Thursday, August 30, 2012

Postal history of Ancient Civilisations and the Roman Empire

Messenger services were necessary to most ancient civilisation and were usually organised by the king or merchants. Nearly all the ancient civilisations sent messages by foot or equestrian couriers. They travelled along the routes called ways which were also used for the movement of large armies and transporting military equipment. Most of the postal systems set up by kings in ancient civilisations were used for royal and governmental purposes only. Often wealthy merchants provided there own form of message service.

A form of postal communication existed in Ancient Egypt. Pedestrian and equestrian couriers travelled along the military routes to Libya, Ethiopia and Arabia carrying messengers between the Pharaoh and leading military and administrative officials of Egypt. The messengers were provided with accommodation and food by the local inhabitants. This was a duty the Pharaoh commissioned on the towns along the routes and the local inhabitants had to pay a tax to provide for this service.

There was a regular postal activity in the Assyria empire. Assyria used a cuneiform script that was engraved with a sharp stylus on a wet clay tablet. The tablet was the dried in the sun. If the information on the tablet was important then the tablet was fired in a kiln to preserve it for longer.These tablets were usually put in clay sleeves equivalent to modern envelopes to preserve the privacy of the correspondence. The name of the the addressee was engraved on the clay sleeve.