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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Stanford Creates an Electronic Road Map for Ancient Rome



Stanford has created a travel map application similar to Google Maps or Map Quest for the Roman Empire, c. 200 A.D. From the Daily Mail:
The project, known as ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World, was designed as an exercise to see how such a large-scale organisation could have functioned in the pre-technology days.

To rule this great empire, the Romans relied on energy generated by human and animal bodies, winds, and currents - and used the Roman road networks, the main navigable rivers, and hundreds of sea routes across the Mediterranean, Black Sea, and the coast of the Atlantic.And now, we can retrace those steps, finding the best route in terms of time and expense through ORBIS.

The system also takes into account the seasons, and tries to reflect the conditions around 200 AB, but with a few sites and roads created slightly later that century.

If you are a traveller in need of a destination, there are 751 sites to choose from, most of them urban settlements, and including 268 sea ports.

The road network covers 52,587 miles of road or desert tracks, and 17,567 miles of navigable rivers and canals.

The Stanford team have thought of nearly everything, with sea travel considering monthly wind conditions, strong currents and wave height.

There are 900 sea routes, well, 450 routes going in both directions, and most of them are sourced either from documented historical routes, and supplemented by coastal short-range connections between ports.

Their total length, which varies monthly, averages 111,864 miles.

Standorf said their model was helping them understand how large-scale systems like the Roman Empire worked in a pre-technological age.

The site quotes Fernand Braudel, who in writing about the Mediterranean in the sixteenth century, highlighted the 'struggle against distance' as the 'first enemy' of civilisation.

If you want to try your own hand at travelling Roman-style, try the map here.

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