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Source: Daily Telegraph
By Dan Entwistle
A team of historians and IT experts at Stanford University have teamed up to create an interactive route map for the Roman Empire
Orbis: The Stanford geospatial network model of the Roman world, was founded by Walter Scheidel, a Professor of Roman history at the California-based university, and gives the user a wide selection of options as to how they could have navigated from one point of the ancient empire to another.
Using the Orbis model users can choose from a range of transport methods, including: horseback, ox cart, a fast carriage and a fully loaded mule, as well the time of year you would be travelling and various travelling options such as by river, road, open sea or coastal sea, in order to find out how long a journey would have taken a citizen of the empire.
The project took Professor Scheidel and his team of graduates eight months to build and was inspired by a smart phone application which shows the travel time between stations on the London Underground. “The principle of the model is the same as the Underground application,” said Professor Scheidel, “the only difference is, instead of the time between stops it’s the time between cities.”
Orbis, Latin for “the world”, also lets the user see how much the journey would have cost the traveller at the time. For example, a trip from Rome to London that, today, would take two and a half hours and cost around £100 would have taken nine days via horse relay and would cost passenger 2,433 denarii, roughly the equivalent of 2 months of a skilled labourer’s salary at the time.
In order to accurately chart this model the Stanford team had to identify all road, river and sea routes that were used by Romans at the time as well as using hundreds of historical accounts of journey times. “All the information was published, but because nothing like this had ever been attempted we had to mine the information for the model,” said Professor Scheidel.
Similarly the team had to develop specific algorithms to calculate wind speeds throughout various points of the empire in order to be able to effectively calculate sailing speeds.
Since the launch of the model on May 2 the website has been visited over 100,000 times and its popularity is rapidly increasing. “We never expected such a popular response,” said the Professor.
The model has over 750 destinations to choose from, including 258 sea ports and covers around 10 million square kilometres of terrestrial and maritime space.