Following Caesar

From Rome to Constantinople, the Pathways That Planted the Seeds of Empire

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Pub Date 12 Dec 2023 | Archive Date 26 Dec 2023


In 66 B.C., young, ambitious Julius Caesar, seeking recognition and authority, became the curator of the Via Appia. He borrowed significant sums to restore the ancient highway. It was a way to curry favor from Roman citizens in villages along the route, built from Rome to Brindisi between 312-191 B.C. He succeeded and rapidly grew in popularity. After achieving greatness in Rome and the far reaches of Gaul, he led armies along this road to battle enemies in Roman civil wars. And then, across the Adriatic Sea, he joined Via Appia's sister road, the Via Egnatia that began in today's Albania. Other armies followed these two roads that eventually connected Rome to Byzantium, today's Istanbul. Octavian, who became, in 27 B.C., Rome's first emperor, and his friend and later enemy Mark Antony traveled portions of both roads to defeat Caesar's murderers Brutus and Cassius at Philippi in eastern Macedonia. The great Roman statesman Cicero, the Roman poet Homer, the historian Virgil and many other notables traveled along one or both of these roads. In the first century of the Roman Empire in the earliest years of Christianity, the apostles Peter and Paul traversed portions of them. Pilgrims, seeking salvation in far-away Jerusalem, followed them as well throughout much of the Middle Ages. In the early second century A.D., the emperor Trajan charted a new coastal route between Benevento and Brindisi, later called the Via Traiana.

Today, short stretches of the original three roads can be seen in the ruins of ancient Roman cities, now preserved as archaeological wonders, and through the countryside near, and sometimes under, modern highways. Following those routes is the purpose of treading along the path that Caesar and so many others took over the early centuries. Modern eyes, seeing through the mists of more than two thousand years of history, lead the traveler along these three roads coursing through six countries between Rome and Istanbul. It is a journey full of adventure, discovery, and friendship—one one worth taking.

In 66 B.C., young, ambitious Julius Caesar, seeking recognition and authority, became the curator of the Via Appia. He borrowed significant sums to restore the ancient highway. It was a way to curry...

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Featured Reviews

I thought this was a interesting concept for a nonfiction book, it does everything that I was looking for from the description. I enjoyed getting to see Ancient Rome in a modern eye. John Keahey has a great writing style and it was well-researched. I'm so glad I got to read this and look forward to more.

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A history book that places you in the mindset and time of some of Rome's most famous figures. Will inspire many readers to travel on the old Roman roads.

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Following Caesar is a well researched book that literally covers the path of Caesar and the world that he opened up with his journeys and building of the road.

He is involved in war along the way. Great poets and thinkers travel this road. Apostles, warriors, and more. It eventually opens a road between Rome and Istanbul that can be found today.

The details in the book are amazing and it is not just Caesar I learned about. The stories are amazing and gave me an entire new perspective of this history of a road I didn't even know existed.

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In Following Caesar Keahey journeys along three Ancient Roman roads. Stretches of the original three roads can be seen preserved. John Keahey leads the reader along these three roads and through six countries between Rome and Istanbul.

John Keahey is a former journalist with a history degree from the University of Utah. From his frequent travels in Italy he has published several books on its history and georaphy.

This is a refreshing "off-the-beaten-path" approach to history.

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Interesting, but would have been better without the person anecdotes. Those made what I thought would be a journey through history into a travelogue.

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4.5 / 5

A lovely read!

I was very excited to read this book as my mother is from Rome. It was deeply meaningful to be privy to the same "roads" my mother travelled which carry such profound history.

The book read more like a travelogue so if you do consider reading it, keep this in mind.

A great effort from the author- sprinkled with personal points and lots of genuine passion.

I do encourage reading this book if you are inclined.

I received this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

(This review was posted on Goodreads)

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nonfiction, travelog, historical-places-events, historical-research, historical-setting, history-and-culture, history-trivia*****

It's a travelogue with both ancient and recent perspectives. I thought it was fascinating and wish that I could have sneaked into the luggage to go along on this trip. In lieu of that I am happy with reading this book now and later.
I requested and received an EARC from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley. Thank you!

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Following Caesar
By John Keahey

This book is a blend of history and travelogue. It documents the author's trip along the ancient roads of the Romans – the Via Latina, the Via Appia, the Via Traiana, and the Via Egnatia among others.

Mr. Keahey manages to incorporate details of the lives and times of many famous Romans and others who traveled these roads. These nuggets of historical information enliven what could have become a rather dull treatise on road building techniques throughout the Roman Empire.

This is definitely a book for the history buff. It certainly verifies the saying that "all roads lead to Rome" was indeed the case during the mighty Roman Empire.

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I found this title quite intriguing, being a European history buff. At first, I thought that I would have enjoyed the book far more had I actually taken it with me to Italy so that I could see some of the roads and places that Keahey talks about so charmingly. Of course the internet offers everyone the chance to look up piazzas and other named areas, and readers might want to read first so that they can imitate Keahey in staying at specific bed and breakfasts and actually choose the same places he stayed at, like the small studio owned by Emiliano Bombardieri, which is the first place the author stayed in his three-month journey. I found Keayey's method of asking and finding people/experts to inform him (on the spot) about local areas both courageous and inspiring in our modern world of needing to plan every single step in advance. If you enjoy travel memoirs with a heavy dose of information both historical and modern (he speaks of an ongoing pagan festival!), then this book will be sure to please.

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There are few experiences that I can think of that are as exhilarating as standing in a location where earth-changing events have taken place. To look out over The Cornfield at Antietam or to stand on the spot where Martin Luther King said 'I have a dream' is to feel in touch with the energy that drives our existence. I suspect that this philosophy is what drove retired reporter John Keahey to spend three months in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic to follow in the footsteps of the armies, generals, statesmen, scholars and apostles who traveled over those great Roman roads, the Via Appia and the Via Egnatia, roads that stretched from Rome to Byzantium. In this tremendous bout history tourism, Keahey would travel from village to village along the route, seeking and recruiting local historical authorities to serve as guides, showing him bits of the ancient roads, often lying several feet underground, and other little-known ruins from millennia past. This, to me, sounds like the perfect way to travel, meeting and befriending locals and listening to what they have to say about the world they know. I'll leave it to the scholars to decide whether it is the best way to advance the knowledge of our distant past.

I'd like to thank NetGalley for providing an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review of this book. I suspect that I would have enjoyed and appreciated this book much more if it had the maps and photos that I'm sure the published edition will contain but, aware that ARC's seldom have these, I contented myself to imagine what my poor understanding of geography allowed me to picture.

Bottom line: I enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone planning to travel through southern Europe in search of history.

As mentioned above, the review was based on an advanced reading copy obtained at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. While this does take any ‘not worth what I paid for it’ statements out of my review, it otherwise has no impact on its content.

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My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher St. Martin's Press for an advance copy of this book about traveling through Italy on the roads built by the Romans, the history of the area and the many people and places passed along the way.

All roads once led to Rome. The power of roads to the growth and dominance of the Roman Empire really can't be overstated. With good roads people understood that an army could be at any point of insurrection or dissent. Roads also helped in commerce, not just of goods but of ideas, allowing art, culture, religion to expand beyond their regions. These roads still exist even today in many spots, still doing a job that anyone in this country would be proud of, and in many places envious of. 2500 or so years later John Keahey, journalist, historian, writer and wanderer decided to follow these roads and see where they would take him, and what he would find on the way. Following Caesar: From Rome to Constantinople, the Pathways That Planted the Seeds of Empire is a travelogue history of what Keahey discovered, driving, walking, talking with others and learning from the history he found.

The beginning of the book discusses the origins of the trek, but of course COVID derailed many of these plans. Keahey discusses how even after vaccines had eased some restrictions how Europe was reacting, with numerous tests, and problems in understanding America's paper cards over Europe's Green Pass system. The book is told in the order of which cities appear and there might be some jumping of time, but there really isn't any problems understanding the narrative. The book is set as a travelogue with historical diversions. Keahey had an interesting way of traveling. Coming to a town and finding local experts to fill him on the the history of the area. This gave him more of a local influence to the area, and made him quite a bit of friends along the way. There is much discussion of those who have traveled before, poets, diplomats, thinkers and Julius Caesar in whose steps Keahey is following. Along the way Keahey looks for the influence of Diana on a town, places to eat, and is amazed that Amazon can send a new lens cap overnight to one of his new friends.

As much a travel story set in modern times, as a history of Rome, its roads, and relations. The writing of the book is very pleasant, easy with lots of information, hosted by a man who it would be a thrill to travel with. There is an agenda, but that agenda can be sidelined by a lot of different things, and a lot of different discourses. Keahey uses ancient maps and GPS to mean his way along the roads, describing cities, arenas ancient post offices and more. What I enjoyed most though were the simple moments, a new friend passing Keahey on to another new friend who could talk for hours about art, or the road, or why their city was so important. To read about people making friends, and having discussions that don't end in screaming about politics was quite refreshing. A wonderful sojourn with a very learned guide.

Fans of Italy and Roman history will definitely enjoy this. This book would be a perfect holiday gift for a person who would like to travel and see these things, but are trapped at home in a New England winter. The Mediterranean air, the food, the history all comes through and would be a great read next to a roaring fire.

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As a lover of ancient Rome, diving into "Following Caesar" by John Keahey was akin to embarking on a thrilling expedition through time. The author's meticulous research shines through, making the narrative not only informative but utterly engaging. It was a joy to traverse the well-trodden paths of Caesar, with Keahey as a knowledgeable guide, providing a rich blend of historical facts intertwined with modern-day observations. Each page was a journey in itself, and by the end, I felt both enlightened and eager for more explorations into the realms of ancient history.

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I thought this would be a historical work about the role roads played in building up the Roman Empire, but it's more of a travelogue. The author journeys around seeking stretches of original roads and Roman ruins, but it's a little dry and not all that interesting, and the book is in desperate need of maps. There is some interesting historical information concerning Caesar, Cicero, Horace, and the battles that transformed the republic into the empire.

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Thought this was smart and super history - loved on the history and the tracing of the ancient road. From ancient times we learn how Italy was built

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Thank you to John Keahey for taking this reader along on his journey to trace the routes of three ancient roads. The author's writing style was very engaging and his excitement and passion for the subject palpable. I happily read this book with my laptop by my side, looking up many of the towns, sites and ruins visited. The historical context provided by Keahey was extensive and juxtaposed by anecdotes of the kindness and erudition of local guides encountered (most often by happenstance) during his travels. This book was simultaneously informative and charming and brought to life a topic that could have been, otherwise treated, quite dry.

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🖤 Following Caesar ARC Review 🖤

Thank you so much to John Keahey and St Martin’s Press for the opportunity to read and review this book!

Following Caesar is a nonfiction account of Julius Caesar’s travels along ancient roads recreated in modern times. The author spent three months traveling through multiple countries to emulate the journey that Caesar took when he was preparing to wage war on Pompey.

This book was such an interesting read! A combination of ancient history and modern adventures in post-pandemic Europe. The author did a great job blending the two stories together to create an engaging and educational read!

Overall this was a solid three star read. A great look at the modern world and how ancient history still exists within it. As this is a nonfiction history book, for obvious reasons no rating will be given for spice

If you’re a fan of nonfiction reads with ancient history, modern travel and exploration, then absolutely pick this one up!

Please note: review will be posted on Amazon upon publication

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What an interesting and unexpected read. I am not much for travel books but I love my history so I was willing to give this historical "travel" book a chance and I'm glad I did, The concept of books taking place along a trail isn't a new one to me ("Wild" comes to mind. But instead this book is a marvelous chance to learn about places, historical figures whose names everyone knows, and the universal freedom and connection that these roads brought to parts so far separated from each other. I feel privileged to be given this tremendous opportunity to drive down the historical memory lane and follow along as seeds of our modern world are planted and grow to unite us all in a way, this book is almost a metaphor for universality of experience and I'm glad I got picked to experience it first hand.

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Not A Christmas Book. Admittedly, I saw "Caesar" and the release date and for some reason thought this had... anything at all to do with Christmas. To be clear, it does not. Just in case anyone else was somehow thinking it might. ;)

What we *do* get, however, is actually a rather intriguing tale in its own right, of the author's adventures in a post-collapse world to try to find the last remaining vestiges of ancient Roman roads in Italy, Greece, Turkey, and surrounding areas. We get a decent amount of history, but to be clear - this is far more travel book (and almost travel log even) than history book. We get tales of espresso and kind strangers and parking woes, and we get tales of finding obscure patches of ancient Roman roadway or bridgeworks or some such often deep in farmer's fields - and which the author only stumbled upon because he happened to stumble into a local who happened to know what he was looking for. We also get several tales of various "official" sites being closed, some of which the author was able to sneak into anyway either by outright sneaking or by some official or another looking the other way.

Indeed, this was, as I mentioned above, quite an intriguing tale for what it is - just *really* don't go in here expecting some detailed treatise on the exact engineering of ancient Roman roadways and how at least certain sections of them have managed to last all these centuries. Go in expecting a 2020s era romp through the region at hand... and you'll probably leave a lot more satisfied here.

The one star deduction comes from having next to no bibliography, despite having so many historical details and references. Instead, the bibliography is simply a "selected reading" and clocks in at less than 4% of the overall text - compared to closer to 20-30% being my expected norm based on reading hundreds of nonfiction advance review copies of books across nearly every discipline these last few years as a book blogger.

Still, I had a great time with this book and learned a lot about a subject the author is clearly passionate about. I felt I was right there with him through many of these adventures and woes, and really... what more do you actually want in a book of this type?

Very much recommended.

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Following Caesar by John Keahey is part travelogue and part history about three key Roman roads constructed 2,500 years ago. Via Appia, Via Egnatia and Via Traiana served to make travel itself and distances more manageable as the empire expanded. This in turn affected how news and information was relayed, including Christianity.

I have spent a lot of time in Italy, including visits to many locations included in this book. My hope was to learn more about Roman road construction (briefly detailed here), markers, tombs, Caesar's influence and so on. The author spent time researching these roads and where they lead but at times it felt like exploration was not thorough. Occasionally, information such as highway numbers is a bit dry. Photographs and illustrations would be very helpful and engaging.

Details about the villages, culture and local colour are wonderful, just different from what the title would suggest. I adore Italy and Italian history and do appreciate gleaning more knowledge from this author's experiences.

My sincere thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for providing me with a digital copy of this informative book.

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FOLLOWING CAESAR by John Keahey is all I hoped for in nonfiction diving deep into history and presenting it fresh with a unique perspective. It went even further with Keahey's excellent writing and voice, the stories that he shared. I am left with a hunger to walk these roads for myself and learn more about that exceptional time with a remarkable leader. I received a copy of this book and these opinions are my own, unbiased reviews.

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*3.5 stars*

A meandering walk through history…

The cover of the book caught my eye right away and promised so much.

In many ways, the author delivered as promised. He travelled (during COVID no less) through Italy and surrounding countries, in search of Caesar’s path, inviting the reader along with him. Finding remaining remnants of a lost time was not easy and took many forks in the road. Aided by subject experts, as well as helpful people he met by chance, he searched for roads, temples and icons, documenting his journey. His writings followed the paths that remained – some lost to abandonment, others to progress. And all of it, steeped in history.

I’ve never been to this part of the world and though I recognized names of cities and towns, and people, it was hard for me to connect to the material. Towns with multiple names and a non-linear way of getting from A to B had me struggling to keep up and understand the flow. I wish there were maps and pictures included. Perhaps a timeline or two as well. Any or all of them would have been most welcome and elevated this read immensely. Reading an electronic, pre-release version, I’m hopeful the published book will include them.

I want to read this again, with a guidebook with me, to help me picture what must have been amazing. Gave me much food for thought and a thirst to learn more…

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John Keahey has written a fascinating book of history that kept me interested from first to last page.Especially enjoyed going on the walks the authors style of writing and commentary made this a really interesting read.#netgalley #st.martinsbooks

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A great historical narrative coupled with the authors travels. Lovely to follow along as the author traversed along the ancient ruins.

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ub Week Review: Following Caesar: From Rome to Constantinople, The Pathways That Planted The Seeds of Empire (12/12) ✨

⁉️: Have you ever been to Italy? What is your favorite Italian dish?

I have always wanted to explore Italy, especially Rome and Venice. When I was young in high school, I used to dream of having my honeymoon in Venice. While we ended up going to the Dominican for a weekend, I think we may make a trip there during our wedding anniversary some day.

I love to travel, and adore travel narratives, and enjoyed this story which made me time travel into the history of Ancient Rome through the modern lens.

In this non-fiction narrative, we learn about young and ambitious Julius Caesar who wanted to establish himself as a Roman ruler. He borrowed significant sums of money to restore the ancient highway to pain popularity among his followers. He led armies along the Via Apia across the Balkans to fight in Roman civil wars.

John Keahey’s part travel narrative/part history delves into the experiences and encounters people had in Italy, North Macedonia, Greece, and Turkey, who embrace travelers who connect with each other and share knowledge of historical sites, meals, and a wealth of local stories. If you enjoy history and travel, then this book is for you.

Thank you @stmartinspress for the gifted arc.

#FollowingCaesarBook #JohnKeahey #StMartinsPress #shnidhi

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It was fascinating to learn about a road that was built thousands of years ago and could carry 6 soldiers abreast, chariots, wagons, and animals was still here today. In Following Caesar the author seamlessly blends history and the sites he is seeing bring you along to explore the Roman Road. Each chapter starts with a historical text that author weaves into the chapter to share about his journey. I found I enjoyed the book when I read a little bit each day. The book shares many travel tips for anyone wanting the travel the roads today. I found the facts about the road itself so interesting. I recommend Following Caesar.

I was given a complimentary copy and a positive review was not required.

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