June 03, 2012
Travel across the Roman Empire in real time — Google Maps for the ancient world
From Ars Technica:
In a clever bit of technological legerdemain, Stanford University has combined historical research, mapping, and Web technology to bring ancient Roman Empire travel to the Internet. A cross-disciplinary team has created and launched ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World. With it, a user can determine how long it will take to travel from any point in the Roman Empire to any other, as well as calculate the cost of transporting goods and people.
This heretofore unnatural union of geographers, technologists, and historians of the ancient world is becoming more and more common under the descriptor of "digital humanities." ORBIS looks to be one of the most effective examples of its promise.
Built by historian and classicist Walter Scheidel and Stanford Libraries' digital humanities specialist Elijah Meeks, with the assistance of geographer and Web developer Karl Grossner and GIS analyst Noemi Alvarez, the interactive online atlas is based on a host of data. This includes historical tide information and weather; size, grade, and surface of roads; main cities and ports; land, sea, and river routes; vehicle speed (including ships, ox carts, horse, and walking); and the cost of transport.
The time period the system centers on is about 200 CE, when Roman power was at its highest and the empire's extent was greatest. The atlas is built from 751 sites, most of which are cities and towns, and covers about four million square miles. Two hundred sixty-eight of the sites are ports. The road network mapped on ORBIS includes 52,587 miles of road, including desert tracks and 17,567 miles of rivers and canals.
Ox cart and boat takes a lot longer than flying. ORBIS's cartogram... allows the user to select one main city — Rome, Constantinople, London, or Antioch — and a season, then choose either the fastest routes or the cheapest ones. The map changes dynamically according to those choices, and rearranges the spatial relationships to reflect them.
Suddenly London zooms away from Rome, actually moving off the map — it's nearly impossible to get there during the winter due to Atlantic storms. With another set of choices, Corinth meets Antioch in the center of the map — it's a cheap destination during the summer.
June 3, 2012 at 02:01 PM | Permalink
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This definitely qualifies for an "Awesome!" award.
Posted by: Becs | Jun 3, 2012 2:50:30 PM
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