Believe it or not, there was a time when there was no postal
system. There was also a time when people had no need to deliver messages over
long distances. However, as countries formed and borders expanded, leaders
realized the need to communicate with people all across their empire, otherwise
they would have no control.
In ancient Greece, couriers running many miles
between cities delivered messages. There is a story dating back to 490 BC that
tells of one such courier named Pheidippides, running from the city of Marathon
all the way to Athens to deliver news of the Greek victory of the Persian army.
The total distance he covered was 22 miles, and he died of exhaustion after
delivering his message. Although the truth behind this story is questionable,
25-mile marathon races have become a common sport, paying homage to the ancient
message couriers of Greece.
Wars and foreign relations have long been a big
reason for communication. The Pharaohs of ancient Egypt employed a diverse array
of techniques to communicate their armies as well as neighboring nations. Among
these was a vast network of relay racers who would run short distances and then
pass a message on to the next runner. This is similar to the game of
"Telephone", where a message starts on one end of a line of people,
and is then passed by word of mouth on to each succeeding person. The final
message is almost never what it began as.
One problem faced with courier services was making letters light
enough to be carried over long distances quickly. At first, messages were
written on anything available, including stone. This made the couriers'
jobs very difficult, as you can imagine. The Egyptians invented the first
light-weight paper, called papyrus. By writing messages on papyrus instead
of stone, couriers could carry the messages much further and faster.
Courier and other messenger services were initially intended
only for kings and the very rich. Before long, however, the common man
also found a need for long-distance communication. Families were spread
out across empires, and small, independent businesses were expanding. So,
message services were made available to everyone.
The postal service has changed drastically since its conception
in ancient cradles of civilization, reaching to every corner of the earth with
cars and planes used for the transportation of mail. Though the technology has
changed, have peoples' needs for communication stayed the same? Find out
what to look for in the future?