Via Appia

March to Athens.
Day 75-I, Rome to Frattocchie. 20km.

Departure from Piazza del Popolo

Frattocchie, January 21

Dear people,

This morning around half past eleven some thirty people left from Piazza del Popolo to continue the March to Athens.

I walk along with them. I’m not promissing you I will do the entire march, nor that I will report on it every day like I did with the March on Brussels. But for now, I’m here, because this might become another memorable adventure.

The group before departure

We are walking with limited gear. Comrade Manuel from Audiovisuals of Acampada Sol goes along with us in his camper. He alone is worth an entire audiovisual crew, and he also brings the tents and the kitchen. The rest we carry on our shoulders.

It took us about one and a half hour to do the Via del Corso, because near parliament the carabinieri brought our march to a halt. They wanted us to walk around the block, but some of us are very hard headed. “Why can everybody pass, except us?”

After long deliberation, they let us through, two by two, under escort. While we passed Monti’s residence we were singing old songs of the partisans, and of the briganti, the bandits who roamed the south of Italy in the late nineteenth century.

Marching along the Corso

At the gate of San Giovanni, where we camped for over ten days, we left the city, and a little further down we took the Via Appia Antica. The old Roman road to Brindisi.

It’s a very evocative route. There are almost no cars and in many places you still walk on the original Roman stones. There are pine trees and Roman ruins on both sides. It’s like strolling through a painting from the romantic age. We’re on the paths of history here. You can feel it.

Still, as lovely as it may seem, this road is haunted by a lot of spirits.

Advancing over the ancient Via Appia

In the early first century BC, the Roman Republic was briefly shaken by an army of rebellious slaves, led by the legendary Macedonian gladiator Spartacus. Together with all the other slaves of the gladiator school where they learned to amuse the Romans with their blood, he rose up one day and went on a rampage of the South. Estate after estate was attacked, their slaves liberated and incorporated into the swelling army.

Various legions were sent down to quell the rebellion. But they were defeated. Spartacus was not only a gladiator, he was also a fine general. After a string of victories his army was master of the South. The Roman senators were furious, and a little nervous as well.

At that point the richest man of Rome, banker and real estate tycoon Marcus Licinius Crassus, personally took control of eight legions, some of which he financed out of his own pocket, and set off to crush the revolt.

Via Appia at dusk

In the end, Crassus won. And he decided to set an example. Every one of the surviving slaves was crucified. They were erected like lamp posts, right here along the Via Appia, all the way from Rome to Capua. Six thousand slaves in total.

After that, Italy has never again experienced a wide scale revolution.

We arrive in Frattocchie when it’s already dark. There’s nothing here. We camp on a parking place and we cook on a wood fire in a small aluminum barrel. The adventure is under way. I’m curious to see where it will take us.


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