadays the Appian Way starts here.
The road was just wide enough (about 4,50 m) for two carts to pass each other, or for 5 soldiers to march alongside one another. It was made of big slabs of black volcanic stone on top of layers of sand and pebbles. Every 12 to 15 km there was a posting station with an inn.
The Via Appia is lined with catacombs and funeral monuments. In those days it was not allowed to bury people inside the city walls, so the burial places were mostly near the big roads leading into the city.
During the Middle Ages some of the old buildings along the Via Appia were fortified. An example of this is the Tomb of Cecilia Metella. In the Renaissance period, however, many of the tombs were raided for building materials.
Address and public transport
The Via Appia Antica is very long. The nearest bus stop to the beginning is near the Porta San Sebastiano (lines 118, 218).