Appius Claudius Caecus

Appius Claudius Caecus, famous as the man responsible for the creation of the Appian Way and the Claudian Aqueduct, was a 5th or 6th generation Roman of Sabine descent. His ancestor had come to Rome about 504 BCE, bringing his entire gens with him. He served as consul in 495 BCE. Another ancestor, Decemvir Appius Claudius Crassus, a licentious individual, caused a revolt that led to the fall of the Decemvirs. One descendent was the infamous Publius Claudius Pulcher who was defeated by the Carthaginians in a sea battle. Legend says he was disrespectful to the gods when discouraged by the sacred chickens.

Claudius was elected to serve with Gaius Plautus as censors of Rome in 312 BCE. Their term of office was but 18 months. During this time they were responsible as guardians of public morals and at the same time, authorized and supervised public works and the maintenance of said structures.

The two set out to improve conditions for the Romans. Claudius was to build a road that would replace at least one of the dirt paths on which Romans traveled. Plautus' task was to find a new source of water. Up to this point, Rome water was brought to the city from the Tiber River or nearby springs. Neither was a sufficient source of clean water for the continued growth of the city of Rome.

Plautus found some springs about 10 miles east of Rome. His task was to build a system, mostly underground, by which water could flow into Rome.

Claudius chose a well traveled and fairly wide path that led from the Porta Capena in the Servian Walls to the Alban Hills. He decreed that this path should be leveled and graveled. When necessary, stone supports could raise the road across valleys and through marshlands. Engineers were engaged to design the road and supervise its construction. Convicted criminals would provide the labor.

When the office of censor had been created, the term was one of 5 years. Because of the corruption of the office, a law was passed (Lex Aemilia) to limit the term to 18 months, a period of time in which not much could be accomplished. Plautus followed the law and resigned his position. Claudius did not resign and because of his stubbornness, no one would serve with him. The road had been completed to Capua during his 'legitimate' 18 months of office. Claudius stayed on as censor to finish the aqueduct begun by Plautus. In doing so, he became' the man who brought water to Rome. Plautus had been hampered in completing his goal, because the design of the arch had not yet been mastered by engineers . His plan was for a water supply system that began with a pipe 50 ft. below the surface of the land and ran almost the entire length to Rome underground. Digging the trenches and laying the pipeline could not be done as rapidly as building a road. Thus what might have been called the Aqua Plauta is now known as the Aqua Claudia. The name lives on today as the brand of a commercial bottled water in Rome.