History, some say, is static and dead. The latest undertaking of Rome’s archaeological superintendency, however, shows that what happened thousands of years ago can come alive, thus providing new insights into the ways of mankind. To be launched in two weeks, the new Verba Appia is a one-of-a-kind app that digitally recreates the history of the Appian Way, one of the earliest highways in ancient Rome, while also allowing users to be leave geo-specific audio messages, similar to the graffiti often left on historic buildings and monuments.
Developed in collaboration with Mondadori Electa publishing firm, the Verba Appia is a free audio-only app available on Android, iOS and Windows platforms. Offering carefully-crafted audio dramas about the lives of the people who made Europe’s first super-highway famous, the app is meant to attract more tourists to the historic site, and also create a social audio network among those who have already visited the area. Speaking about the endeavor, Fabrizio Funtò, the head of Studio MCM, the company that designed the app, said:
Forget audio guides. This is a totally new way of interacting with the cultural heritage. With Verba, the ancient road becomes a superhighway of communication. Visitors are taken into a universe of localized contents and stories.
Originally constructed as a military road back in 312 BC by Appius Claudius Caecus, the Appian Way (previously known as Regina Viarum) was one of the most important roads of ancient Roman republic, and a strategically-located gateway to the east. Stretching over a distance of 350 miles, this stone road connected Rome all the way to Brindisi in the southeast part of Italy. The app covers a 5.5 miles area, from the Colosseum to the outlying suburbs of Rome. In addition to the ancient roadway, the site houses the ruins of a number of Roman tombs, towers, villas, mausoleums, aqueducts and others.
When someone visits this historic site, the app utilizes the GPS sensor in the user’s smartphone to send geolocalized audio messages regarding these ancient structures. To that end, the developers have fed as many as 50 carefully-researched audio dramas into the app, complete with special effects as well as original soundtracks. It is almost as if the monuments come alive, narrating the intriguing, and sometimes ghastly, stories of their occupants. Hosted in Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, the messages speak of the area’s history, right from the Roman period, through the Middle Ages and finally to the modern times.
These include the tale of Cecilia Metella, daughter-in-law of Marcus Crassus, the man who shared the first Roman triumvirate with Julius Caesar and Pompey. Users are also told the story of Commodus, who was played by Joaquin Phoenix in the 2000 movie, Gladiator. Then there is the 13-year-old Tullia Ciceronis, the daughter of Marcus Cicero, who died after giving birth to her second son. In modern times, the area was made famous with the discovery of love letters dated 1929, near the Doric tomb. Rita Paris, an Italian archaeologist, said:
We are not talking of the usual information offered by audio guides, but rather mini audio dramas that will make visitors experience the best of this site. So many stories, even modern ones, can be found along this road. For the inconsolable lover, the Appian Way must have inspired a sense of eternity to which he could entrust his passionate letters.
The app also allows interaction from the side of the users, who can leave private or public audio comments on each of the visited spots. To be able to use the app, however, one must have been to the Appian Way at least once. The team added:
There is just one requirement to use the free app: you must visit the Appian Way at least once. It’s a totally new concept, and will be improved in the future with 3-D audio and other innovations.
The developers are currently working to create the app’s next installment: “Verba Mystery: Venice”.
Via: Discovery News