Roman road system
Via Appia is the crowning achievement among transportation network of the ancient Mediterranean world, extending from Britain to the Tigris-Euphrates river system and from the Danube River to Spain and northern Africa. In all, the Romans built 50,000 miles (80,000 km) of hard-surfaced highway, primarily for military reasons.
The first of the great Roman roads, the Via Appia (Appian Way), begun in 312 bce, originally ran southeast from Rome 162 miles (261 km) to Tarentum (now Taranto) and was later extended to the Adriatic coast at Brundisium (now Brindisi).
Their numerous feeder roads extending far into the Roman provinces led to the proverb “All roads lead to Rome.”
Via Appia today
The Roman roads were notable for their straightness, solid foundations, cambered surfaces facilitating drainage, and use of concrete made from pozzolana (volcanic ash) and lime. Though adapting their technique to materials locally available, the Roman engineers followed basically the same principles in building abroad as they had in Italy..
The Roman road system made possible Roman conquest and administration and later provided highways for the great migrations into the empire and a means for the diffusion of Christianity. (Of this I shall come to by and by.)
In 73 BC, a slave revolt (known as the Third Servile War) under the ex-gladiator of Capua, Spartacus, began against the Romans. Slavery accounted for roughly every third person in Italy.
Spartacus defeated many Roman armies in a conflict that lasted for over two years. While trying to escape from Italy at Brundisium he unwittingly moved his forces into the historic trap in Apulia/Calabria. The Romans were well acquainted with the region. Legions were brought home from abroad and Spartacus was pinned between armies. Many men escaped into the mountains. Only a thousand Romans died. Six thousand of the fleeing slaves were captured by Pompey’s troops and crucified along the Appian Way, from Capua to Rome. Spartacus’ body was not found.
It was Rome’s brutal message to any one who thought of overstepping the limit.
The road that the Romans built like the Silk Road will lose its importance in time. But what it carried across endures long after these physical,geographical realities.
In 1919 the Spartacists took their inspiration from Spartacus. Spartacus was an idea.
The Spartacist’s had extreme left wing political views. This group split from the SPD (Independent Socialists) in frustration at the SPD’s role within Government. The leaders of the Communist party were Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebnecht. The aims of the Spartacist’s were outlined in their Manifesto:
The Spartacist Manifesto 1918
The question today is not democracy or dictatorship… Rather, it means using all instruments of political power to achieve socialism, to expropriate the capitalist class, through and in accordance with the will of the revolutionary majority of the proletariat.
On January 1st, 1919, members of the Spartacist movement rose in an attempted revolution. Initially this move was opposed by both Liebnecht and Luxemburg, the leaders of the movement. The newly formed Weimar Government reacted promptly, and brutally. The army was deployed to bring the revolution to an end, and these were aided by the Frei Corps, a paramilitary group consisting of former servicemen. Order had been restored to the streets of Berlin by the 13th of January. Both Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebnecht were killed whilst in police custody.( http://www.schoolshistory.org.uk-spartacistuprising)
Like real people roads also carry their significance. The Silk Road was a highway for exchange of ideas, transfusion of cultures between east and the west. In the concluding post I shall write about via Appia as a facilitator of European history.
(To be concluded)