Blue Danube

As I write this lines, probably millions of eyes are carefully watching the waltzing river, afraid of its waterline and the floods that are trashing Romania, Moldavia, Bulgaria and other countries in the Danube water basin.

Almost the same difficulties would have found the Vesi tribes (Tervingi Goths and others) had they tried to cross it near the delta. Therefore they headed accross the Pyretus (Prut) and Hierasus (Siret) rivers, both important tributaries to the Danube, and then South, for some 200 kilometers following the Danube until they arrived to Durostorum, nowaday Silistra, in Bulgaria.

Now, let's follow, for a moment, the embassy Alaviv ad Fritigern sent to Valens Imperator, who was staying, getting ready for a Persian summer campaign, in one of the most important cities in the Eastern Empire, Antioch-on-the-Orontes, in nowadays Antakya, in Turkey (right in the frontier with Syria). This is actually what I am writing at the moment. (Not exactly right now, mind you :-)

I have actually calculate the path with modern day facilities, just to have a good idea. While transport means have changed a lot, the pathways are usually simply the old ones, recycled (you'd be surprised how many modern facilities use the same path as the Roman Way XIX (roughly from Emerita Augusta to Braccara and to Brigantium): motorway, high tension electrical wires, gaseoduct, oleoduct, scouting trails, and so on...)

We start moving South from Durostorum, and pass through Marcianopolis, we will have a fight against the Roman the next year. Next, Cabyle, then we pass pretty near Hadrianopolis (ah, what'll happen two years from now!) and head Southeast, for some more kilometers, until we arrive to the uia Egnatia and easilly arrive in Constantinopolis. Ah! Wonder of wonders! We have burned the first 450 miles or so!

Now, we cross the Pontus Euxinus, and cross the Roman Provinces Bithynia (partly the old Paflagonia), enter into Galatia (old Phrygia, where is modern Ankara, capital of Turkey), Cappadocia, Cilicia (and the city of Tarsus) and finally the province of Syria, and Antiochia ad Orontem, where Apollo tried to mate poor, young Dafne, and where Aléxandros III of Makedonia stopped to drink some water, and Seleucus I Nicator founded one of his odd-teen Antiochia, in memory of one of his relatives (he founded four cities with names of his relatives, weird him, uh?).

Total distance: about 1,100 roman miles (or some 1,010 miles, about 1,670 km)

Average walking speed for a healthy, not rushing, Human being: 4 km/h (about 2.5 miles per hour)

If we walk an average of 11 hours a day, at that speed (even in mountain ranges, and so on), we would need almost 38 days to cover that distance.

38 days to go. Fast.

38 days to return. Fast.

n days waiting for Imperial reception by Flavius Julius Valens Augustus.

Now, you have to stop sometimes, buy some food, hunt, some little fight here and there, and a host of other things that happen during such a trip. Actually doubling the time to go can be too much, but it's not too much. Let's say, about 60 days.

Return can be faster, because you are leaving with a paper from the Emperor. Maybe you are even using the cursus publicus which would be much, much faster (and cheaper!). Let's say 40 days to return. And at least a week in Antiochia. That makes it 110 days.

110 days. More than 3 and a half months.What a trip just to get the 'yes, but...' from Valens.

OK, the Vesi were already waiting to cross. And they surely walked from their places between the Prut and the Dniester while the Embassy was on its way. At least this is what I am writing. Until I thought how long would it take them to get the Antiochi and back, I thought: 'they crossed the Danube by the end of the Summer. And three months, you will get into the Winter! They must have to move while the EMbassy was on its way. They didn't wait for Valentis accept!'


Heh, I even think in Greek sometimes... Fancy, uh? ;-)

OK. Tourism is nice. I will be able to describe Antiochia in some fancy, nod... Antakya'ya istiyorum. "I am going to Antakya".

(yes, I am learning Turkish as well (slowly), heh... Why do you think I am writing soooo slowly? :-)

OK, let's hope that our modern day Goths will soon get some relief from the wrath of the waters of the Ister river...



Gabriele C. said...

I'm pretty sure they didn't walk but ride. After all, the Goths were so good riders that the Roman army hired them as cavalry mercenaries. And Gothic noblemen like Alaviv and Fitigern would have had some pretty good horse.

Maybe not legitimally purchased, but who cares? :)

Excalibor said...


nod, they were surely pretty good riders, indeed.But I read a discussion over RAT where it was shown that after three or four days of march, infantry moves faster than cavalry, because horses get ired and strained and you have to be gentler with them...

I am supposing they would ride for a while, then dismount and walk, and again on the horseback...

Like they say, the better way to move at a good pace and get less tired is some 10 paces walking and then 10 paces jogging.

Never tried, but the point with the horses seemed legit.

However, I think I'm going to pusg for the sea travel, which is faster.
On Gore Vidal's Julian one of the characters makes Constantinopla - Antiochia in just 8 days by using the cursus publicus. I dunno if it's a real data or Mr. Vidal made the number, but even changing horses every 20 miles or so, it looks way too short a timespan for such a travel?

Finally, legitimacy was backed up by the sword those times. So, well, it was a legit purchase, sure... :-)