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Transportation In Ancient Rome

By Edited Sep 4, 2015 0 0

The ancient Romans, were very smart. They revolutionized many things such as banking,agriculture,trade building and even mathematics. One of the amazing innovations of the Romans was the construction of roads and cargo ships. In this article I will show you how the Romans revolutionized transportation in the ancient world and today


Cargo Ships

In Rome, the most common way for goods to be transferred was by cargo ship. The Romans traded on land but ships were the best way to travel around the Mediterranean. The Romans were not good sailors but they still managed to invent an amazingly effective ship called a Corbitas.

The boat was spectacularly designed. It is a round hulled ship with a curving prow and stern. Large cargo ships could carry over 350 tons of goods.Many cargo ships were used to transport slaves. Slaves were big business in ancient Rome,  in the Roman empire there were more slaves then citizens. As many as 900,000 slaves lived in Rome alone. A cargo ship carried hundreds of slaves at a time. These slaves were tightly packed into cargo ships. Many slaves died along the journey to the Roman empire due to overcrowding.

Along with slaves cargo ships carried wine,olive oil and fruits. It was faster to move goods by boat then on land. The cargo ships in ancient Rome were very strong. They could travel as far as India. This is how spices and other exotic goods were able to reach ancient Rome, because cargo ships allow them to be transported in very little time.

A major problem the Romans had with sea trading though was pirates. There were hundreds if not thousands of pirates scouring the Mediterranean, and since Rome was not a naval powerhouse this proved a dangerous threat. Many cargo ships carried weapons in case of attack. The Romans tried to combat the threat of pirates by deploying ships throughout the sea. Julius Cesar started his military career on one of these ships. He played a key role in combating these pirates.

The Romans were engineering geniuses. When they built larger ships, they had a problem getting them into port so they built deep harbors so that larger ships could come through. The Romans also built lighthouses too. At one point there were lighthouses in over 40 locations.

As you can see, trade was very important in Rome. The Romans traded all sorts of goods via boat below is a list of key ports an how long it took to get there


Place Time
Alexandria to Ostia 16-21 days
Alexandria to Antichia 9-10 days
Byzantium to Gaza 10-12 days
Ostia to Carthago 3-5 Days
Ostia to Gades 9-10 days
Rome to Caesaria 20 days
Alexandria to Rome 14-21 days



Roads offered Roman traders another great way to get their goods across the empire. In the Roman empire there were over 50,000 miles of roads. Even today one can see the roads that the Romans built. Most roads in Rome were made for military conquest but as time went on, people used roads to trade. By sending a caravan on a road, traders could travel with their goods. Roads had many advantages over the sea. On land it was easier to move cargo. There was less of a threat of attack on land too. Romans could make constant pit stops for food and drinks on land while on the sea, sailors sometimes went days without food. Another benefit of roads was that people could travel in any weather. This was a great thing for Romans. This meant that the supply of goods, never stopped. Despite the weather goods kept on moving.
Roman roads were very strong. Even today many of the roads still exist. The Romans started off by making ditches, these were made to provide drainage. The Romans then compacted the dirt and put small stones over that. They made the stones very tight. Over the stones the Romans spread gravel to make a smooth surface. They then compacted the gravel too.These roads were strong enough to withstand thousands upon thousands of pounds of pressure. During military conquest, Roman legions would travel over these roads and further compact and strengthen them. Even today most of the Roman roads have survived and are in great condition. Many modern road building designs and features are derived from Roman Roads.

As you can see, transportation was very important in Roman and the Roman Empire. The Romans revolutionized the way people travel and even today, many of their innovations are used in modern transportation projects.




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