Revised June 25, 2004
The Romans were incredible road builders. The very first of the great roads they built was the ancient Appian Way. It is the southern route out of or entrance to the city. The road was started in 312 BCE by Appius Claudius and he named it after himself. When the first part was finished it stretched for over 130 miles. It was paved with fairly huge stones which I would imagine would have been fairly bumpy to ride a chariot or wagon on.
Some of the Appian Way still exists as it did thousands of years ago. Hynda and I walked about 4 of the seven miles that presently is a linear park. It is lined with burial mausoleums - all in ruins. The Romans buried their dead outside the city and the Appian Way was at one time lined with huge mausoleums. We have seen some pictures of the area and from the ruins we can tell it was quite something.
The following pictures are from our journey along the Appian Way:
Starting in the third century, that is, when Catholism was recognized as the official religion of the Roman Empire, the Christians started to bury their dead in catacombs along the Appian Way. The Romans never buried their dead - they cremated them. Hynda and I visited one catacomb - Saint Callistus. At one time 17 Popes were buried in these catacombs - some have now been moved to churches around Rome. This one went down four levels and was enormous. There are over 500,000 people buried here in the twelve miles of tunnels - there are two other Christian and one Jewish one in this area. The Jewish one is only open the first Monday of the month by appointment - Hynda and I will try to go during our visit here. We both had thought that the catacombs were natural caves that they used.. but these were all dug out by hand!!!!
It was actually a little claustrophobic being down there. The tunnels went on as far as you could see and the ceilings were quite tall - in some cases five or six slots high. You go with a guide but if you wander off you could be lost for days. One tour book warned that the guides can sometimes be more into religion than in telling you about the catacombs. Our guide was a priest and he was very good until the last room. He then went on about how we were losing our way in this world and that we had to get back to the old Christian values. He then asked for questions.
This is Hynda outside the catacombs. They would not let us take any pictures inside. She is modeling the latest in catacomb dress as you can tell from the sign.
This is sort of the entrance to the Appian way. Notice the DO NOT ENTER SIGN. Notice the traffic jam. Notice the reflection on the car of a beautiful woman that I happened to photograph by accident.
Here are assorted photos of us on our walk. It was really quite pleasant since there are trees on both sides so it was very shady.
This was the remains of one masoleum on the side of the road. Hynda was offended by the nudity and decided to cover the man up. You can get some idea of how big some of these structures were by the one shown behind the fence.