Latin VIA APPIA, passed over the steep Alban Mountains and through the Pontine Swamps. The Appian Way was begun in 312 BC by the censor Appius Claudius Caecus. At first it ran only 132 miles (212 km) from Rome south-southeastward to ancient Capua, in Campania, but by about 244 BC it had been extended another 230 miles (370 km) southeastward to reach the port of Brundisium (Brindisi), situated in the "heel" of Italy and lying along the Adriatic Sea.

The Appian Way was celebrated by Horace and Statius, who called it longarum regina viarum, or "queen of long-distance roads." As the main highway to the seaports of southeastern Italy, and thus to Greece and the eastern Mediterranean, the Appian Way was so important that during the empire it was administered by a curator of praetorian rank. The road averaged 20 feet (6 m) in width and was slightly convex in surface in order to facilitate good drainage. The road's foundation was of heavy stone blocks cemented together with line mortar; over these were laid polygonal blocks of lava that were smoothly and expertly fitted together. The lava blocks formed a good traveling surface, and one that proved to have extraordinary durability over the centuries.

The variety of tombs and memorial monuments along the Via Appia Antica were determined by the social status of the deceased. The rich built grand sepulchers, like the famous tomb complex of the Scipio family, or Cecilia Metella's mausoleum; the middle classes, instead, bought a niche for the urn containing their ashes in one of the many colombaria or public cemeteries (so called because of their resemblance to a dovecote). Slaves were buried in the fields reserved for this function. Though the Romans saw burial along the Appian Way as an opportunity to be remembered forever, emperors, popes and even modern day dictators found it impossible to halt the spoilage and decay of the Appian Way

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