Website Review

ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World

Walter Scheidel, Stanford University

ORBIS, or the Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World is a website describing the geography and travel within the Roman empire at the height of its existence, around 200 CE, with some sites featured from late antiquity. It does so through an interactive map, which can be toggled to determine routes within the empire based upon things like cost, distance, or even length of time. Walter Scheidel and Elijah Meeks designed and implemented the creation of this project into an online platform, with the support of a Digital Humanities Grant of Stanford University. Other people who worked on and contributed to this project can be found on the About page, under the Credits tab.

Something very interesting that this map accounts for is seasonal variation, as well as mode of transportation, two variables that can change a great deal about how the map displays the geography and travel within the Roman Empire. The information on this site comes from historical records of places and routes as well as conditions such as weather or the cost to travel.
It also includes a tutorial, which can show users how to get the most out of this website. Beyond the scope of the website’s map, there is also a page displaying research and papers that have been inspired by and/or used the ORBIS as a tool to study the Roman empire as well as a page that displays how ORBIS has been discussed in the popular media. These may be useful for students to see how they might apply this resource to their own research and learning.

This is a useful tool for educators to model how the Roman empire operated, as well as what those operations may have looked like in practice (i.e. cost, time, etc.). It also provides a space for students to do their own explorations into the geographical span of the Roman empire, which the site points out, covered three continents. Students and instructors can learn from ORBIS how to better spatially understand empires and government workings throughout history, not just as they apply to the Roman Empire.

Reviewed by Carolyn Mason, George Mason University

How to Cite This Source

"ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World," in in World History Commons, https://worldhistorycommons.org/orbis-stanford-geospatial-network-model-roman-world [accessed July 2, 2022]
A map of the Roman world with cities labeled.
“This is a useful tool for educators to model how the Roman empire operated, as well as what those operations may have looked like in practice.”