From Rome to Constantinople, the Pathways That Planted the Seeds of Empire
Author: John Keahey
A travel narrative following three ancient roads and looking at more than two thousand years of history of Ancient Rome through the modern eye.
In 66 b.c., young, ambitious Julius Caesar, seeking recognition and authority, became the curator of the Via Appia, a road stretching from Rome to Brindisi. To gain popularity with Roman citizens along the way, he borrowed significant sums to restore the ancient highway. He eventually achieved greatness in Rome and the far reaches of Gaul, leading armies along the Via Appia and its sister road, the Via Egnatia, across the Balkans, to battle enemies in Roman civil wars.
Other armies followed these two roads that eventually connected Rome to Constantinople, today’s Istanbul. Both Octavian and, later, his friend-turned enemy Mark Antony traveled portions of these roads to defeat Caesar’s murderers, Brutus and Cassius. The great Roman statesman Cicero, the Roman poet Homer, the historian Virgil, and many other notables also journeyed on them. In the early second century a.d., the emperor Trajan charted a new, faster, coastal route between Benevento and Brindisi, later called the Via Traiana.
Today, the remains of these roads are preserved as archaeological wonders, and can be seen through the countryside near, and sometimes under, modern highways in the ruins of ancient Roman cities. Some of the earliest villages have disappeared, while others have grown into modern towns with the ancient roads hidden beneath latter-day pavements.
In this sojourn across Roman history, John Keahey delves into encounters with diverse peoples in these towns in Italy, North Macedonia, Greece, and Turkey, who warmly embrace travelers following in the footsteps of their ancestors. They shared knowledge of historical sites, meals, and a wealth of local lore. Keahey’s unparalleled storytelling breathes life into the prominent figures, pivotal events, and ancient roads that paved the way for the rise and endurance of the Roman empire. It is a journey full of adventure, discovery, and friendship.
St. Martin's Press
In The News
"This delightful travelogue from historian Keahey (Seeking Sicily) chronicles his three-month journey to walk the very stones Julius Caesar did some 2,000 years ago...This winsome and deeply researched account will spellbind readers."
–– Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"An admirable travelogue reflecting Keahey’s passions and an ideal step-by-step guide to anyone wanting to duplicate his excursions. The ancient routes of Rome come alive in this appealing new history."
"Excellent read for someone who wants to deepen their knowledge of Roman history or gain a better geographical context."
–– Los Angeles Review of Books