ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Postal history of Ancient Civilisations and the Roman Empire

Updated on May 12, 2012

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.

In ancient Persia the postal services became became even more sophisticated. The Persian king Cyrus the Great who ruled between 559 and 530 BC considered postal communication to be very important because of the size of the Persian Empire. He decreed that Staging posts were to be established established along the so-called “Royal Route” which stretched 2,500 kilometres from Sardis the capital of Cyrus empire to Sus , the winter residence of the Persian Kings. The staging posts were supplied with horses and accommodation for tired messengers. A messenger carrying messages and documents on horseback would be replaced at the staging post with a fresh horse and messenger. There were 111 staging posts on the Royal Route and a message could cover the 2500 km distance in five to seven days. Town and cities not on this royal route were not as well serviced and had a more limited message service.

Rome had advanced and well- organised transport system that provided reliable reliable connections across the Roman empire. The Roman roads were sophisticated for their time , the quality of which can be confirmed by the fact that a number of them have partially survived to the present day. The major roads were ten metres wide and minor roads were four to seven metres wide. The roads stretched across the Roman empire. The postal services of the Roman Empire used the sophisticated network of roads to transport the mail. Postal communication was run by specially appointed officials and servants.

Post was carried by messengers on foot and on horseback. Mail that was not urgent was carried by coach that transported both passengers and goods in addition to carrying letters. They had at their disposal several kinds of coach from a light, two-wheeled coach to a heavy four-wheeled carriage pulled by 8 to 10 horses,mules or donkeys. Staging posts called mansiones were used to replace tired horses, tired carriage drivers and provide food and accommodation for travellers and postal personnel. Between each resting stage were six smaller relay staging-posts were fresh horses could be provided. Urgent post would be carried by single riders on horseback who could swap horses at the staging posts. This provided a form of express post that was often used in times of war to relay messages to the emperor. The transfer of messages and post reached its peak during the Roman empire and was not equalled to about 1,300 years later.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Donald E 

      8 years ago from DFW area, TX.

      A very interesting article.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)