Ancient Rome has become somewhat of an obsession in academia with professors consistently looking to the iconic civilization for wisdom regarding everything from political theory to agriculture. Researchers from Stanford University may have put the empire into greater perspective than ever before, however, with an intricate new geospatial model of the Roman world.
The project, nicknamed ORBIS, leveraged geospatial solutions to go beyond simple transcription to produce a series of intriguing interactive maps. For instance, viewers can compare travel times between destinations while toggling variables including transportation mode, budget constraints or season.
"ORBIS is dynamic, not static, and functions both as a publication and as a tool for the creation of new information," Stanford Classics professor Walter Scheidel explained. "Traditional maps fail to capture the severe environmental constraints that governed the flow of people, goods and information."
Geospatial analysts began their work by charting the vast Roman roads system, navigable rivers and hundreds of records of sea routes used by sailors of the ancient world. Once this infrastructure was in place, contextual elements – such as what regions may have been at war at a particular time – were added to extend the educational potential.