The last time I was in London, I was so tempted by all the ads for $30 flights to Rome — I could flit off for a weekend in Italy! I could also make a day trip by train to Edinburgh, which was a bit more expensive but a pleasant way to travel anyway. Let’s do a fantasy vacation and see what I could do. Here’s the Edinburgh trip:
What? The closest you can get me is to York, which the British manage to spell funny, and it’s going to take nine days? By donkey? British rail sure has gone downhill.
What about that weekend trip to Italy, instead? Cheapest route, please.
No direct flights available? I have to take a couple of sea cruises, another butt-busting ride on a donkey, and it’s going to take 37 days? I haven’t the slightest idea what the conversion rate for denarii is, so I’m not going to guess what it costs. Probably more than $30.
You’ve probably figured out that I wasn’t using Google Maps, but this cool webpage called Orbis, which uses a historical database to calculate routes and travel times to and from various destinations in 200CE. Apparently, there was no such thing as taking a three day vacation in a different country back then, when you either had to walk, ride a donkey, or pay a lot of money for a carriage.
I could see how fantasy novelists and fantasy gamers, as well as historians, could use this to get some perspective on how much work was required to move around in the ancient world.