Logistics from Long Ago: The Roman Pantheon

How do you move 16 columns of granite at 60 tons each from Egypt to Rome?
LWL020 Roman Pantheon2
Sounds hard enough by modern standards, but imagine doing it 1,900 years ago during the 2nd century!

That is exactly what the Emperor of Rome (Hadrian) accomplished…actually, it was his brilliant engineers and a multitude of slaves!

Those 16 columns now form the facade of a famous tourist destination in Rome, the Pantheon.

This logistics feat started at the quarry of Mons Claudianus in Egypt’s eastern mountains.
LWL020 Quarry
The gigantic columns were then dragged on wooden sleds to the Nile, floated to Alexandria by barge, and put on vessels for a trip across the Mediterranean to the Roman port of Ostia. From there the columns were barged up the Tiber and again moved by land through the cobblestone streets of Rome to their present location.LWL020 Map
As with transporting over-dimensional or heavy-lift cargo today, there must have been an immense amount of planning required to overcome all of the technical, logistical and weather-related issues of such a colossal move. For instance, scholars estimate that the Mediterranean was passable by ship only during certain months of the year.  They suggest that long shipping voyages across the sea were impossible from early November to early March and deemed dangerous from late September to late May. This would leave a four-month window where the seas were sufficient for conveyance. LWL020 Roman ShipAs logisticians in the modern world, we owe a debt of gratitude to our ancient colleagues who accomplished so much without the benefit of modern hydraulic equipment, modern telecommunication infrastructure, satellite images of weather patterns, Excel spreadsheets, C.A.D. programs for cargo loading configurations and yet they were able to build some of the most beautiful and enduring structures of our time!

From the Old World to the New World, and with your talents, let’s make it a better place…good luck!

Click the following link for a PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION of this article: LWL020 Logistics from Long Ago The Roman Pantheon

 

Additional sources for this piece can be found at:
http://www.monolithic.org/domes-more/the-pantheon-rome-126-ad
http://www.academia.edu/3080968/Marbles_to_Rome_The_Movement_of_Monolithic_Columns_Across_the_Mediterranean

About Lenny

Many years of experience in a Fortune 1000 companies, especially in the logistics and I.T. areas of manufacturing companies. Through process improvements and the use of many of the tools mentioned here, I have been able to identify and implement savings opportunities worth up to $10 million. I hope that some of these real-life stories, suggestions and tools can help you!
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