The city-states of ancient Greece are much admired. Part and parcel of any great civilization, transportation constituted a pivotal pillar of the Greek way of life.
How The Ancient Greeks Got Around
Travelling in the ancient world was much tougher than it is today. Although the technology that we use in the present age may seem antiquated or cumbersome (for instance, the fact that we still use massive boats to travel the oceans or the fact that we stand in huge lines in order to get onto aircraft), our minor inconveniences are nothing compared to the difficulties that were faced by our ancestors. Ancient Greek transportation was some of the most advanced of the era, but there were still many problems with their methods.
One of the most important methods of transportation, to both the economy of the area as well as its people, was travelling by ship. As Greece is partially a group of islands, there was no way to get to the mainland of Europe by simply riding a horse or taking a chariot. Instead, anyone who wished to travel outside of Greece, or any traders who wanted to get materials from different parts of the world, had to use boats to get to their destinations. Additionally, this form of transportation made Greece the owner of one of the world’s most powerful naval fleets.
While boats were a preferred mode of transport for long distances, the average Greek didn’t need (or want) to leave their home area. For these normal citizens, the most common type of transportation was the mule. Horses were relatively unknown and rarely used in Greece or Rome, rather they tended to use mules for light transport of items and people, and oxen for heavier transportation needs.
Mules had harder hooves than horses and were better suited to the rocky terrain found in much of Greece. Their sure footing made them much more valuable in these areas, as the horses would tend to baulk and not be able to pass through mountainous passes. Also, mules were easier to train than horses; they are bred from a mare (female horse) and a male donkey, and for some reason, this cross made the mules more adaptable. Finally, mules can cover about 50 miles of the area a day, and need only four to five hours of sleep, which is much more distance and less sleep than a horse needs.
Greek transportation was not glamorous or swift, but the animals and ships that were used were able to move enough people and items to let Greece grow at a fast pace. As Greece developed their current types of transport into more streamlined versions, the country was able to really become a major world power.