🔼The name Appius: Summary
- Unclear, but possibly Arrow Feet or Violet Feet
- Unclear, but possibly from Iapygia or the Iapydes.
🔼The name Appius in the Bible
The name Appius occurs only once in the Bible, namely in Acts 28:15, as part of the more complete Appii Forum, which is Latin for the Market Of Appius (Appii is the genitive form of Appius).
Appii Forum (65km south of Rome) and Three Taverns (50 km south of Rome) were the first stations out of Rome (or the last ones in), on the famous Via Appia, or Appian Way, which was the very first road of Rome. The Appian Way ran from Rome to the heel of the boot of Italy and was the original backbone of the Roman Republic, used to deploy military troops anywhere in its early territory. Construction began in 312 BC, during the Samnite wars, which is significant because Pontius Pilate hailed from a Samnite family and may have harbored long-lasting resentment because of this, which in turn may have softened him toward Jesus (see our article on the name Pilate for more on this).
Roads, as was soon discovered, keep empires together and when Jesus called himself the Way, he not only spoke of merely getting from A to B, but also about the sort of economy of brotherly love and conversation that keeps the Kingdom of God together (Matthew 6:33, Ephesians 4:3-6). Jesus was called the First Born of Creation (Romans 8:29, Colossians 1:15-18, Hebrews 1:6, Revelation 1:5), which makes him the Appian Way of the Kingdom of God.
Crucifixion was referred to as supplicium servile, the humbling of slaves. In the 70s BC, seventy escaped gladiators amassed a popular army of 120,000 men, women and children, who tore through Italia trying to escape to freedom. Captained by Spartacus, and after years of heavy combat, the slaves were defeated by the legions of Marcus Licinius Crassus. Six thousand survivors were crucified along the Appian Way, which turned the 200 km between Rome and Capua into a hell-bound gorge of death and horror.
The Appian Way was known as the proverbial Road to Rome. It was formally named after its builder, but this name may also have stuck because it resembled the name Appulia, of the area in the south of Italy to where the road led. The connection between these two names may even go deeper than that, as we will discuss below.
The Appian Way and thus the Appian Market were named after Appius Claudius Caecus, the statesman who build the road. Appius Claudius Caecus was not only a great builder and reformer, he was also notoriously generous to the poor and underprivileged, and thus rubbed the rich and traditional in every way but right. Appius was also quite the writer, and his later adopted cognomen Caecus (which means blind; his original cognomen was Crassus, stout) may in some circles also have worked as a playful nod to Homer (to whom Luke playfully refers in Luke 4:18).
Appius Claudius Caecus was also a member of the mighty Claudii family (hence the later Julio-Claudian imperial dynasty), the first of whom was also called Appius Claudius: a fifth century BC Sabine warrior who defected to Rome and became a leading figure in the formation of the Roman Republic. He fittingly Latinized his original Sabine name Attius Clausus.
🔼Etymology of the name Appius
What the Sabine name Attius may have meant is no longer clear, nor why its Latin version would be Appius. It may even be that Appius doesn't really translate or paraphrase Attius, but rather emphasizes Appius as born-again Roman who disavowed his "barbaric" origin. The name Attius may have reminded of Atticus, the prominent region of Greece whose capital was Athens. The name Appius, contrarily, may have rung like Appulia, or Apulia, the name of the province that comprised the calf of the Italian boot.
The name Appulia or Apulia, in turn, comes from the name Iapygia (Ιαπυγια, Iapugia), the name the Mycenaean Greeks had given the area, possibly after a name of a local tribe there: the Iapygians, who used the Greek alphabet and were strongly influenced by Greek culture. Yet the origin of the Iapygians was in the Balkans, quite possibly with an Illyrian tribe called the Iapydes: Ιαποδες (Iapodes). Where that name came from, and what it may have meant, is also not clear, but to a creative Greek speaker, it would have resembled a compound of the elements ια (ia) and ποδες (podes). The latter is the plural of πους (pous), foot, and the first looks like a plural of ιον (ion), violet, or ιος (ios), arrow (the noun ιαφετης, iaphetes, means archer). That would suggest that the Iapydes and thus the Iapygians were known by the Greeks as Violet Feet (perhaps from stumping wine or purple dye?) or perhaps Arrow Feet, which brings to mind the winged sandals (πτεροενα πεδιλα, pteroenta pedila) of Hermes, the messenger.
As we discuss in greater detail in our articles on the names Aeneas and Troas, the foundational stories of recent antiquity (and this includes the Bible) tell predominantly of the evolution of information technology, which in those days meant the development of script, the alphabet, paper, narrative techniques, libraries, the postal service and an economy of peer review. Despite the obvious "spiritual" implications of the gospel, the tabernacle, the Temple and the city (not a jungle) of God are all technological in nature, for which technological people were given technological skills by the Holy Spirit (Exodus 31:3). The Latin alphabet is a derivative of Etruscan and Greek ones, which in turn derived from the mother of all alphabets, the Phoenician or Hebrew one (see our article on YHWH), and without it there would have been no Roman Republic. That suggests that the primary concerns of Attius Clausus may have been literary in nature, rather than political or military.
This in turn may mean that the name Appius was deliberately without a single meaning, but rather designed to remind of a broad range of them. The verb appeto, for instance, means to strive for, to have an appetite for. The verb appono, means to place, put or apply the mind (and remember that the familiar word θεος, theos, probably relates to the verb τιθημι, tithemi, to place or set). The adjective aptus, means suitable or apt.
There was also a prominent Roman gens named Appuleia when Rome became a Republic. This name was also spelled Apuleia, which may likewise ultimately derive from Iapygia. However, the unusually long shelf-life of these names may also, in part, be explained by them being not dissimilar to the familiar Greek theonym Apollo. That name means Destroyer in Greek. But it may also be Hebrew and mean Discerner (from פלל, palal, to discern).