Friday, July 27, 2012


HADRIAN-ERA Rome had a postal service in the second century that might be called “letter perfect,” according to an authority.
Nothing, or almost nothing, could keep their postal carriers from completing their rounds, says Joan Brown Wettingfield, writer/historian.

Writing in THE TIMES LEDGER, Wettingfield says that the well-engineered roads that covered the empire made it an easy task for their horse-drawn mail carts to travel 100 kilometers (60 miles) a day in the 2nd Century AD.

Relay teams, which could travel 100 kms a day and more, could easily deliver messages of urgency and were able to cover 300 kms (170 miles) a day, she points out.
The emperor Augustus, who reigned from 27 BC to 14 AD, established Rome’s first official postal service to communicate reliably as well as rapidly with the help of his numerous governors and military officials.
Augustus and his successors used the “cursus publicus” (expedited delivery) postal service which was a network of horseback couriers, postal coaches and relay stations. It was reserved for government officials. Private letters were usually carried by merchants and/or servants.

By the time of Hadrian, Rome had built about 47,000 miles of roads as well as many relay stations, each usually having a station master, accountants, grooms and mail carriers.
A “cursus publicus” was divided into two branches to expedite communication throughout the empire. Oxen were used to transport heavy loads. Service was often allowed to be used for personal reasons.