I read another thread Travel time in Medieval times about this, but I'm still struggling to find a more definitive answer.

I have a town suffering from scarce food, due to previous years of crops not producing enough and their food stores deteriorating. They're a town of "rebels" and therefore have few allies to trade with, and have resorted to hunting. They live side by side with dogs, but see it as a last last resort to eat them because they're incredibly ingrained into their history and way of life.

They have a few options which they're taking advantage of: 1) primitive greenhouses; 2) they've always been run by a council, not a singular person, so one of these people will be taking charge; 3) raiding.

My question is: Would it be quicker for a dozen men on horseback to travel across the land to a different place to raid stocks and wealth, or is it quicker to travel to a town by the river, and take a boat to this land?

Obviously, raiding parties are usually bigger, but it is a small town that plans to raid outskirting farms. Once they reach their destination, they will have no horses, and will infiltrate the farms quietly to secure goods.

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    $\begingroup$ A more definitive answer than what? Notice that you have not asked a single question here, you've more explained a circumstance and then...did not ask anything at all... $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2019 at 5:25
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    $\begingroup$ Neither form of small raids will secure enough food for an entire town, so I don't quite understand the point. You need wagons to carry freight overland, or you need a hefty boat/barge (and crew for rowing or towing upstream) to carry freight by river. Now think about how much time it will take for the small rebel raiding party to load their wagons or barges with the stolen goods. Now think about how the local townsfolk (and feudal lord) will react to the raid when they learn about it next morning...and oh, look, there are the rebel wagons, still in sight, slowly making their getaway. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Feb 18, 2019 at 6:05
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding.SE, boobzilla. I've edited your question to make it clearer and hopefully to focus on the core of your question. But it's still rather broad and the answers will depend entirely on constraints that you haven't outlined. Like, how far away is the town on the river? What kind of boat? How would they carry back their loot from either travel method? And so on. We're not a discussion group. We thrive on focused questions. You may want to start smaller. $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2019 at 6:58
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry @LDutch, we were editing at the same time and the system thought mine was more extensive. The only difference seems to be that you reformatted the numbered list. $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2019 at 7:00
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    $\begingroup$ Are those primitive greenhouses regular glasshouses? By selling the amount of fabulously expensive glass in a regular greenhouse the entire town can live for several years. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Feb 18, 2019 at 7:37

2 Answers 2


Until the invention of the railways, it was always quicker to travel by boat. It's said that it was quicker to sail to Portugal from Liverpool than to travel across the spine of England from the East to West coast. While that seems a strange comparison, the wool trade meant crossing England to Liverpool then sailing to European ports.

  • $\begingroup$ What about going back? Going from Nuremberg to Rome by boat was maybe a good idea for long lasting, high quantity products but not for 12 men. That have to go back. Also it's about food in vicinity. So around 100 miles max. $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2019 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ @SZCZERZOKŁY, the Vikings made a good solid career of it, so it can't be that bad a bet. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Feb 18, 2019 at 14:24

Horses. Always horses.
Why? Because horses can go back. Boats not so much. Rafting is kind of one way method of transportation.

Also, check what "town" means. There are multiple examples in history of TOWNS that were burned down, were raided and had all yields destroyed by wandering parties. While being a catholic city surrounded by protestant ones. Or a far advanced town that was much closer to country they were at war with.

Villages, colonies, hamlets and similar in sizes were abandoned.


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