Appius Claudius Caecus (“The Blind”) was a Roman politician and statesman, living between the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. He belonged to a wealthy and influential family. His father was Gaius Claudius Crassus, a Roman dictator of 337 BCE He is the oldest known author of Latin prose by name, including Roman legal procedures and calendars. In 312 BCE he held the position of censor as his first office, which was a big shock to Roman society (it was a kind of sensation). He built in Rome one of the first aqueducts (around 312 BCE), called Aqua Appia after him, and the oldest paved Roman road – Via Appia connecting Rome with Capua (later also with Brundisium).
During the Second Samnite War, he advocated the founding of Roman colonies (colonia) between Latium and Campania to defend themselves against the Etruscans and Samnites.
Appius, being a censor, also changed the Latin spelling by introducing the letter G resulting from the transformation of C and giving the letter C the value “k”. In the past, the letter C, derived from the Greek gamma, meant g and the letter K was “k”. Moreover, he was the first Roman prose writer (sayings in the Pythagorean spirit). According to Marcjanus Kapell, Appius did not like the sound of the letter Z.
In 307 BCE he was a consul. He held this position twice (the second time in 296 CE), which was a precedent in the Roman tradition. He had the peculiar quality of winning over the people – even the commoners, all thanks to his slave, whose job it was to know all the citizens by name. Appius, walking through the streets of Rome, knew all (it seemed) citizens, even the paupers, by name. But no one noticed that his slave had been telling him these names.
He represented the interests of the middle class. He contributed to the introduction of the sons of liberators to the list of senators. Together with Gnaeus Flavius, they made available to the people the calendar of auspicious days, which had so far been the responsibility of the priests (304 BCE).
In 296 BCE became praetor. He took an active part in the wars that Rome waged against the Etruscans, Sabines and Samnites. At the end of his life he lost his eyesight, hence the nickname Caecus – “Blind”. According to Livy, a spell was cast on Appius. In 292 and 285 BCE became a dictator. In 280 BCE he delivered in the Senate the speech against Pyrrhus written by Ennius, the father of Roman literature. Appian relates that when the Romans hesitated for a long time, Appius, brought by his sons to the senate, stated:
I was grieved at the loss of my sight; now I regret that I did not lose my hearing also, for never did I expect to see or hear deliberations of this kind from you. Have you become so forgetful of yourselves all of a sudden, by reason of one misfortune, as to take the man who brought it upon you, and those who called him hither, for friends instead of enemies, and to give back to the Lucanians and Bruttians the property that your ancestors took from them? What is this but making the Romans servants of the Macedonians? And some of you dare to call this peace instead of servitude!
– Appian, Samnite Wars, 10.5, 6.
As a result of this speech, the Senate rejected the peace conditions proposed by Pyrrhus, ordered the withdrawal of his troops from Italy, and suggested that only then should Pyrrhus send MPs for negotiations. Eventually, Pyrrhus set off for Rome, devastating the area.
In his old age, certainly because of his eyesight, he withdrew from political life. He has had many functions in his life; he was: a curule, quaestor, military tribune, consul, censor, praetor, dictator and interrex.
His sons were: Gaius Claudius (father of consul Appius Claudius Kaudex) and Tiberius Claudius Nero.
Appius Claudius is credited with the famous sentence: “Everyone is a blacksmith of their own fate!” (Faber est suae quisque fortunae).