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The Appian Way: Ghost Road, Queen of Roads (Culture Trails: Adventures in Travel) [Kindle Edition]

Robert A. Kaster
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The Roman poet Statius called the via Appia “the Queen of Roads,” and for nearly a thousand years that description held true, as countless travelers trod its path from the center of Rome to the heel of Italy. Today, the road is all but gone, destroyed by time, neglect, and the incursions of modernity; to travel the Appian Way today is to be a seeker, and to walk in the footsteps of ghosts.

Our guide to those ghosts—and the layers of history they represent—is Robert A. Kaster. In The Appian Way, he brings a lifetime of studying Roman literature and history to his adventures along the ancient highway. A footsore Roman soldier pushing the imperial power south; craftsmen and farmers bringing their goods to the towns that lined the road; pious pilgrims headed to Jerusalem, using stage-by-stage directions we can still follow—all come to life once more as Kaster walks (and drives—and suffers car trouble) on what’s left of the Appian Way. Other voices help him tell the story: Cicero, Goethe, Hawthorne, Dickens, James, and even Monty Python offer commentary, insight, and curmudgeonly grumbles, their voices blending like the ages of the road to create a telescopic, perhaps kaleidoscopic, view of present and past.

To stand on the remnants of the Via Appia today is to stand in the pathway of history. With The Appian Way, Kaster invites us to close our eyes and walk with him back in time, to the campaigns of Garibaldi, the revolt of Spartacus, and the glory days of Imperial Rome. No traveler will want to miss this fascinating journey.

Editorial Reviews


“Layer upon layer, Italy’s storied past unfolds in Robert Kaster’s captivating journey along the venerable Queen of Roads. I cannot imagine a more perfect guide to such a rich trove of ancient and modern memories. Illuminating, erudite, entertaining, and evocative.”

(Adrienne Mayor, author of� The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates,)

“How many Great Pyramids match the earth moved to make the greatest Roman road? Many more than you think—until you have read Robert Kaster’s The Appian Way: Ghost Road, Queen of Roads, a work of erudite classical commentary as well as excellent advice for travelers today."—Peter Stothard, author of On the Spartacus Road, A Journey through Ancient Italy 

(Peter Stothard, author of On the Spartacus Road, A Journey through Ancient Italy)

"Fascinated by Rome's greatest road as a monument to power, death, and remembrance, and determined to trace its path today, Kaster makes a first-rate guide through time and through space, through the layers of history and the jostling of diverse cultures from Rome to Brindisi, from Appius Claudius the Blind to Kurt Vonnegut. En route, travelers should award him 5 stars for the clarity of his exposition, the accuracy and concision of his lightly-worn erudition, and the charm and relevance of personal anecdotes and striking observations. Many books will lead you down the Appian Way, but this should be the one to start your journey."

(Edward Champlin, Princeton University)

"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)

“This delightful, literally lightweight book takes you on a brief journey from Brindisi in the heel of Italy's boot to Rome; but what an engaging journey!”
(Times Higher Education)

About the Author

Robert A. Kaster is professor of classics and the Kennedy Foundation Professor of Latin at Princeton University.


Product Details

  • File Size: 3043 KB
  • Print Length: 136 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (March 1, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226425738
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226425733
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #556,337 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Insightful June 14, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Robert Kaster's account of the ancient Appian Way is part-history, part-travelogue and part-personal anecdote. He is essentially following a road that is, for the most part, buried five meters underground, partially restored in some of the historical parts of Rome, but mostly gone. His account is mostly useful as a travelogue to those of us who choose to take the roads more commonly travelled in Italy -- mainly in Tuscany, Rome and the Amalfi coast. He demonstrates that there is beauty to be found in some of the less-travelled routes, such as in Puglia.

The main problem I have with this book is that it lacks adequate maps detailing the places that he travelled, as well as a historical chronology, making it difficult to visualize and to follow along as a reader. Since the author is following a road that is essentially non-existent, he chooses to list the places he visits rather than map them in detail.

Although insightful and with some historical details, this book lacks the information to be either a book of history or a travelogue. By failing to be one of these, it falls a little flat; it's fine for a "light holiday read", but it's not what I would consider to be recommended reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book September 11, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I just returned from Rome and The Appian Way was my companion. Wonderful book; learned, historical and beautifully written. If you go to Italy, don't leave home without it. You'll thank me later.

Patrick Luciani
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read - especially combined with picture book February 28, 2013
By Mas01
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This was a very good personal experience combined with history. Kaster's experiences are interesting and well-described. I also bought the illustrated book, "The Appian Way: From its Foundation in the Middle Ages" (Getty Trust Publications). It was fun to reference back and forth between the descriptions and the illustrations.
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