It’s no mystery that the countries we live in today are not of the same size as they were in ancient atlases. But what we often overlook or can’t fathom is that those ancient lands were much larger, almost double the sizes of today. This has been very true in the case of Rome. While modern transport considerably cuts short travel duration across the globe, back then even the fastest transport between the capital of the ancient Roman Empire and any of its largest cities used to take at least two weeks. This long-distance travel is enough to give us an idea of how big ancient Rome was.
The Imperial Era
During the height of the reign of Emperor Trajan in 117 CE, the Roman Empire stretched from the northern part of England to the east of the Mediterranean, right down through Mesopotamia to the Persian Gulf. The total area of the empire measured about 5,000,000 km. During 118 – 138 CE, the ruler of Rome was Emperor Hadrian, the successor of Trajan. During his dynasty, Rome became even larger, stretching from Britain in the west to southwest Asia, and from today’s Netherlands in the north down to Egypt in the south. Though, these gains of extra territory were short-lived.
The Mobility of the Region
You’d be mistaken to think that the vastness of ancient Rome and the absence of a modern transport system barred the common people from traveling from one place to another. Instead, the economic and socio-cultural study of imperial Rome reveals that the numerous people inhabiting the large region were not isolated from each other. The Roman Empire possessed an incredibly developed roadway infrastructure, river ferries, harbors, and ports along the Mediterranean coast. Though primarily intended for military functions, all these transportation channels were made available for civilian use, facilitating easier mobility within and beyond the vastness of ancient Rome.