With phone-related songs like "Hello" by Adele and "Hotline Bling" by Drake in-season now, we thought we'd give that topic a little spin.
So let's travel way back in time again. No cell phones, no land-lines, no telegram, no electricity. How did people communicate over distances?
Or, more specifically, beacon fires.
Beacons are fires made at prominent or high altitude locations. Typically, they were used to signal the arrival of impending enemy forces. This was called defensive communications.
One of the most famous examples in England were the beacons used in Elizabethan England (period). They alerted the people about the oncoming Spanish Armada. There were so many of these beacons peppered around England that many hills were named Beacon Hill in different territories thereafter.
There is nothing more dramatic than Lord of the Rings to portray our point. You are welcome!!!
In ancient Babylon, messengers (runners) were commonly used to pass messages from one place to another. Sometimes it is not a lone messenger, but a relay system. Messengers would pass the messages along the route. However, there were reports of messengers being attacked on the way. As such, imperial guards were placed along the relay checkpoints and were given fire beacons. This allowed simple warning messages to be disseminated rapidly along the route without requiring the runner’s assistance.
This statement holds true here:
Fun fact: Bill Gates did not actually say that, although the Internet makes us believe so... because if it's on the Internet it must be real, right?
In Ancient China, soldiers positioned along the Great Wall would notify one another of incoming enemy attacks by signalling from tower to tower. Their messages were able to reach areas as far away as 750km in just a few hours. Apart from the actual lit fires, the smoke signals were more visible for long distances.
Smoke signals aren't just lit fires giving off ash. There was a particular system in place for communicating meaning. One would use a blanket or large piece of material to cover the fire, creating puffs of smoke or designs in smoke to relay certain messages.
North American Indigenous people also used smoke signals. Individual tribes had their individual signalling system and understanding.
The location of the smoke also expresses a different message. If it came from halfway up the hill, it means everything is fine, if it came from the hilltop, it would mean danger.
After writing went from carving on walls, stones or tablets to something more portable, the practice of delivering letters, archives, excerpts and critical documents were introduced.
Before the beginning of formal postal systems however, courier messenger services were used for the widespread distribution of written documents.
The ancient Egyptians was the first known civilization to use a courier messenger service. This was evident during ancient Egypt where Pharaohs employed couriers to hand deliver important messages, news, and laws to people in every corner of the land.
The oldest surviving piece of mail is also Egyptian, dating back to 255 BC.
The main objective of the courier service in ancient Egypt was to connect the royals and government officials with military posts dispersed throughout the country.
Now over in (ancient) PERSIA, the real postal system was developed in Assyria during the period of 550 BC to 521 BC.
The person who's responsible for the invention however, was often debated whether it was the Persian King Cyrus the Great or his successor, Darius I of Persia.
Cyrus constructed the groundwork of a courier/mail system. He ordered that every province in the kingdom should be arranged with a reception and delivery of posts to each of its citizens. Negotiation with neighbouring countries were also operated, hence, building roads from the city of Post in Western Iran all the way up to the city of Hakha in the East.
Darius I, on the other hand, extended a communication network of roads that connected most of the Persian empire. A 1,677-mile-long (2699 km) road, known as the Royal Road, was built from Sardis to Susa, one of the administrative capitals. This enables the information and troops to move with better and astounding speed. Along this road, the riders would stop at regularly placed post-houses or stations called Chapar-Khaneh to get a fresh horse or to pass on their packets of dispatches to another messenger, or called Chapar, for the remainder of the distance.
Shown above: a Chapar and his horse.
And then there's India (ancient India, that is), where the development of an organized postal service was found during the rule of Chandragupta Maurya (322-298 B.C.). Foot messengers and pigeons were used, and the men who travel on their foot from one place to another are called “Dak Harkaras”, where their sole objective was ‘service to king’ before ‘service to self’
However, the efficacy of the system (foot messengers and pigeons) took a downturn and fell through after the death of Chandragupta Maurya. Fortunately, Emperor Ashoka revived the postal system by devising the use of camels, where they were used to carry mail in most parts of Eastern India, and chariots called “dagana”, where the riders carried mail throughout India.
We thought this was funny if you want to know how the current communication stacks up against pigeon usage:
So there we go, we hope you've learnt a little something. The next time you pick up your phone to text, call, or post your selfies, remember that the good folks in ancient times were kind of trying the same thing too.
And that's all, folks.
p.s. this holds true: