A messenger is tasked by a nobleman with delivering a message to one of his peers from Byzantium to Ancyra, and returning to Byzantium with a response.

The message is of some importance, but not a matter of life and death.

Assuming the messenger spends no more than one night in Ancyra, how long could one reasonably expect the round trip take?

Note: I am unsure whether messengers in this era would have travelled on foot or on horseback, which further complicates matters.

  • $\begingroup$ It's going to depend on the priority of the message and who's sending it. They definitely had horses but they were reserved for the wealthy. So if the communication was between two serfs then the messenger would probably not be going by horse. $\endgroup$
    – Rob
    May 2, 2019 at 20:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Rob Very good point. I'll clarify. $\endgroup$ May 2, 2019 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ Related: How quickly and accurately should news travel in a rural medieval setting? Byzantine is even mentioned specifically in at least one comment. $\endgroup$
    – user
    May 2, 2019 at 21:11
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @aCVn Excellent link, thanks! One of the answers there provided this: orbis.stanford.edu which answers my question very nicely! $\endgroup$ May 2, 2019 at 21:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Rob Spot on, actually! $\endgroup$ May 2, 2019 at 21:36

1 Answer 1


Some factors you haven't detailed that could contribute are weather and terrain but I am going to gloss over them as well. Other factors I will gloss over are the differences between a strong and a weak horse, the skill of the rider and how the horse was ridden. Some of these complexity's are explained/addressed here: Possible distance travelled by horse over 6 weeks?

So an oversimplified estimation would be:

Approximate distance to travel: 452 km or 280 miles

Approximate distance a moderately trained courier horse can travel in a day: 52 km or 32 miles

Therefore, from Byzantium to Ancyra would take approximately 9 days. So, round trip, assuming he stayed the night in Ancyra its going to take about 18 days.

  • $\begingroup$ I would suggest to take a boat from bizantium to Heraclea Pontica (present Eregli) to save about 200km. A boat could cover that distance in one day, shaving nearly four days off the schedule. And he was going to take a boat anyway, to cross the bosphorus. $\endgroup$ May 3, 2019 at 8:32

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