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rojo's avatar

In your opinion, is this correct? (Details inside)

Asked by rojo (15971 points ) February 5th, 2014

I recently read that the forts along Hadrians wall were placed at 14 mile intervals because that was a half days march.
Is that right?
Not the locations of the forts but that 14 miles was a half day march? I know they were on a good roadbed but they would also be in full armor, with weapons and probably a pack as well.
But then again walking was the normal way for the vast majority to get around then so I assume they had been doing it since they were small.
But even so, isn’t 28 miles an impressive distance to cover in a day.

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13 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

At 20 minutes a mile, which is a pretty good clip in full armor, with weapons and perhaps a pack, that’s slightly more than nine hours of walking (a long day).

zenvelo's avatar

I’d question that unless it was referring to cavalry. (Yes, the Romans had cavalry.)

The California Missions were placed about a day’s journey apart, and are about 30 miles from each other. But that was on horseback, not walking.

jaytkay's avatar

Maybe it was half a day for a supply train, not a fighting group. They had wagons.

jerv's avatar

By modern standards, it isn’t all that impressive, at least not at first glance.

However, we often forget what it was like before modern technology. Many kids can’t even imagine a computer with only 246 colors and no mouse, so a world before electricity is beyond their comprehension.

And while a professional athlete can run 26+ miles in under 3 hours and most people can walk that in under 8 hours, that’s unencumbered. Try it wearing at least half your body weight in armor and gear, and you’ll have a whole new respect for hikers and soldiers that can even move a couple of miles in any amount of time.

I think the average speed of a marching force on foot really is a mere 2 MPH unless you want people keeling over from exhaustion.

stanleybmanly's avatar

A forced march over good roads—14 miles sounds doable. Eight hours at less than 2 miles an hour. Remember, the march would occur on the defensive side of the wall without all the impedimenta required of an army in the field.

funkdaddy's avatar

The Scott Expedition is two guys, dragging 200kg (400lb+) sledges with their food, tent, supplies, and dropping depots for the way back. They’ve done 1800 miles in just over 100 days. In Antartica, and all at once.

They’re badasses, granted.

I don’t think 28 miles a day across the British countryside would be overly optimistic, especially in small chunks.

Seek's avatar

I’d say more likely half a day’s ride (4 hours or so) for a messenger on horseback. So, reinforcements would be about a day away, best case scenario.

ucme's avatar

I don’t know, maybe you should check out cctv footage of the time.

CWOTUS's avatar

I’d check other sources. Everything that I read about Hadrian’s wall (and I’ve only done that since I saw this post, although I “knew about” the wall without having done any particular research until just now) indicates that there were “mileforts” spaced approximately a mile apart along the wall, each of which was garrisoned with 60–100 legionnaires. Between the mileforts were lookout / signal towers, spaced roughly at ⅓ mile intervals. Spacing was approximate, to take advantage of (or avoid) local terrain features.

Yes, there were “major” forts (and gates) at roughly 14-mile intervals, but I can’t imagine that there would be any need to space them with concern to whether the troops from another major fort could reach them with a half-day’s march. Considering the cost to build the wall itself (and its accompanying defenses, which were fairly extensive) and garrison the mileforts and signal towers, even the Romans must have had economic considerations about not only building but then staffing and supporting additional forts (and gates).

To my mind, one of the most significant concerns would have been that those major forts were the locations of the gates in the wall. In other words, the wall’s “major fortification” is also its most vulnerable point if the troops do march out to another fort. So, when they build another major fort, then they need to add the cost of maintaining another 1000 or so legionnaires, and that’s a considerable cost to any frontier army.

janbb's avatar

I wonder if they are counting a day as 24 hours or 12 hours. It would seem more likely that an armed troop could walk about 14 miles in the best part of a day but it would be helpful if we knew how many hours they were talking about.

I do remember reading in Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers that he would walk 10 miles each way to get the train to and from work so maybe it is possible but the carrying load is a factor too.

SavoirFaire's avatar

It’s also worth noting that a Roman mile was around 4,851 feet, whereas a modern land mile is 5,280 feet.

Seek's avatar

^ Just about to add that. Good move, @SavoirFaire

rojo's avatar

So, in modern measurement, more like 12.86 miles. More doable, but still….....

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