I’m sure many of you have often felt frustrated at the inability of Google Maps to accurately represent journey times within the ancient Roman Empire. Happily, a new online resource has been created for just such a purpose.
ORBIS, the Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World, will calculate the fastest, shortest, or cheapest route between any two major cities across the empire, based on a range of factors such as time of year, whether you are a member of the military or merely a civilian, and your chosen mode(s) of transport (options range from “rapid military march” to “horse relay” by way of “ox cart”, “fully loaded mule”, “private travel (routine, vehicular)” and a host of others. It even tells you the price (in denarii) per kilogram of wheat transported via your chosen route.
For instance, the fastest mode of transport from Londinium to Athenae in May would be by fast horse relay, taking just 14.6 days – less than half the time it would take a Roman army legion to make this journey. Unfortunately, speed costs: this trip would set you back around 100 denarii per kilogram of wheat transported. For the budget traveller, the cheapest option is a journey by ship and donkey, costing just 4 denarii per kilogram of wheat transported – but be warned, this will take you 42 days:
Happy journey planning!