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Journey times on the Nile

There are surprisingly few sources for speed of travel in ancient times in Egypt. The river offered the most reliable communications path; speed on the river depends on direction, current, wind, type of boat, expertise of crew, and local navigational obstacles such as sandbanks, as well as the time of year (affecting the height of the river). The four maps below illustrate the time taken for specific journeys documented in ancient written sources. The most detailed description preserved is written by Pliny (Naturalis Historia 6, 100 - 106). He reports twelve days for a journey from Juliopolis (near Alexandria) to Koptos.

news of the accession of Sety II (about 1200/1199)
news of the death of Sety II (about 1194/93 BC)
journey of Nitiqret (about 650 BC)

journey described by Pliny (first century AD)

at most 21 days
(40 km a day)

between 14 and 18 days
(46 to 60 km a day)
16 to 17 days
(55 km a day)
12 days

Krauss 1984: 222

travel by ship


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