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The courier services industry – interesting facts and Ancient roots
Courier services are different from ordinary mail services in that their service offering includes features such as speed, security, tracking, signature, specialisation and individualisation of express services and speedy delivery times which are only optional for most ordinary mail services.
Courier services operate on all scales, from within specific towns and cities to regional, national as well as worldwide services. Such are modern concepts, but, what are the origins of couriers in Ancient times?
Before the Industrial era – how it all began
Ancient history reveals that in bygone times, messages were hand-delivered using a variety of methods that included runners, home pigeons as well as riders on horseback. Prior to the advent of mechanised courier services, foot messengers physically ran miles to their destinations.
Courier or Postman, Japan (between 1863 – 1877) Japanese military bike courier (1904)
Run a marathon
Of note, the Ancient Greek courier Pheidippides is said to have run 26 miles from Marathon to Athens to bring the news of the Greek victory over the Persians in 490 BCE. The long-distance race known as a marathon is named after this famous run.
Beginning at the time of Augustus, the Ancient Greeks and Romans used a class of horse and chariot-mounted courier known as Anabasii to swiftly deliver messages and commands via long distances. The word Anabasii stems from the Greek word adscensus meaning ‘mounting’ and contemporary with the Greek hemeredromi who carried messages on foot.
In Roman Britain, Rufinus used Anabasii as documented in Saint Jerome’s memoirs.
During the Middle Ages, royal courts kept their own messengers who were paid little more than common labourers.
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