Postal Services History
Mail, consisting mostly of government dispatches, was carried from place to place by horse or horse-drawn wagon in ancient Egypt and Persia. Most mail was still being transported the same way in the middle of the 19th century, when stagecoaches
carried letters and packages to the West coast.
Ancient and Medieval Service
Historical references to postal systems in Egypt date from about 2000 BC. The
Persian Empire under Cyrus the Great (6th century BC) used a system of mounted relay messengers. The riders would stop at regularly placed posthouses to get a fresh horse or to pass on their packets of dispatches to another messenger for the remainder of the distance.
On the other side of the world, in China, a posthouse service had been started early in the Chou Dynasty (ruled 1122-221 BC). It was used mostly to convey official documents. The far-reaching system consisted of relays of couriers who changed
horses at relay posts 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) apart. The system was enlarged under the Han Empire (202 BC-AD 220), when the Chinese came in contact with the Romans and their postal system.
The Roman Empire built the most advanced postal delivery system known until that time except for the service in China. Its area was the whole Mediterranean world.
Reliable communication from Rome to governors and military officials in faraway provinces was a necessity. Rome met the need by developing the cursus publicus literally, „public course“ a state-sponsored series of post roads with relay stations at
intervals. The speed with which government dispatches and other mail could be carried about the empire was not equaled again in Europe until the 19th century.
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