Thursday, 17 May 2012

Sighelm and Orbis

Orbis - an interactive route finder has just been released - essentially it's a tool that calculates routes between various places in the Roman world, and the time it would take using various modes of transport to get from one to another. The Register has quite a good backgrounder on how it works.

I immediately though of Sighelm and these other AngloSaxon travellers who ventured far and wide in search of holiness (or spices). And my second thought was how does it measure up to what we know of the time it took pilgrims following the Via Francigena from the coast of northern France to get to Rome?

[click image  for a larger display]

The green line is the best I could get to Sigeric's route - Orbis suggests that it would take about 60 days walking. Sigeric's diary records it took him 80 days. The discrepancy is probably fair - the route would have been harder in Sigeric's time and he probably couldn't have spent as much time during the day just walking as a Roman traveller following a similar route in more peaceable times could accomplish.

However, being totally unscientific (we'd have to have a lot more data on pilgrims travel and plot the routes rather more accurately) we can say that travel in the early medieval period was slower, but perhaps not quite as remarkably slower as one might expect ...

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