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5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful book (with an excellent text), 10 Dec. 2012
This review is from: The Appian Way: From Its Foundation to the Middle Ages (Getty Trust Publications: J. Paul Getty Museum) (Hardcover)
This beautiful book about the Appian Way - published by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 2004 - is edited by the Italian scholar Ivana Della Portella, who is the author of Subterranean Rome published in the year 2000 by the German publishing house Könemann.

The ancient Roman road known as Via Appia runs from the capital city of Rome to Brundisium (today Brindisi) in the south of Italy, from where travellers could cross the sea to Greece. The road is named after the Roman politician Appius Claudius Caecus, who started construction in 312 BC, while serving as a censor. The task was completed around 200 BC. The road was built in five stages:

# 1 from Rome to Capua
# 2 further on to Beneventum (today Benevento)
# 3 further on to Venusium (today Venosa)
# 4 further on to Tarentum (today Taranto)
# 5 further on to Brundisium

The total distance is 364 miles (583 km). A Roman traveller could usually cover this journey in two weeks.

During the second century AD the emperor Trajan built an alternative route for the last three sections, i.e. from Beneventum to Brundisum. Trajan's road, which was completed by AD 112, was 28 miles (45 km) shorter, so the traveller would save one day using this route.

This book takes the reader on a fascinating journey along this famous road, which is known as the queen of roads (regina viarum). The main text is divided into six chapters written by the editor and two other Italian scholars:

** Giuseppina Pisani Sartorio covers the history of the whole road (chapter 1) and the first few miles from Porta Capena to Casal Rotondo (chapter 2)

** Francesca Ventre covers the section from the Alban Hills to Cisterna Latina (chapter 3) and from the Pontine Plain to Benevento (chapter 4)

** Ivana Della Portella covers the southern route (the old road) from Benevento to Brindisi (chapter 5) and the northern route - Via Trajana - from Benevento to Brindisi (chapter 6).

At the end of each chapter there are notes with additional information and references to ancient and modern works.

The Roman poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus (known in English as Horace) is mentioned and quoted several times, because one of his poems describes a journey from Rome to Brundisium. The poem (104 lines) is printed in Latin and in English (translated by Jacob Fuchs) after chapter 6.

The book opens with three brief sections: an introduction by Walter Veltroni, who was the mayor of Rome when the book was published; a foreword by the editor; and a prologue by the Italian journalist, writer and politician Vittorio Emiliani. The book concludes with a bibliography and an index.

[Almost all modern works cited in the notes and listed in the bibliography are written in Italian. There is almost nothing in English.]

The text is illustrated by five maps, some line drawings in black-and-white, and a large number of outstanding colour photos taken by the Italian photographer Franco Mammana.

The English translation is done by Stephen Sartarelli, who is the translator of the inspector Montalbano crime series written by the Italian author Andrea Camilleri. He also translated The Roads of the Romans written by Romolo Augusto Staccioli and published by the J. Paul Getty Museum.

[When I look at "The Roads of the Romans" (2003), I think Sartarelli is not so familiar with the world of ancient Rome. When I look at "The Appian Way" (2004), I think his knowledge is improving. This time the flaws are fewer and minor (see more below).]

The book was reviewed by Owen Ewald of Seattle Pacific University in the internet magazine "Bryn Mawr Classical Review" (2005.04.05). Ewald is very positive: he likes the text; he likes the illustrations; and emphasises that they complement each other very well. It is "an exemplary collaboration among editor, photographer, and press." I agree with him on all three counts.

Ewald concludes his long and detailed review with a few quibbles: the names of the ancient towns Bovillae and Lanuvium sometimes appear as the modern Italian Boville and Lanuvio (pp. 87 and 101); and the translator uses the noun "abandon" instead of "neglect" (pp. 94 and 125).

I agree with him, and I am going to mention a few additional flaws:

(1) On page 101 we are told that Commodus ruled 180-193, although this emperor was killed on 31 December 192.

(2) The youngest son of Septimius Severus is called Getas, although his name is Geta (pp. 43, 56 and 82, note 24).

(3) A passage on page 78 about the Villa of the Quintili brothers mentions "a large, two-story nymphaeum, which serves as the entrance on the Via Appia." In antiquity the nymphaeum "served" as the entrance to this villa, which is located between the old road (Via Appia Antica) and the modern road (Via Appia Nuova). But it is highly misleading to use the present tense - "serves" - because the modern entrance to the villa is located on the modern road. There is a gate on the old road; but it is only a service gate for the museum staff, and it is not open to the public.

Who is the target audience for this book? I think it intended for two types of people: (1) the armchair traveller, who wants to study the road and its monuments without going anywhere; (2) the real traveller, who wants to explore some - perhaps all - sections of this ancient road. Whether you belong to the former or the latter category, I am sure you will enjoy this beautiful book.

PS. "The Appian Way" covers art, architecture, and history, but there is no practical information about hotels and restaurants along the route. If you need a more practical approach, I can recommend Robert Kaster, The Appian Way: Ghost Road, Queen of Roads (2012).
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book, 1 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: The Appian Way: From Its Foundation to the Middle Ages (Getty Trust Publications: J. Paul Getty Museum) (Hardcover)
The illustrations in this book are beautiful and lavish! A real "coffee table" book but not in a derogatory sense - the text is interesting and informative. I haven't come across a book dedicated to the Appian Way and found the subject fascinating. For those who love the Italian landscape, with its vivid blue skies, and stunning monuments, this is the book for you. Enjoy!
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