We provide estimates for the width, timing, and rates of opening and closing of the Iapetus and Rheic oceans, the evolution of which profoundly influenced Paleozoic global paleogeography. These estimates are primarily derived from the transfer of Ganderia and Avalonia from Gondwana to Laurentia, which led to closure of the Iapetus Ocean and opening of the Rheic Ocean. Ganderia, a long-lived arc terrane, separated from the paleo-Caribbean margin of Amazonia at 505 Ma with a latitudinal speed of ∼9 cm/a northward, initiating the Rheic Ocean as a backarc basin. Ganderia’s trailing edge was reduced to ∼5 cm/a following opening of a 600–800-km-wide backarc basin within Ganderia at 475 Ma. Opening and closing of the Iapetus Ocean was largely driven by far-field stresses, slab pull in some places and slab rollback in others.