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Articles, insights, sermons, and surmising from my desk for God's glory.

The Appian Way (312 BC)

Chris Clevenger

In antiquity there were three main routes that ran through ancient Israel. The Way of the Sea ran along the Mediterranean coast and provided travel between cities like Joppa, Tyre, and Sidon. The Way of Shur traversed the Judean hill country and provided a pathway from Galilee through Samaria to the city of Jerusalem and beyond. On the eastern side of the Jordan River Valley, the King's Highway connected the nations of Syria, Moab, and Edom. 


While these ancient roads were vital to trade and travel throughout the periods of the patriarchs, prophets, and kings, by the time of Christ a new standard for roadways had been developed. The Roman roads, marvels of engineering and craftsmanship, demonstrated the caliber of the highways that could be constructed. Throughout the Roman Empire there were 400,000 km of roads, 80,500 km of which were stone paved.  Twenty-nine military highways radiated from Rome herself, and the Late Empire's provinces were connected with 372 road links. Every 1,000 paces a mile marker was placed along these roads. On each milestone the number of the mile relative to the road and the distance to the Roman Forum was inscribed. 

In a certain sense, all roads did lead to Rome.

The prototypical, and possibly the most significant Roman road, was the Appian Way (Via Appia). Originally, the Appian Way connected Rome and Brindisi, a city located in southwest Italy. The "Queen of the Long Roads" was named after Appius Claudius Caecus, the Roman censor who began and completed the first section in 312 BC.  

Originally, the Appian Way was constructed for military uses. During the Samnite Wars the Romans needed a expedient way to move troops and supplies throughout the region. While embattled against the Samnites during the First Samnite War (343-341 BC) the Romans were unable to convey soldiers and supplies successfully and were forced to settle with their rivals. The Second Samnite War (327-304 BC) was at first fraught with similar problems. Once again, a failure to adequately convey supplies to troops was causing Rome to lose the war.

In 312 BC, Appius Claudius Caecus began the construction of aqueducts to provide water to the city of Rome. He also constructed the Appian Way. The first of the Roman roads ran across the Pontine Marshes, a former natural barrier, to the coast northwest of Naples. From there, the road turned toward Capua. Originally, the Appian Way ran 132 miles from Rome to Capua. By 244 BC it was extended to the "heel of Italy." 

The Appian Way allowed Rome to rapidly move troops and supplies from base to base without being hindered by enemy opposition or natural terrain. By 304 BC Rome had thoroughly defeated the Samnites and their allies. Their success in the Second Samnite War, and their establishment as an empire, was largely due to the Appian Way and the extensive road-system that would follow.  

Historically speaking, the construction of the Appian Way represents one of the major contributions of the Roman Empire to the success of early Christianity. Much like the Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks, the Roman contribution to the "fullness of time" (Gal. 4:4) helped pave the way for the coming of Jesus Christ and the establishment of His church. The Roman roadways provided easy travel for the apostles, missionaries, and other early Christians as they carried the Gospel message throughout the known world. Unwittingly, Appius Claudius Caecus, Augustus, Trajan, and other expanders of the Roman roads provided the pathway for the spread of the preaching of the Gospel. 

What John the baptizer accomplished spiritually by preparing the hearts and the minds of the people for the coming of Christ, the Romans did physically by connecting the furtherest expanses of the Empire using sophisticated roadways. Through the bricks of the Romans, God in His Providence prepared the world for the coming of the church.