In This Way We Came to Rome: With Paul on the Appian Way guides readers along Paul’s 150-mile journey to face trial before the Roman emperor (Acts 28). Authors Glen L. Thompson and Mark Wilson draw from both ancient records and modern research to offer the most complete account available of Paul’s journey along the ancient world’s most famous road—the Appian Way.
In addition to geographical and historical insights, the authors provide numerous images, maps, and GPS coordinates, allowing the reader to experience Paul’s journey and better understand the ancient world in which he spread the gospel.
In our interview below, Wilson shares his excitement over discovering the road’s original Roman paving and Thompson shares how In This Way We Came to Rome is built for both the scholar and the traveler.
Lexham Press: What is the story behind In This Way We Came to Rome and what is your book’s basic thesis?
Glen L. Thompson: Since 2010, Mark Wilson and I have led a project that is re-mapping the roads that St. Paul walked. Using on the ground field trips and satellite imagery, we locate the still existing road remnants (ancient paving and bridges, milestones, inscriptions) and then record the precise location using GPS. On our fourth research trip (2018), we followed Paul’s route in Italy in Acts 28 from Puteoli to Rome. The result is this book.
Mark Wilson: Several years ago Glen and I, along with some students, were in Italy tracing Luke’s account in Acts 28. After the trip we realized that the story of Paul’s journey from Puteoli to Rome needed to be told. We started looking at the publications of Italian archaeologists and historians who have made exceptional finds along the route. However, no one had ever put them together before. So we decided to write that narrative by first outlining a seven-day journey. We then constructed an itinerary within that framework. The result is a detailed description of what Paul would have seen and experienced during his walk to the Imperial City as a prisoner.
LP: What contribution do you hope to make with In This Way We Came to Rome?
Thompson: The book has two levels. A traveler in Italy or a Bible student at home can read the text and follow Paul on this 140-mile land journey in Italy. The scholar, however, can engage with the footnotes that interact with the most recent scholarship in Italy and abroad and make this the most complete study in the field. Both of these groups will be able to follow Paul (and the books argumentation) to the highest degree because of the complete set of GPS coordinates given to every feature of the road and its adjacent ancient monuments. References to ancient authors and geographers, photos and drawings from early modern travelers, and a complete set of color maps all contribute to the reader’s journey along the Appian Way.
Wilson: We hope readers will be motivated to delve into the fascinating details included in the volume: descriptions of monuments and inscriptions along with anecdotes from other travelers of Paul’s day. Ideally they would get so inspired that they travel to Italy and walk in Paul’s footsteps using the detailed waymarking that we provide in the book.
LP: Describe a particularly surprising or enjoyable aspect of writing In This Way We Came to Rome.
Thompson: One of the book’s endorsers, Eckhard Schnabel, has said that “no ancient road or road system has ever been described in such detail,” Since most of our book describes the most famous ancient road, the Appian Way, we initially thought that there would be little new that we could add. However, the more we researched, the more we found that there was no up-to-date book about this ancient road, even among the many Italian guidebooks. So we were gratified to be able to present our findings and have them applauded by Italian scholars and classicists, as well as students of the Bible. We also hope our book will give support to contemporary attempts to preserve what remains of the ancient roadway.
Wilson: Discovering original paving from sections of Roman roads was extremely exciting to me. To walk where Paul walked and see the landscape he had seen is for me a thrill beyond description.
LP: Share with us something surprising about yourself that only your friends would know.
Thompson: In grad school, I started as power-forward on the Columbia University history department’s championship intramural basketball team–aptly named The Black Death.
Wilson: High on my bucket list is to visit every site related to Paul in the New Testament. I’m getting close with only three more places to go.