The Appian Way: Ghost Road, Queen of Roads
[Culture Trails: Adventures in Travel]
I just celebrated the 4th Anniversary of Joy on Paper and one of the things that I have discovered is that there are so many 'magical threads' that weave through the tapestry of my program. One thread leads to another...
A month ago I flew north to visit my son who is completing his Ph.D. up at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. While I was there we had dinner with Margaret George, the author of two books about Nero: The Confessions of Young Nero and Splendor Before the Dark.
Thinking about Rome and Italy reminded me of the glorious honeymoon that my husband and I made across Europe and on to Turkey. We started in Bremen where we picked up the car we had shipped from the States -- a white Cadillac! Wow! What a fantastic trip.
When we got to Rome we headed south along the route of the Appian Way with some side trips to Naples and Pompeii and then on to Brindisi where we took a ferry to Greece.
The Roman poet Statius called the via Appia “the Queen of Roads,” and for nearly a thousand years that description held true. Unfortunately, most of the road is gone -- destroyed and neglected it would be a sad journey to follow if not for the greatest gift given to humanity: imagination. With the help of an enthusiastic adventurer, we can travel this road which has played such an important role in world history.
Luckily we have such an adventurer in Professor Robert A. Kaster. He's a scholar, but don't let that scare you. The minute you read the first sentence of his book, The Appian Way: Ghost Road, Queen of Roads, you will love the guy!
"What the hell are we doing here?" - Robert A. Kaster, The Appian Way
That's a good question, Professor. The answer is having fun following in your footsteps.
When I took the journey many years ago, I was armed with an old book printed in 1920. Since it only covers the first fifteen miles, it wasn't all that helpful. The Appian Way is much better -- it's a travelogue with just enough history to fill a few brain cells.
Of course, Professor Kaster could do the whole tour in Latin, after all he was the Kennedy Foundation Professor of Latin at Princeton University, but he spares us that...and whether he is talking history or car problems or mullets and pine trees, he does it in English. Grammatically correct, but not boring.
And the fun thing about this book is he brings along the ghosts of so many people who offer their own ideas (sometimes opinionated) about this fascinating road where Roman soldiers pushed the power of Rome southward. Among the followers adding their two cents are Cicero, Goethe, Hawthorne, Dickens, James and -- just for a light comedic insight --Monty Python. How can you beat that?
Even if you don't intend to take this journey, buy the book. So many things have happened along this road: In 71 BC over 6,000 slaves captured during the revolt of Spartacus were crucified along the via Appia. Battles have been fought nearby,. This wonderful little book might just inspire you to add this journey to your "Joy List" -- the things to should while you have the chance.
I am looking forward to talking to Professor Kaster on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. Click the ON AIR button above to listen live at at 11 a.m. EST.
To circle back to those 'magical threads' -- Seneca the Younger committed suicide at marker 4 on the via Appia -- at the orders of Nero -- the hero of Margaret George's books.
"A wonderful preface for any traveler planning an outdoorsy day in Rome or, especially, a trip through southern Italy. Kaster's enthusiasm for the road and the people (past and present) who populate it is contagious." -- Library Journal
So, it seems am on some kind of Roman extravaganza -- perhaps it is because April 21st is Rome's 2768 Birthday. I just got the Audible version of Margaret George's The Memoirs of Cleopatra and to round out this celebration I will be interviewing Brook Allen on Thursday, April 18th about her new book: Antonius: Son of Rome, which she released (appropriately) on the Ides of March.
Listen to PatZi's interview with Prof. Kaster
Will be uploaded after the live interview on 04/16/2019
Buy The Appian Way...
And start planning your next trip...
Get on your sandals...
and conquer the world
in Roman style...