Our Little Roman Cousin of Long Ago - Julia D. Cowles

On the Appian Way

On the second day of their journey, the children had little time to grow tired or restless, for they had entered the Appian Way, which was always thronged with people, riding, walking, or being carried in litters.

This Appian Way was the main road leading to Rome, and it was the oldest, the best known, and the finest road in all the world.

"Notice, children, what a wonderfully fine road this is," said Gaia. "It was built by Appius Claudius for the Roman armies to march over."

The children looked at the road, which was of stone and very broad.

"I have heard father say," remarked Terentia, "that it is made from great blocks of stone, fitted so carefully together that it is not possible to tell where they are joined."

"That is true," said Gaia. "See, it looks like one great stone. It is a wonderful piece of work."

Just then the attention of all was drawn to a party of men on horseback. The men wore medals and badges, which showed that they had been honored by the government. The horses were richly decked, and their shoes, which were of leather, were tipped with silver, which glistened as they stepped.

"What beautiful horses," said Lucius. And then he added quickly, "Oh, see!" for following at a little distance from the horsemen came a two-wheeled cart, drawn by mules. It had an arched cover, to protect the occupants from sun or rain, and two ladies reclined within it upon a pile of gay cushions. The covering of the cart, the cushions within it, and the trappings of the mules were rich with embroidery, and were of the most costly fabrics.

"Who are they, Mother?" asked Terentia, as Gaia exchanged greetings with the ladies.

"They are the wives of the Consul, Crassus, and of the general, Galba," she replied.

A moment later there was a hurried clatter of hoofs on the road, and a government courier dashed by on horseback. He led a second horse.

"What man is that?" asked Marcus of his father, when he could speak above the din of the clattering hoofs.

"That is a government courier," replied Gaius. "He bears some government message, and he must ride with all haste. These couriers often cover one hundred miles in a day. That would be impossible," Gaius added, "if the roads about Rome were not so well made."

"Why does he lead the second horse?" asked Marcus.

"At the rate that he travels, he will soon tire the first horse. He will then jump upon the second horse, leaving the first to rest at some inn or government station."

Marcus turned to watch the dashing rider, but he was soon out of sight.

"Is there likely to be another war, Father?" asked Marcus. "I hear talk of it, when you and your friends are together."

"It is not certain yet," replied Gaius, "but it is likely. Rome has had many wars, and the Roman armies are well drilled, so that we may count upon success if this war is undertaken."

"I wish I were older," said Marcus.

"You will soon enter the grammar school," replied his father, "and then your training for war will begin. You will learn how to ride, run, box and swim, as every Roman boy does, for you must be ready to serve your country if there is a call to arms."

Marcus' eyes shone. He was eager to begin this training, as was every Roman boy.

"See, Mother," said Livia, "see all the carts loaded with vegetables."

"Yes," replied Gaia, "the drivers are taking them to the markets in Rome, so that we may have fresh vegetables to eat."

As the occupants of the carriage looked at the loaded carts, a litter was borne swiftly past them, carried by eight slaves who ran swiftly, keeping perfect step. The cover of the litter was richly carved, and the curtains were of beautifully embroidered fabrics.

In spite of all the interesting sights, Livia's head began to nod. But Gaia soon called to her, "Wake up, little girl, for we are close to the walls of Rome, and now you must walk. See, we shall soon be at home again."

Livia opened her eyes, for the carriage had stopped, and her father was ready to lift her out.

They were just outside the walls of Rome, and here they must dismount and walk to their home, for at that time no one was permitted to drive in the streets of the city.

Gaius' letter had been received, and everything was in readiness for them. As they reclined about the table a little later, Lucius said, "It is nice to go away, but I believe it is even nicer to be at home again." And all the family agreed that he was right.