The Appian Way (Via Appia in Latin) was the oldest and longest of the ancient Roman roads. With superior engineering skill, the Romans constructed all-weather roads that were better than any built until the nineteenth century.
The Appian Way began in the city of Rome and was the main route southward out of the city. It ran southeast for 132 miles and then at Capua headed eastward across Italy for 234 miles, ending at the port of Brundisium (modern Brindisi) on the Adriatic Sea.
Like all the main Roman roads, the Appian Way was paved with durable rock such as basalt, granite, or porphyry. To build the road, surveyors first planned the route. Next, workers carefully dug a deep bed into which they placed naturally rounded stones surrounded by clay or earth. Finally, they laid huge paving stones on top and fitted them together closely to form a smooth surface. Most of the Appian Way was about ten feet wide, which allowed two carriages traveling in opposite directions to pass each other. At certain places, the road measured as much as twenty feet in width, and near the gates of Rome it widened to thirty feet.
Construction of the Appian Way began in 312 B.C. under the rule of Appius Claudius Caecus, the censor* for whom it is named. The road was completed by 244 B.C. Portions of the Appian Way—with roadside tombs, distance markers, and bridges—can still be seen today. (See also Roads, Roman.)
* censor Roman official who conducted the census, assigned state contracts for public projects (such as building roads), and supervised public morality