18 Route l>. PONTINE MARSHES. From Rome
Here begin the Pontine Marshes (Paludi Pontine), varying
in breadth, between the mountains and the sea, from 6—12 M.,
and from Nettuno to Terracina 36 M. in length. A very small
portion only is cultivated. They, however, afford extensive pas¬
tures; the most marshy parts being the favourite resort of the
cattle. Towards the sea the district is clothed with forest (macchia).
In summer the malaria is a dreadful scourge. Anciently, accor¬
ding to Pliny (Hist. nat. III. 5), it was a fertile and well-culti¬
vated plain, comprising 24 villages, but towards the close of the
republic it gradually became a neglected marsh, owing to the
decline of agriculture. A want of fall in the surface of the soil
is the cause of the evil. The streams and canals are totally in¬
adequate to carry off the excess of water which descends from
the mountains during the rainy season, and its escape is further
impeded by the luxuriant vegetation of the aquatic plants. At¬
tempts to drain the marshes have been successively made by the
censor Ap. Claudius, B. C. 312 (so tradition alleges), by the
consul Cornelius Cethegus 130 years later, by Caesar, Augustus,
Nerva, Trajan, and finally by Theodoric, king of the Goths, all
of which were of temporary benefit only. Similar operations were
undertaken by the popes Boniface VIII., Martin V., Sixtus V.
and Pius VI. To the latter is due the present admirably con¬
structed road across the marshes, the cost of which amounted to
For some distance the road is identical with the ancient Via
Appia, skirting the Canal delle Botte, constructed before the time
of Augustus, and on which Horace performed part of his journey
to Brundisium (Sat. I. 5).
About. 3'/2 M. from Torre tre Ponti lies Foro Appio, the an¬
cient Forum Appii, described by Horace as "differtum nautis cau-
ponibus atque malignis"'. Here and at Tres Tabernas the Apostle
Paul met his friends from Rome (Acts, 28).
The road pursues a perfectly straight direction, shaded by a
double or quadruple avenue of stately elms. But for the moun¬
tains to the 1. where Sezza has for some time been visible, the
traveller might imagine himself transported to a scene in Holland.
From Norma or Torre tre Ponti several different routes lead to Sezza,
the ancient Volscian Setia, which produced a favourite wine. It is situated
above the marshes on a hill which the old road to Naples skirted. The
fragments of the old walls and of a so-called Temple of Saturn are still to-
be seen. Before ascending the hill of Sezza, the path skirts its base and
Piperno (6 M.), the ancient Privernum of the Volsci, which long with
stood the attacks of the Romans , subsequently a Roman colony, the traces
of which are seen 3J4 M. to the N. in the plain, on the way to Frosinone.
This plain is enclosed by lofty mountains, surmounted by ruined castles
and villages: Rocca Gorga, Maenza, Rocca Secca, Prossedi etc. About 3 M.