The Roman road system plays an important role in the spread of the Gospel in the 1st Century. The early disciples used this road network to move easily throughout the Empire with the Good News. Couple this with the relative Pax Romana (Roman Peace), and you have a somewhat stable political environment as a backdrop. This is not to say that there wasn’t strife within the Empire and wars looming on the horizon. However, the freedom of movement enabled the message to go forth. Indeed, the fullness of time had come in so many ways (Galatians 4: 4).
The Appian Way is significant in Scripture as it is the route that Paul took to get to Rome once he arrived in Italy (@60AD). After surviving the shipwreck at Malta, Paul was ultimately transported to the Italian mainland where he entered at the Port of Puteoli (Acts 28: 13). Puteoli is 142 miles from Rome. The route to go from Puteoli to Rome is the Appian Way.
“…And the next day we came to Puteoli, where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome. And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.”
Acts 28: 13 – 15
The Appian Way (“Via Appia”) was one of the first and most strategically important roads built for ancient Rome. Named after Appius Claudius Caecus (340 – 273 BC), the road connected Rome to southeast Italy.
The first section of the road was completed in 312 BC during the Great (or 2nd) Samnite War. Appius (first name) Claudius (clan he was from) Caecus (meaning “blind” as he lost his outer sight later in life) built the road to supply and enable en masse movements of Roman troops in support of the war effort. The engineering feat was particularly impressive when considering the Pontine Marsh area that had to be overcome near Naples.
Later, Emperor Trajan (53 – 117AD) built an extension or deviation to the road named the Via Appia Traiana.
In 71BC, Spartacus and his army of slaves were defeated along the Appian Way. As a result, the Romans crucified some 6,000 over the 200 km stretch of road from Capua to Rome.
Did You Know?
In 1944, the Allies performed a forced landing near the Appian Way at Anzio Beach. It would take four months before they were able to break out and traverse the 30 miles to Rome. There were 29,200 casualties on the Allies side and 27,500 on the Axis side.
A key battle of WWII involved Monte Casino – a commanding height along a German defensive front known as the ‘Gustav Line”. Monte Casino dates back to 529 and Benedict, who established a monastery here for his Benedictine Order.