1927 Map: (left) the red asterisks indicate the section of Via Appia Antica covered in this page; (right) approximate location
of 1) Torre in Selci; 2) Tempio di Ercole; 3) Tomba di Quinto Veranio; 4) Tomba di Gallieno; 5) Grande Tumulo Rotondo. 4) and 5) are dealt
with in page two
The initial section of Via Appia Antica is covered in the following three pages: Porta S. Sebastiano, Basilica di S. Sebastiano and Via Appia Antica from Cecilia Metella to Torre in Selci.
Via Appia Antica near Torre in Selci
One day we walked out, a little party of three, to Albano, fourteen miles distant; possessed by a great desire to go there by the ancient Appian way, long since ruined and overgrown. We started at half-past seven in the morning, and within an hour or so were out upon the open Campagna. (..) Returning, by the road, at sunset! and looking, from the distance, on the course we had taken in the morning, I almost feel (as I had felt when I first saw it, at that hour) as if the sun would never rise again, but looked its last, that night, upon a ruined world.
Charles Dickens - Pictures from Italy - 1846
This last section of Via Appia Antica is not flanked by imposing monuments such as Tomba di Cecilia Metella or Villa dei Quintili, but especially near Frattocchie it is indicative of how the road appeared to an XVIIIth century traveller. After the crossing of a road (Via di Fioranello) which leads to Ciampino Airport Via Appia Antica is reserved to pedestrians and cyclists.
Beyond Casale Rotondo is a modern tower, called Torre Selce from the materials of which it is constructed. So far the Appian way is accessible to vehicles; but from hence to
the Frattocchie, a distance of six miles, some tracts, as
the author can testify from experience, are difficult even
on foot, being occasionally covered with fragments of
the Appian way, and occasionally furrowed for cultivation. The direction however is clearly pointed out by
that of the sepulchres.
Rev. Jeremiah Donovan - Rome Ancient and Modern - 1843
This XIIth century tower is named after the selci (flints) which were used to build it; it stands above a mound which hides an ancient tomb. It was decorated with fragments of marble and travertine. Most likely it was one of the watch-towers of the Caetani on the Appian Way. You may wish to see an interesting funerary inscription of a pearl trader near Torre in Selci.
Sepolcro di togato
The ancient Romans are known for having been a people of warriors, yet in their funerary monuments they usually preferred to be portrayed wearing a toga, a civilian cloth. The toga was a large woollen cloak which was wrapped around the body. In origin it was most likely a smaller garment, but over time its ceremonial usage prevailed and its size increased; only Roman citizens were allowed to wear it.
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica a Palazzo Corsini: Cornelis van Poelenburgh (XVIIth century): Shepherds and herds at a funerary monument (see a similar tomb in the northern environs of Rome)
The unseen larks above us, who alone disturbed the awful silence, had their nests in ruin; and the fierce herdsmen, clad in sheepskins, who now and then scowled out upon us from their sleeping nooks, were housed in ruin. Dickens
The painting is not specific about the ancient monument, but it does show a scene which occurred along Via Appia until the XIXth century as tombs were used as shelters for herdsmen and sheep.
For twelve miles we went climbing on, over an unbroken succession of mounds, and heaps, and hills, of ruin. In the distance, ruined aqueducts went stalking on their giant course along the plain; and every breath of wind that swept towards us, stirred early flowers and grasses, springing up, spontaneously, on miles of ruin. Dickens
We next meet the torre di mezza via, halfway between Rome and Albano near which are some arches of the aqueduct that supplied the villa of the Quintilian brothers. It is not in the direction of any known aqueduct and its waters would seem to have flown from the Alban hills. Donovan
The most imposing ruins of Roman aqueducts are located at some distance to the north of Via Appia, whereas in the proximity of the road one can see a section of the aqueduct of Villa dei Quintili.
(left) Funerary relief; (right-above) decorated column; (right-below) inscription
Inscriptions, reliefs and fragments of decoration can be seen also in this section of Via Appia Antica, although not to the same extent as in those closer to Rome. Many of them were identified and recorded by architect and archaeologist Luigi Canina in 1850-1853.
Advancing we meet to our left a spacious semicircular seat with three niches. Donovan
The original meaning of exedra is a building or part of building with outdoor seats; in Roman architecture it mainly indicated a semicircular wall adorned with statues. The exedra shown above was most likely part of a large funerary complex where the mourners rested; the niches which housed statues are still noticeable. Similar semicircular tombs were found at Pompeii.
And a few pace from it is a well preserved sepulchre of the time
of Nero, beautifully built of brick and consisting of a square basement, on which rises a superstructure still
adorned with pilasters and once also with engaged pillars, between which is a niche in the centre to contain the
statue of the deceased. Donovan
The size and design of the funerary monuments along Via Appia varied greatly depending on the importance and financial condition of the dead and the kind of tomb which was in fashion at the time. Two examples of a "compact" tomb which responded to several requirements are shown above; they were small brick buildings with two chambers one above the other: the lower one (hypogeum) had niches for urns containing the ashes of the dead or loculi, recesses for their buried remains. The upper one was used for funerary rites. The decoration was made with specially shaped and coloured bricks; a statue of the family leader was placed in the central niche to represent all dead family members.
One who attempts in our days to cross the wilderness of Fiorano, for instance, on the Via Appia, finds it difficult to believe that, in by-gone days, these very solitudes could have resounded with the joyful mirth of large gatherings of the peasantry; but of those meetings, festivities, and games, we possess records engraved on stones discovered on the spot.
Rodolfo Lanciani - Ancient Rome in the Light of Recent Discoveries - 1898
The sections of Via Appia Antica which are closer to Rome are flanked by modern upper class private properties; high walls prevent seeing the ruins of the tombs which were built behind those on the very edge of the road. In this section the secluded villas are replaced by farms, some of which still belong to the noble families who owned them in the XVIIIth century; they are better kept than in the early XXth century and new facilities were added to the old ones.
Circular tomb inside a private property where it is possible to trespass
"Tempio di Ercole"
Advancing we meet several broken columns, some
standing, some fallen, of Alban stone, about two feet in diameter, evidently the remains of a portico. Martial informs us that Domitian erected a temple to Hercules about the eighth mile and this being the only vestige of a temple in the locality, it is with good reason supposed to be the "pusilli Herculis fanum", mentioned by Martial. Donovan
According to tradition and based on a reference in Epigram IX, 64 by the Latin poet Martial Emperor Domitian built a temple to Hercules at this point of Via Appia Antica.
Another view of the ruins
The want of hotel accommodation made it almost impossible for families and individuals who did not belong
to the official world to travel. They could avail
themselves only of ignoble wayside hostelries. Where the traffic was greatest, for instance on the Appian Way, there were several inns in
the same neighbourhood.(..) They were noisy, riotous dens, fit only for the lowest
class of muleteers, and for peddlers and laborers, where
scenes of altercation and blows occurred perhaps as
often as they do at the present day in a suburban osteria. Lanciani
Archaeologists believe the building belongs to an earlier period, because of the usage of peperino columns rather than marble or travertine. It is likely that the columns were part of a resting place with shops. Fifteen rooms have been identified around a porticoed courtyard.
(left) Tomba di Quinto Veranio and (right) "Beretta del Prete" (Priest's Hat)
At the ninth mile is an edifice very like the tomb of Persius but less injured, for it preserves one of its engaged columns and the upper part of the second: an inscription preserved by Labac records that it had been the tomb of Q. Verannius, often mentioned by Tacitus. (..) Near his tomb is the abandoned circular church of S. Maria, existing since the XI. century, as is recorded by a document in the archivium of the Camaldolesi: its exterior is the construction of that century, but its nucleus is ancient. Donovan
(left) Tomba di Quinto Veranio; (right) "Berretta del Prete"
Quintus Verannius was a Roman general who ended his career as governor of Britain where he died in 57 AD; according to a now lost inscription he was buried in this well preserved brick tomb. Close to this building there is a later (IVth century) circular tomb which perhaps was turned into a little church; later on it was used as a tower and as a granary; most likely it was surrounded by a porch. Both buildings were the subject of many paintings and engravings.
(left) Rear of Tomba di Quinto Veranio; (right) side view of "Beretta del Prete"
The entrance to the sepulchral chamber is as usual turned from the road. Donovan
The rear side of the tomb shows its internal division; the entrance to the lower room was framed with a dark stone and the upper room received light from a window (you may wish to see Sepolcro di Annia Regilla, the finest brick tomb in the environs of Rome). The circular tomb retains evidence of arches and niches.
Tomba di Quinto Veranio: detail of the brick decoration
The columns placed in niches inspired Michelangelo and Raphael, Pietro da Cortona and Borromini (see the brick dome of S. Andrea delle Fratte).
In 1789, Sir Richard Colt Hoare a rich Englishman, admirer
of Horace, decided to follow the itinerary described by the poet in
Satire 5 of Book 1, a record of the journey he made to Brindisi in 38 BC.
Colt Hoare invited Carlo Labruzzi, a young painter and draughtsman, to join him on his journey along Via Appia and to draw its main monuments for him (see Labruzzi's drawings of Grotta di Tiberio at Sperlonga and of the theatre of Minturnae).
The rains of the early autumn breathe new life into this fainting region, and wake it from its long summer's siesta. A quick, luxuriant growth of grass springs up; daisies and violets start from the turf; and the clematis blooms along the hedges. The flocks and herds return to their pasturage grounds; the labors of agriculture are resumed in the cultivated portions.
George Stillman Hillard - Six Months in Italy in ca 1847-1848
Move to page two.