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The job of a courier is one of the oldest documented professions in the world and has an extensive history. Since day one, people have been moving materials and messages from A to B, whether it was a pile of rocks to build a house, an animal for food, or a message carved out of stone – couriers have always been essential to keep things moving

Roman Couriers

The world’s first state approved courier delivery network was the “cursus publicus” in Ancient Rome. Some of the first couriers would deliver messages by hand by running back and forth, by using homing pigeons or riding on horseback. The actual word ‘courier’ is derived from the Latin word ‘currere’, which means ‘to run’.

A great courier legend from thousands of years ago is the that of Pheidippides, a Greek messenger from 490 BC. On foot he ran 26 miles from a battlefield near a town called Marathon to Athens to declare victory after defeating the Persian army. Unfortunately, Pheidippides died of exhaustion after the journey, so his memory lives on in the form of an Olympic marathon which is approximately the same distance he ran from Marathon to Athens.

The Middle Ages

Throughout the Middle Ages, courier services were still being used across Europe but now they were mostly used on horseback for faster and further deliveries. However, the horses would only travel at around 50km per day-  so it would take around 6 weeks for a letter to get from London to Naples.

It was only the most prestigious and wealthiest organisations that could afford to hire private couriers because of the demand for accommodation, horse and travel costs. This meant that most of the time couriers were often freelance workers, accepting to courier messages from multiple places, competing against others to be the first courier to deliver the news (and get the pay!).

There were also public postal networks put in place in the 16th century across Europe. The only postal service that was available to the general public after paying a fee was in the Holy Roman Empire. However, post houses eventually opened up to the general public and then so did post offices where cheques and messages could be collected and sent.

Present Day Couriers

Technology in the logistics industry has excelled massively since the times of travelling on foot, but the same togetherness lives on. With the growth of the internet, super-fast global transport, smartphones, apps, gigantic warehouses and speedy packaging, courier services can now make deliveries from one side of the world to the other in only a matter of days.

The speed of deliveries depends on the amount the customer is prepared to pay for the courier services. In the UK, courier services can deliver tracked parcels on a next day and same day basis all across the country, if need be, which is a stretch from the months it would take to make the same deliveries centuries ago.

Mankind’s first and oldest job has completely transformed into a global industry connecting people in the same country and across the globe, allowing for not only the spread of goods, but the spread of different thoughts and cultures.

Author gofersnational

GOfers is a fully integrated same day delivery service, offering a comprehensive range of courier and logistical solutions

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