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Under the Roman Empire a postal service proper was first formed in the time of Augustus. This, however, was not intended for the use of the public, but served only for the conveyance of magistrates and of government despatches; just as the great network of roads, with which the Romans covered the whole empire, was laid down, not for the purposes of traffic, but in the first instance for the transport of the armies and of the materials of war. Under the Republic the correspondence of officials was carried as a rule by special messengers; the conveyance of the officials themselves was laid upon the provincials, who were bound to provide relays of horses and supplies. Augustus instituted a State post (cursus publicus) with a military organization, which conveyed the official despatches from station to station by means of couriers. For the conveyance of the magistrates stations were instituted, with changes of horses (mutationes) and with night-quarters (mansiones). Private persons were allowed to use the State posts only by special permission on the part of the governors, afterwards of the emperor, and upon definite orders given [diplomata: Pliny, Ep. x, the last two letters]. The cost of the posting-houses was made a charge upon the several localities, though occasionally the emperors undertook the provision of draught-animals and carriages. Besides the horse they rode, the couriers had a spare horse to carry, the letter bags. Passengers were conveyed in carriages called redae, drawn by horses and mules; while goods were forwarded on vans, which were drawn by oxen. Besides this, vessels were stationed at various points on the rivers to carry letters, passengers, and goods, just as there was postal communication over sea, especially from Ostia, the port of Rome, outwards, to the islands and chief ports of the Mediterranean.
Type: Standard
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