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p729 Mansio

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on p729 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

MA′NSIO (σταθμός), a post-station at the end of a day's journey. The great roads, which were constructed first by the kings of Persia and afterwards by the Romans, were provided, at intervals corresponding to the length of a day's journey, with establishments of the same kind with the khans or caravanseras which are still found in the East. There were 111 such stations on the road from Sardes to Susa (Herod. V.52, 53, VI.118), their average distance from one another being something less than 20 English miles. The khan, erected at the station for the accommodation of travellers, is called by Herodotus κατάλυσις and καταγωγῆ. To stop for the night was καταλύειν (Xen. Anab. I.8; Aelian, V.H. I.32). As the ancient roads made by the kings of Persia are still followed to a considerable extent (Heeren, Ideen, vol. I pt. II pp193‑203, 713‑720), so also there is reason to believe that the modern khan, which is a square building, enclosing a large open court, surrounded by balconies with a series of doors entering into plain unfurnished apartments, and having a fountain in the centre of the court, has been copied by uninterrupted custom from the Persic καταλύσις, and that, whether on occasion of the arrival of armies or of caravans, they have always served to afford a shelter during the night both to man and beast.

The Latin term mansio is derived from manere, signifying to pass the night at a place in travelling. On the great Roman roads the mansiones were at the same distance from one another as on those of the Persian empire. They were originally called castra, being probably mere places of encampment formed by making earthen entrenchments. In process of time they included, not only barracks and magazines of provisions (horrea) for the troops, but commodious buildings adapted for the reception of travellers of all ranks, and even of the emperor himself, if he should have occasion to visit them. At those stations the cisiarii kept gigs for hire and for conveying government despatches [Cisium; Essedum]. The mansio was under the superintendence of an officer called mansionarius.

Besides the post-stations at the end of each day's journey, there were on the Roman military ways others at convenient intervals, which were used merely to change horses or to take refreshment, and which were called mutationes (ἀλλαγαὶ). There were four or five mutationes to one mansio. The Itinerarium a Burdigala Hierusalem usque, which is a road-book drawn up about the time of Constantine, mentions in order the mansiones from ºBourdeaux to Jerusalem with the intervening mutationes, and other more considerable places, which are called either civitates, vici, or castella. The number of leagues (leugae) or of miles between one place and another is also set down.


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Page updated: 8 Sep 07