How would he have travelled? Probably by carpentum, a wooden vehicle with two or four wheels and pulled by two horses or asses. Almost certainly he would have been accompanied by a high-ranking civil or military official and, without doubt, he would have had a cavalry escort.
How long would the journey have taken? Horace suggests that a carriage could travel around 24 miles per day. The official courier service, the Cursus Publicus, could convey messages faster than this (upto fifty miles per day), but this was based on a relay system with the fastest riders using the fastest horses and changing them regularly (Ramsey 1925, Eliot 1925). Horace's estimate seems nearer the mark. Archbishop Sigeric, making the journey in 990 AD, lists eighty stops. Both Suetonius and Cassius Dio tell us that, when Claudius came to Britain at the time of the Roman invasion, he was away from Rome for six months and spent sixteen days in Britain. Two journeys, each of 80 days, plus 16 days in Britain, adds up to 176 days, which just about falls within the six months envelope, but Claudius might well have travelled back by sea, which would have been faster.
Where would they have stayed along the way? Along most of the major roads, mansiones were located at regular intervals. These were part of the Cursus Publicus, and were used by the highest officials, including the emperor and his retinue, so they were well-appointed, typically with bath-houses, central heating and the obligatory stables so that horses could be changed.
There may, however, have been stages where there was no mansio, or days on which they might not make the distance from one mansio to the next, and then they might have to fall back on privately run cauponae, far less salubrious than mansiones, the walls often adorned with obscene grafitti that leave little doubt as to the range of services they offered.
I made the journey myself in the week following Christmas 2007. I could not obtain a carpentum for the purpose, of course, and nor could I afford to take six months (or even three) out from the day-job, so I travelled by train, frantically scribbling my notes on the landscape, translating them from English to Latin and back to English again, trying to see the landscape as a Briton of the 1st Century AD might have seen it.
I arrived in Rome to learn of Benazir Bhutto's assassination and, beside the ruins of the Temple of Julius Caesar, found a woman weeping, seated on a stone. She asked me if I thought this was where Antony would have stood to give his funeral oration. I showed her where he would have stood (on the Rostra). She was, it turned out, an attache from the Pakistani Embassy. It was the only time in my life when I have ever sat upon the ground to tell sad stories of the death of kings.
Mark Patton's novels, Undreamed Shores, An Accidental King and Omphalos, are published by Crooked Cat Publications, and can be purchased from Amazon.
A.M. Ramsey 1925 "The Speed of the Roman Imperial Post." Journal of Roman Studies 15, 60-70.
C.W.J. Eliot 1955 "New Evidence for the Speed of the Roman Imperial Post." Phoenix 9, 2, 76.