Most visitors to Rome make a pilgrimage to the storied ancient highway known as the Via Appia, or Appian Way. Named for Claudius Appius Caecus, the Roman official who built the first section of this southbound military road in 312 BC. The remnants of the road even played a role in the World War II Battle of Anzio.
Author Robert Kaster of Princeton University traveled what’s left of the Appian Way from beginning to end and now regales us with his fascinating history of it and its present-day vestiges.
A description of the book reads, “In The Appian Way, he brings a lifetime of studying Roman literature and history to his adventures along the ancient highway. A footsore Roman soldier pushing the imperial power south; craftsmen and farmers bringing their goods to the towns that lined the road; pious pilgrims headed to Jerusalem, using stage-by-stage directions we can still follow—all come to life once more as Kaster walks (and drives—and suffers car trouble) on what’s left of the Appian Way. Other voices help him tell the story: Cicero, Goethe, Hawthorne, Dickens, James, and even Monty Python offer commentary, insight, and curmudgeonly grumbles, their voices blending like the ages of the road to create a telescopic, perhaps kaleidoscopic, view of present and past.”