Roman roads get the web maps treatment

M-III traffic means Londinium to Venta (Winchester) takes 3.7 days


Classical scholars at Stanford University have created a “Geospatial network model of the Roman world” which offers the chance to calculate journey times along Roman roads in much the same way as is possible on Google Maps and other online mapping services.

ORBIS, as the model is known, can calculate journey times between 751 locations in the Roman world. The site draws data from The Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World which has apparently been georeferenced by Cambridge boffins. To calculate voyages on water, the site uses maps of rivers. Sea journeys are also possible, with routes calculated from the Romans' preferred sea routes. Dijkstra's pathfinding algorithm is applied to calculate routes.

The tool even insists that users set the month for a journey, as weather conditions at sea and on land had a major impact on ancient travel times.

It's also possible to chose from a menu of transport options, namely:

  • Foot/army/pack animal (mod. Load), mule cart/camel caravan
  • Rapid military march
  • Ox cart
  • Porter/fully loaded mule
  • Horseback rider (routine travel)
  • Private travel (routine, vehicular)
  • Private travel (accelerated, vehicular/horseback)
  • Fast carriage
  • Horse relay

The app also calculates the likely cost of transporting people and goods across the Roman Empire.

A journey calculation from Orbis

An example of Orbis calculating a journey across the Roman Empire

ORBIS does not aim to be exhaustively accurate. Instead, it's aim is to “improve our understanding of how a large-scale system such as the Roman Empire worked, of the effort it took to succeed in the struggle to connect and control tens of millions of people across hundreds and thousands of miles of land and sea.”

The ORBIS team says the app is built on PostgreSQL 9.0 database with PostGIS 2.0SVN and pgRouting 1.05 spatial extensions, OpenLayers 2.11, Geoserver 2.1.3; the GeoExt and d3 v2 JavaScript libraries, Gephi v0.8.1 graph visualization and the ExtJS 3.4 Javascript framework.

Performance is not slick: our attempts to calculate a journey from London to Winchester did not always work. But the result – a 3.7 day journey across 111 km of roads – neatly illustrates the different timescales of the ancient world.

And that's enough for one Sydney classics academic of El Reg's acquaintance, who after we informed him about the site declared it was just the thing he needed to prepare for a lecture on the Roman economy and trade next week. ®


Other stories you might like

  • FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data
    Trade watchdog, and President, reminds that COPPA can ban ya

    The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services.

    In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools."

    The agency says it will scrutinize educational service providers to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

    Continue reading
  • Mysterious firm seeks to buy majority stake in Arm China
    Chinese joint venture's ousted CEO tries to hang on - who will get control?

    The saga surrounding Arm's joint venture in China just took another intriguing turn: a mysterious firm named Lotcap Group claims it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 51 percent stake in Arm China from existing investors in the country.

    In a Chinese-language press release posted Wednesday, Lotcap said it has formed a subsidiary, Lotcap Fund, to buy a majority stake in the joint venture. However, reporting by one newspaper suggested that the investment firm still needs the approval of one significant investor to gain 51 percent control of Arm China.

    The development comes a couple of weeks after Arm China said that its former CEO, Allen Wu, was refusing once again to step down from his position, despite the company's board voting in late April to replace Wu with two co-chief executives. SoftBank Group, which owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, has been trying to unentangle Arm China from Wu as the Japanese tech investment giant plans for an initial public offering of the British parent company.

    Continue reading
  • SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?
    High pricing, lack of software make smartNICs a tough sell, despite offload potential

    SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register.

    SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive network, security, and storage operations from the CPU, freeing it up to run revenue generating tenant workloads. Some more advanced chips even offload the hypervisor to further separate the infrastructure management layer from the rest of the server.

    Despite relative success in the cloud and a flurry of innovation from the still-limited vendor SmartNIC ecosystem, including Mellanox (Nvidia), Intel, Marvell, and Xilinx (AMD), Kerravala argues that the use cases for enterprise datacenters are unlikely to resemble those of the major hyperscalers, at least in the near term.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022