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MA´NSIO (σταθμός). When the kings of Persia, and afterwards the Romans, constructed the great roads through their empires, there naturally sprung up certain resting-places, where travellers stayed for the night, or refreshed themselves. The term σταθμός, which primarily meant a lonely habitation for shepherds and their flocks, was applied by the Greeks to these stations. Herodotus (5.52) gives a full account of the royal road which ran from Sardes to Susa (and from Sardes to Ephesus, id. 5.54). There were stations and halting-places (σταθμοὶ βασιλήϊοι κιὰ καταλύσιες) all along it, 20 within the limits of Phrygia and Lydia, a distance of 944 parasangs (about 320 English miles); in Cappadocia, a distance of 104 parasangs, there were 28 stations; in Cilicia, a distance of 15 1/2 parasangs, there were 3; in Armenia, in a space of 56 1/2 parasangs, there were 15, and so on, making 111 σταθμοὶ in all. The whole distance is estimated at 13,500 stades, so that the average number of stades in each stathmus was about 121, or just 4 parasangs (less than 14 English miles). But as Herodotus (loc. cit.) puts the average day's journey at 150 stades, it is evident that the stathmi were frequently a less distance apart than a usual day's journey. As a matter of fact the day's journey varied in different regions, for Herodotus, when discussing the extent of Scythia (4.101), makes the day's journey amount to 200 stades. It is plain from Herodotus (loc. cit.) and Xenophon (Xen. Anab. 1.2) that the stathmi were situated at very irregular intervals. The term σταθμὸς naturally came to be used of the distance or stage between the halting-places. Hence Herodotus, to distinguish the halting-places themselves, uses in one place the phrase καταγωγαὶ σταθμῶν, in another σταθμοὶ καταγωγέων. Xenophon, who employs σταθμὸς as a measure of distance, finds it necessary, on account of the varying distances between the stopping-places, to specify the number of parasangs in every case. These halting-places, which were naturally situated at fertile and well-watered spots, would be more numerous in the more fertile regions: cf. Polyaenus (7.40, 1), τῆς Περσίδος, ἔνθα κῶμαι πολλαὶ καὶ λεὼς πολὺς καὶ σταθμοὶ πολλοί. There would be in those places inns for the accommodation of travellers (κατάλυμα, πανδοκεῖον). As the great ancient roads of Asia still form the main highways for caravans, there is every probability that the modern Khan or Caravanserai represents the ancient κατάλυμα. The Khan is usually a square building, enclosing a large open court, surrounded by balconies with a series of doors, entering into plain unfurnished apartments, and often with a fountain in the middle of the court. The Great King seems sometimes to have settled conquered peoples in these stations; for instance, Darius planted the captive Eretrians at Ardericca (τῆς Κισσίης χωρῆς κατοίκισε ἐν σταθμῷ ἑωυτοῦ, τῷ οὔνομά ἐστιν Ἀρδέρικκα, Hdt. 6.119). Treatises, or handbooks to these σταθμοί, were composed, one by Baeto (Athenaeus, 10.442 b, Βαίτων Ἀλεξάνδρου βηματιστὴς ἐν τῷ ἐπιγραφομένῳ Σταθμοὶ τῆς Ἀλεξάνδρου πορείας), and another by Amyntas, called simply οἱ Σταθμοί (id. ib.) or Σταθμοί Περσικοί (id. 2.67 a), or οἱ τῆς Ἀσίας σταθμοὶ (id. 11.500 d). Arrian (Arr. Anab. 1.2, 1) uses σταθμὸς as a definite measure of distance without any reference to parasangs or stades (ἀπέχει δὲ οὗτος ἀπὸ τοῦ Ἴστρου, ὡς ἐπὶ τὸν Αἷμον ἰόντι σταθμοὺς τρεῖς). From this it would appear that some average day's journey was taken as a σταθμός. Herodotus (8.98), speaking of the Persian couriers (ἄγγαροι), tells us that the road was divided into portions, corresponding to the distance that a man and horse could traverse in a day (at a high rate of speed), and Xenophon (Xen. Cyrop. 8.6, 17) ascribes this institution to Cyrus, who, having found out what distance a horse could do in a (lay, divided the roads into corresponding stages, built stables (ἱππῶνες), placed couriers and horses, and a man in charge at each station.

When Augustus organised the Roman empire, he established an Imperial Postal System (Suet. Aug. 49), which conveyed despatches from station to station by means of couriers, who were called under the Empire Speculatores, corresponding to the tabellarii of the Republican period. (Tac. Hist. 2.73; Suet. Cal. 44; cf. Liv. 31.24.) For this purpose the stations (stationes) were divided into mansiones and mutationes. The former were places where travellers rested for the night (cf. Hor. Sat. 1.5, 9, mansuri oppidulo, for this use of manere), and where there were inns (deversorium, caupona, hospitium, taberna), or stopped for refreshment; there were often likewise houses (palatia) for the accommodation of the provincial governors, or the emperor himself, in case he passed that way. The mutationes (cf. the late Greek ἀλλαγαί were mere posting-houses for the changing of horses. The word mansio, from meaning a stopping-place at the end of a day's journey, came to be used like σταθμὸς as a measure of distance (Suet. Tib. 10, “deinde ad primam statim mansionem febrim nactus;” Plin. Nat. 12.52, “a quo [monte] octo mansionibus distat regio” ). There were usually four or five mutationes to one mansio. The Itinerarium a Burdigala Hierusalem usque, a guide-book composed about the time of Constantine the Great, mentions in order the mansiones from Bordeaux to Jerusalem, with the intervening mutationes, [p. 2.122]and the more considerable places near the road, which are called either civitates, vici, or castella, and the distances are given in leagues (leugae) or miles (milia). [Compare CURSUS PUBLICUS]


hide References (13 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (13):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.52
    • Herodotus, Histories, 6.119
    • Herodotus, Histories, 8.98
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 1.2
    • Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 8.6
    • Suetonius, Caligula, 44
    • Suetonius, Tiberius, 10
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 2.73
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 49
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 12.52
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 31, 24
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 1.1
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 1.2
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