The wonders of ancient Greece include impressive architecture and many innovations and advancements in everything from technology to literature. Still, its modes of transportation were rather rudimentary. Although ancient Greece seems like a fascinating world to people of the present day, most of its residents traveled very little. Not only was traveling extremely difficult, it also wasn't often necessary for a society composed mostly of farm workers.
Travel Over Terra Firma
Getting from point A to point B over land was by no means an easy task for the ancient Greeks. Greece is a land of mountainous, rugged landscapes that didn't make for smooth travel in ancient times. Roads were extremely scarce. The roads that did exist weren't at all well constructed, either -- typically just cramped dirt trails. Roads of better standard typically were routes to religious sites. Not only were roads rare, so were bridges to cross rivers.
In ancient Greece, wagons, carriages and carts all were in use, whether for purposes of carrying people or goods. These modes of transportation were sometimes extremely pricey, however, as they often involved owning -- and paying for -- an animal, occasionally a horse. Keeping a horse involved a lot of expenses, including purchase of sustenance. Mules and donkeys weren't as costly to keep as horses, however, and offered transportation options for more humble people. Wealthy Greeks could make use of horseback riding to get around, although carriages were considered more comfortable. Chariots were used primarily for warfare and racing competitions. When soldiers were injured, chariots could quickly remove them from the battlefield.
Walking, Walking and More Walking
The most common form of transportation for the average ancient Greek citizen, whether rich or poor, was his or her feet. Many ancient Greeks simply had no other transportation options. They were generally physically fit due to all of the activity. Walking also was a practical way of traveling through mountainous landscapes. Slavery was prevalent in ancient Greek life. While wealthy ancient Greeks indeed walked a lot, slaves could accompany them and carry their belongings and purchases, thus serving as transportation. Since traveling was a logistically stressful task, many inhabitants of ancient Athens rarely departed from the bustle of the urban setting. If they did leave, it was generally only for brief strolls. The ancient Greeks in general only traveled if it was of vital importance. The Olympic Games, for instance, a religious as well as a sporting event, drew people from all across Greece.
Traveling Via Sea
Traveling via sea wasn't as complicated as land travel in ancient Greece, and it was actually the preferred mode of transportation whenever possible. The ancient Greeks were highly skilled both in navigation and shipbuilding, and actively colonized and traded across the Mediterranean. Greece's geography was optimal for boat travel, encircled by the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas, and with population centers concentrated near its coastlines and on its array of islands. The fare from the Athenian port of Piraeus to Aegina, an island 16 miles away, cost about the price of a theater admission.
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- Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece; Sean Sheehan; 2002
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Aegina (island, Greece)
- Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images