Travel time and distance


toujours gai, archie
This Orbis site has been around for years. It was last mentioned here in 2015, so I figured it's worth a bump, as Stanford has updated the interface and has added more data.

It's a map of the Roman Empire with data about travel time, distances, and costs. There are lots of variables to play with. The interface still is not the most intuitive, so do take time to poke around. There real are some great visualization tools, as well as hard data.

FWIW, the information gained here will apply to pretty much any civilization that is before motorized travel on land, and at sea as long as the primary ship is the galley. So, it covers most of the Middle Ages.


Regarding army travel times, this is what I wrote based on my research:

Normal marching rate is 20 – 25 kilometers per day (including setting up fortified camp), with 40 – 50 kilometers per day during forced march, which generally can only be maintained for a day or two. Normal march speed on even terrain is 4,8 kph, and on hilly terrain it is 4 kph. Division of 5 000 infantry has 20 minute gap between front and rear elements. With 15 mile army, it takes 9 hours to complete the march; a 22 mile army would take 12 hours (1 000 cavalry is 6 miles, 5 000 infantry is 5 kilometers or 3 miles). Each soldier with him carries food for three days, but most of baggage – tents, food, equipment – is carried by mules. If baggage train is drawn by oxen as opposed to mules, march rate falls to 16 kilometers per day. On a good road and with no baggage train, march rate can be up to 40 kilometers per day, but such a rate is exhausting and causes high attrition. Up to 50 kilometers per day can be achieved with an all-mounted force, but only for two days or so. Small units can move more rapidly – infantry could march up to 50 kilometers per day in forced march, and cavalry 65 – 80 kilometers per day. Army in enemy territory often has to forage, again reducing marching speed to 20 kilometers per day or less.