Via Appia

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Overview of the road network in the Roman Empire (see also list of Roman roads ) in AD 125 under Emperor Hadrian
Via Appia (white) and Via Traiana (red)

The Via Appia ( Appische Strasse ) is a Roman road that was built in 312 BC. Was started under the consul Appius Claudius Caecus . Today the Via Appia as state road 7 (SS 7) is an important part of the Italian trunk road network and has for the most part the same route as the ancient road. It leads over a length of approx. 540 km from Rome to Brindisi .

Where the ancient route is not built over by the modern road, the ancient paving is often still preserved or excavated. These parts of the old road are usually referred to as the Via Appia Antica , for example in Rome , the Roman suburbs Ciampino and Marino , in Terracina , Mondragone , Caserta and Matera . The modern street on the other hand is called Via Appia Nuova .

The first suburban miles of the Via Appia Antica in southeast Rome are an archaeological attraction of stature and a popular local recreation area. As a regional park, the street and its immediate surroundings are protected from further suburban development. As an arterial road , the Appia was lined with tombs, manors and thermal baths in antiquity. In addition to numerous above-ground monuments, there are some excavations on the edge of the road and the entrances to several early Christian catacombs .

The ancient highway

Building history and course of the road

Via Traiana at Gnathia
Via Appia Antica near the Roman quarter Quarto Miglio
Via Appia in Minturnae
VIA TRAIANA on the reverse of a denarius by Trajan, Kampmann No. 27.60
Via Appia Antica on the southern outskirts of Rome in Italy
End of the Via Appia in Brindisi

The Via Appia was built in 312 BC. Chr. Of Appius Claudius Caecus begun. It begins in Rome at Porta Capena . Originally the initially unpaved Via Appia only led over 195 kilometers to Capua and served as military supplies against the Samnites . Around 190 BC Chr. The road to Brundisium (today was Brindisi ) extended that the most important transit point for goods and slaves from the East rising. The Via Appia thus became one of the most important trade routes in Italy or even the Roman Empire. It is no coincidence that it was given the nickname Regina Viarum , "Queen of the Streets", in ancient times .

In the Pontine Plain , the Via Appia runs straight for 62 km - to this day it is the longest straight road in Europe.

The original route led via Benevento and Taranto to Brindisi. Emperor Trajan had Benevento create another route (Via Appia Traiana) via Bari (114 AD), which was a shortcut from one to two day trips . This meant that the travel time from Rome to Brindisi was reduced from around fourteen days to twelve to thirteen days. A denarius minted under Trajan commemorates the construction of this route, which was part of the great public construction program under Trajan. A woman holds a wheel in her hands as a symbol of traffic. In the section of the coin it says VIA TRAIANA.

Mass crucifixion along the street

After 71 BC BC Spartacus was defeated in the Third Slave War , 6,000 of his followers, who survived the battle, were crucified on the Via Appia between Capua and Rome.

Church tradition

In the church tradition, the Via Appia is also the road on which Peter finally returned to Rome: “ Domine, quo vadis? “At the beginning of the Via Appia there is the chapel of Santa Maria in Palmis .


From late antiquity, the street began to decline due to insufficient maintenance. In 536 Belisarius still used the Appian Way to advance on Rome during the Gothic War . But mainly because of the increasing swamping of the Pontine Plain , the northern part of the road became less and less usable. The abandonment of Tres Tabernae marks the final decline.

Traffic shift in the Middle Ages

To bypass the Pontine Marshes , the Via Appia between Cisterna di Latina and Terracina was replaced by the Via Pedemontana along the Monti Lepini . In the north-south traffic, the Via Casilina took over the role of the Via Appia.

The modern Via Appia

Via Appia Nuova in the Roman district of Capanelle

A modern trunk road that follows the ancient Via Appia for long stretches was built from 1784. In the area of ​​the Pontine Marshes , the Via Appia could only regain its importance when it was drained in the 1930s. Today it is a state road (Strada statale) and bears the name SS 7 Via Appia.

In Rome, the Via Appia Nuova begins at Porta San Giovanni . It runs northeast of the ancient road and opens up, among other things, the Rome Ciampino airport . In the Statuario district , it approaches the Via Appia Antica for a good kilometer; from there, the distance decreases slowly but continuously until the Via Appia Nuova in Frattochie, a district of Marino , joins the route of the ancient road.

Another route in the area of ​​the city of Rome is the Via Appia Pignatelli , which is about one kilometer behind the church Domine quo vadis? branches off the Via Appia Antica . It flows into the Via Appia Nuova at the Quarto Miglia district (“fourth mile”, with reference to the Via Appia) .

The Via Appia Antica regional park near Rome

The first suburban miles of the Via Appia Antica in southeast Rome are an archaeological attraction of stature and a popular local recreation area. In 1951 the Appia Antica was cut into two parts by the Roman motorway ring; This damage has now been repaired by the highway crossing under the Appia in a tunnel. Since 1988, the Via Appia Antica and its immediate surroundings have been protected as a regional park from further suburban development.

The ancient road started at the Circus Maximus ; this first section ( Viale delle Terme di Caracalla ) along the Caracalla thermal baths is now massively built over. From the Piazza di Porta Capena , the Appia runs , initially as Via di Porta San Sebastiano , as a narrow side street on modern pavement, mostly shady between high walls, closed to through traffic on Sundays. At the Porta San Sebastiano it breaks through the Aurelian Wall . From there it leads out of Rome as the Via Appia Antica . From the chapel of Santa Maria in Palmis ( Domine quo vadis , see above) the street is lined with archaeological sights. From the junction of Via Appia Pignatelli , before the ancient pavement is exposed for the first time, only local car traffic is allowed.

The most famous sights are the catacombs , the Maxentius villa , the tomb of Caecilia Metella and the villa of the Quintilians ; there are also numerous smaller relics from tombs and other buildings, such as B. a long time wrongly interpreted as the temple of Hercules Emporion . The longest section of the path with ancient pavement is near the Metella tomb.

The modern pavement ends at Via Capanne di Marino . On the last two kilometers before the confluence of the SS7, the ancient road has grown over except for an exposed area and can only be recognized by the relief and a beaten path. This section gives an impression of what large parts of the ancient street would have looked like before it was rediscovered in the Renaissance.

Tombs along the Appian Way

Via Appia Antica , so-called tomb of Priscilla
Via Appia Antica, so-called tomb of the Horatians near the villa of the Quintilians

Since a Roman law stipulated that no dead could be buried in the area of ​​the housing estates, this was usually done along the arteries. Since the Via Appia was one of the most important roads, it gave those buried here or their families a good opportunity to represent their reputation and property with their grave structures. Therefore, not only are many graves laid along the Via Appia, but above all a number of large grave monuments have been erected. The tombs of Caecilia Metella and Casal Rotondo are particularly well known .

As a rule, there are three types of graves that can be visited here on the Via Appia:

  • Catacombs , that is, underground niche graves dug en masse into the ground, which were primarily intended for the burial of the poorer people. The most famous catacombs on the Via Appia are the Catacombs of San Sebastian , Catacombs of Domitilla and the Catacombs of Calixtus .
  • small and medium-sized grave monuments
  • imposing grave monuments

Tourist development

The Via Appia Antica is a popular destination for the Romans. You can visit them on foot or by bike. There is a bike rental near Domine quo vadis . An archeobus runs from the Termini station as a shuttle . The regional train stop in S. Maria d. Mole makes it possible to hike the entire Appia Antica until shortly before the confluence of the SS7.


Web links

Commons : Via Appia  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. In search of the secret Italy (report)