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The Royal Road

The true account of the road in question is the following:- Royal stations exist along its whole length, and excellent caravanserais; and throughout, it traverses an inhabited tract, and is free from danger. In Lydia and Phrygia there are twenty stations within a distance of 94 parasangs*. On leaving Phrygia the Halys has to be crossed; and here are gates through which you must needs pass ere you can traverse the stream. A strong force guards this post. When you have made the passage, and are come into Cappadocia, 28 stations and 104 parasangs bring you to the borders of Cilicia, where the road passes through two sets of gates, at each of which there is a guard posted. Leaving these behind, you go on through Cilicia, where you find three stations in a distance of 15 parasangs. The boundary between Cilicia and Armenia is the river Euphrates, which it is necessary to cross in boats. In Armenia the resting-places are 15 in number, and the distance is 56 parasangs. There is one place where a guard is posted. Four large streams intersect this district, all of which have to be crossed by means of boats. The first of these is the Tigris; the second and the third have both of them the same name, though they are not only different rivers, but do not even run from the same place. For the one which I have called the first of the two has its source in Armenia, while the other flows afterwards out of the country of the Matienians. The fourth of the streams is called the Gyndes, and this is the river which Cyrus dispersed by digging for it three hundred and sixty channels. Leaving Armenia and entering the Matienian country, you have four stations; these passed you find yourself in Cissia, where eleven stations and 42 parasangs bring you to another navigable stream, the Choaspes, on the banks of which the city of Susa is built. Thus the entire number of the stations is raised to one hundred and eleven; and so many are in fact the resting-places that one finds between Sardis and Susa.

If then the royal road be measured aright, and the parasang equals, as it does, thirty furlongs*, the whole distance from Sardis to the palace of Memnon (as it is called), amounting thus to 450 parasangs, would be 13,500 furlongs. Travelling then at the rate of 150 furlongs a day, one will take exactly ninety days to perform the journey.

Thus when Aristagoras the Milesian told Cleomenes the Lacedaemonian that it was a three months' journey from the sea up to the king, he said no more than the truth. The exact distance (if any one desires still greater accuracy) is somewhat more; for the journey from Ephesus to Sardis must be added to the foregoing account; and this will make the whole distance between the Greek Sea and Susa (or the city of Memnon, as it is called) 14,040 furlongs; since Ephesus is distant from Sardis 540 furlongs. This would add three days to the three months' journey.

The History of Herodotus
Book V, Terpsichore
By Herodotus, written B.C.
Translated by George Rawlinson
(see also: http://classics.mit.edu/Herodotus/history.5.v.html)

* 1 parasang = 30 furlongs = 5.328 meters

Herodotus

484?425? B.C., Greek historian, called the Father of History, b. Halicarnassus, Asia Minor. Only scant knowledge of his life can be gleaned from his writings and from references to him by later writings, notably the Suda. He travelled along the coast of Asia Minor to the northern islands and to the shore of the Black Sea; he also at some time visited Mesopotamia, Babylon, and Egypt. By 447 B.C. he was in Athens, and in 443 he seems to have helped to found the Athenian colony of Thurii in S Italy, where he probably spent the rest of his life completing his history. That classic work, the first comprehensive attempt at secular narrative history, is the starting point of Western historical writing. It is divided into nine books named for the Muses (a division made by a later editor). Herodotus was the first writer to evaluate historical, geographical, and archaeological material critically. The focus of the history is the story of the Persian Wars, but the extensive and richly detailed background information put Greece in its proper historical perspective. He discusses the growth of Persia into a great kingdom and traces the history and migration of the Greek people. Among his grand digressions are fascinating histories of Babylon, Egypt, and Thrace, as well as detailed studies of the pyramids and specific historical events. The value of the work lies not only in its accuracy, but in its scope and the rich diversity of information as well as the charm and simplicity of his writing.

Bibliography:

See the translation of his history by A. de Selincourt (1954); J. L. Myres (1953, repr. 1971), C. W. Fornara (1971) and J. A. Evans and F. Hartog (1982); W. W. How and Joseph Wells, A Commentary on Herodotus (2 vol., rev. ed. 1928); H. R. Immerwahr, Form and Thought in Herodotus (1966).

Alexander's travels