Logistical scope of the Roman Empire reconstructed and accessible via online interactive map


Previously we have talked at length about the legionaries, military evolution and even the territorial impact of the ancient Romans. And this time around, we have come across an online resource that aptly represents the ambit that fueled soldiers, equipment and economies. We are obviously talking about the logistical side of affairs in the ancient world. To that end, the Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World has been launched in the ORBIS website. Somewhat akin to a route planner, this incredible virtual model “reconstructs the time cost and financial expense associated with a wide range of different types of travel in antiquity.”

Adhering to the territories of the Roman Empire, circa 200 AD, the map covers a whopping 632 sites, including the famous urban settlements, sea ports, some fortified areas and even a few mountain passes. When translated to an area, the map accounts for an astronomical 3.86 million sq miles (or 10 million square km), which comprises over 52,587 miles of road (and desert tracks), along with 17,567 miles of navigable rivers and canals.

Now beyond the numbers game, the Stanford Geospatial Network Model also takes into account the scenarios that would have affected traveling from point to another in the ancient Roman Empire. For example, road travel alone could have entailed different transportation modes, including ox-carts, mules, horses (with their variants, like routine travels or relays), armies on march and so on. The virtual map sets parameter for 14 such types of land travelling modes.

And when it comes to sea-travel, the parameters considered for calculation become more complex. In that regard, the advanced model takes into account factors like monthly wind conditions along with the currents and even wave heights. Water travel is also covered via river transportation, which has been mapped for over 25 rivers; while parameters like upriver movements and localized winds play their role in determining the end result.


Lastly, to give an actual example of the calculation pertaining to the logistics of the Roman Empire, the fastest route between Eburacum (York, England) to Rome was judged to be 2,036 miles -and it could have been traveled in around 30.4 days. Now if the passenger wanted to travel ‘first class’ in the fastest sailing ship and his rented private carriage, the overall cost would have come to 1063.6 Roman denarii, which might be equivalent of $21,300. And to bring out some historical perspective, Roman emperor Septimus Severus raised the pay (by possibly 50 percent) of the Imperial Roman legionary in 197 AD, which amounted to around 450 silver denarii per quarter, or 1,800 denarii per year.

So in case you are interested, do take a gander at the fascinating Stanford Geospatial Network Model over at ORBIS.

1 Comment on "Logistical scope of the Roman Empire reconstructed and accessible via online interactive map"

  1. Mara Cohen | May 15, 2017 at 1:54 pm |

    This is awesome!

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