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I am writing a story about a soldier who survived from an ambush and he hide several days.then he walked to a village, While he is on the way(walking on a road) he saw a caravan ... so my question is in the roman era did the caravans or passing people riding horses simply give strangers a ride if they have the same destination?(generally speaking)

I mean, on our modern era auto-stop is common on general . Many trucks would stop for strangers.. at least that's what we see on TV. Because in the ancient times bandits were everywhere. But also in our modern era, a criminal can hijack a truck that contain a lot of food.

Anyway this soldier can have a auto-stop? Or it didn't exists in that time?

  • Too broad. When and where will make a difference. I admit I am not sure what auto-stop means. – Mark C. Wallace Apr 26 '15 at 22:26
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    @MarkC.Wallace seems to be an alternative name for hitchhiking. – Semaphore Apr 26 '15 at 22:33
  • @mark c.wallace .. I mentioned in roman era and in a road between the forest .. if you need more info tell me . I mean by Auto-stop .. when a vehicle or a truck pick a stranger from the road and drive him to a destination for free. – Baalback Apr 26 '15 at 22:41
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    I'm pretty sure some hitchhiking would have happened (anywhere, really), but I don't know if we could possibly measure its frequency in any meaningful way. – Semaphore Apr 26 '15 at 23:14
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    Still to broad. Rome spans a continent and a millennium. When Hannibal was active, or during the year of five Emperors, or the civil war, probably not. – Mark C. Wallace Apr 26 '15 at 23:28
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Short answer: no. In general, nobody got "rides" in the ancient world because there were no rides, everybody walked for the most part. Carts were only used to carry cargo, not passengers. You would not want to try to ride in a cart because they had no suspension. Try this: get in a wheelbarrow with a wooden (or iron) wheel (not a pneumatic wheel) and have a friend push you over a cobblestone street. You will not want to repeat that experience.

Of course, sometimes people were carried. For example, if you could not walk and it was essential you get somewhere you might be transported lying down in a cart. Be prepared for serious pain. Normally the only thing biological transported in carts were food and corpses.

Another option was the Roman litter--basically a couch carried by slaves--depicted below:

Roman litter

Rich people used them. I doubt your average senator would be willing to get out and walk while a vagrant took his place. Some self-indulgent snobs were known to ride all the way to Pompeii in a litter. Glad I am not one of their slaves. Such a long trip would require a LOT of rest stops.

In ancient times horses were rarely used for long-distance travel because their horses were relatively small and their saddles were inferior, not even having stirrups. Modern saddles are actually very sophisticated items believe it or not. Roman saddles wore the horse down much faster. For this reason the cavalry actually walked most of the time. You only got on the horse for the battle or for a maneuver. Try riding a pony bareback or with just a blanket and see how far you can go. That will give you a sense for it.

Sometimes horses were used for travel in relays between stations. This was mostly for military messenging and was VERY expensive. Also, there were some special horse-riding cultures like Mongols and Scythians of various types. These races of men used specialized saddles and specially bred horses. Also, these men tended to be light and small of stature. I assume your story does not take place in northern Asia.

Another beast of burden was the ass, appropriate only for (light) women and children and only for limited amounts of time. A boy might get a ride on an ass from a stranger who had no load. Other than that, you are hoofing it.

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    Your answer is filled with interesting details. Especially about the horses. so that's explain why mongoles had advantages with horses because no one was able to travel with horses like them ...as you explained. – Baalback Apr 27 '15 at 13:59
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    Wonderful answer! There is one more point to make: Roman roads were property of the State with numerous checkpoints where a civilian traveler had to produce a permit for using that road. Even if the soldier in your story somehow managed to hitch a ride in a bumpy cargo cart he would get intercepted at the first checkpoint: given the ambush the local checkpoint would presumably manned by hostiles. BTW, those checkpoint were another reason why a passer-by would not offer the soldier a ride: if discovered both the soldier and the cart owner would likely be executed. – Michael Apr 27 '15 at 21:24
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    Your info on equines is very wrong. Ann Hyland's Equus is the book for Roman horses, donkeys & mules. Mules and donkeys were used as regular mounts for men over long distances, just as in the 19th C Mideast. Horses of this period averaged 14-15hh, not small, w/large breeds like the Nisaeans and 16-17hh steppe horses excavated (Akhal-Tekes by breed). Mongols are irrelevant t this time: excavated "Scythians" averaged taller & heavier than classical Greeks & Romans (Renate Rolle The World of the Scythians) – Zither13 Apr 30 '15 at 8:34
  • The Gauls used saddles: the Romans did not. This was a choice, because they had hired clibanarii who used treed saddles w/stirrups. Stirrups are useful in combat, but not necessarily the most comfortable for long-distance travel, esp if you keep them down at the best fighting length. The airs above the ground at the Spanish Riding School of Vienna are performed w/o stirrups & new riders train w/o them to give them a good seat. Classical riders also selected horses to have a well-padded back (Xenophon, On Horsemanship) not like modern horses. – Zither13 Apr 30 '15 at 8:45
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    @Michael except he shows no references and is wrong in several points. – CGCampbell Apr 30 '15 at 13:24
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What period? What place? A soldier for whom? Attacked by whom? Going where?

If this guy is a Gaul ambushed by political enemies of his family in the time of Julius Caesar, near his home, it's a different story than a Legionnaire in North Africa during the Punic War. Starting w/road regs differ.

First, there were different classes of roads. The ones you think of, made all of stone, last for thousands of years, are primary military roads. They existed to marcih the Legions on. In many places, there simply wasn't one, and the local road was improved dirt. Traffic on the big roads was limited, to prevent wear and tear. Cartwheels are the worst, so only occassional light buggies or official wagons got the go. Otherwise, everyone was walking or riding on an animal.

Because of this, outside of cities, except for short hauls, merchandise moved on sumpter beasts, not wagons. So your caravan is a good choice: merchants and guards on horses leading pack mules or pack horses.

Your character might ask permission to tag along. The chief merchant might okay this if he doesn't look dodgy. Thing is, most horses can't carry two riders: they aren't up to the strain. There would have to be a horse free for him

He might volunteer to join the guard in exchange for food & a mount until they get to X.

SOURCES:

Lionel Casson, Travel in the Ancient World

Jack Coggins, The Horseman's Bible

US Army, Field Manual #25-7 on sumpter mules & horses

Ann Hyland, Equus

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