Monday, June 04, 2012

Online map calculates travel times in Ancient Rome

A team of historians and IT folks from Stanford University have developed an online map called ORBIS that calculates how long it took to travel between cities in Ancient Rome and how much it cost. Click here to play with it yourself!

A paper map can show how far two cities are from one another, but in a world of sailing ships and donkey trains, the shortest route wasn't necessarily the one people would use. ORBIS shows likely routes based on conditions 2,000 years ago. The ORBIS team used ancient maps and records, modern-day weather measurements and modern-day historians' experiments with trying to sail in Roman-style ships to inform their calculations.

ORBIS helps historians see how the Roman Empire was shaped by the time and cost of moving people and goods between cities, according to the ORBIS website. Cities on the edges of the empire were very expensive to ship to, for example, even if they weren't necessarily that far away. Here at InnovationNewsDaily, we imagined researchers might use the tool to figure out whether two cities traded often, or to check if someone spotted in one city in January could have made it to another city by March.