Macrobian World Maps , 400 A.D.
Medieval European cartography reflected the arrest and decline in geographical knowledge following the collapse of the Roman world. Ptolemy's Geographia remained known only to Byzantine scholars, and thence it came to influence the early students of Arabic geography. Only in one type of medieval Christian European map does there survive, in very simple form, some concept of Greek geography. The hemispheric maps of Macrobius, drawn in Spain and later reproduced in the works of the Venerable Bede, Lambert of St. Omer and others, show the habitable world of the northern hemisphere and the uninhabited world of the southern, marked with climatic-zones derived from Ptolemy's clima, and, unlike many other medieval maps, they are oriented with North at the top.
Macrobius was a late Roman neoplatonic grammarian and philosopher who wrote several eclectic works that were much read in the Middle Ages. His Expositio In Somnium Scipionis ex Cicerone [Commentary on the Dream of Scipio by Cicero] is an extract from the sixth book of Cicero's De Republica. Macrobius' commentary on this work includes geographical theories which were to some extent based upon Ptolemy, but with certain differences. Macrobius preferred Eratosthenes' more accurate calculation for the circumference of the earth (252,000 stadia =25,000 miles, vice Ptolemy's 180,000 stadia =22,500 miles). With its postulate of a stationary round earth at the center of the universe and its contention that the environmental sea, variously called the Atlantic, the Great Sea and the Ocean, which 'in spite of these big names, is quite small', it is definitely in the Ptolemaic tradition. However, it departs from that tradition in making this ocean the boundary, in every direction, of the inhabited earth, giving it the shape of a lozenge, narrow at the extremes and wide in the middle, and in positing the existence of three other landmasses corresponding to the oikoumene [inhabited world], in the remaining quarters of the earth. In his territorial division, Macrobius adopts the conventional five zones, and, while maintaining the existence of an Antipodean race of men, he also maintains that there is no way by which knowledge of them can be obtained. He, like his near contemporary Martianus Capella, proposed that this inhabited world, which lay entirely north of the Equator, was surrounded by an ocean, which also filled the impassable equatorial zone, a theory which can in no way be reconciled with Ptolemy's catalogue of places in the Southern Hemisphere.
According to an essay by Michael Andrews, the majority of medieval world maps of the Hemispherical Family are constructed in accordance with what is known as the oceanic theory, attributed to a 5th century B.C. Greek philosopher, Crates of Mallos, which recognized two oceanic streams . The 'true' ocean encircled the sphere equatorially, while the popularly accepted ocean which passed through the poles was regarded as subsidiary. These two streams, flowing at right angles to one another, divided the world into four equal landmasses. Some groups of maps, however, give no indication of any equatorial ocean nor in consequence of any quadripartite division.
Andrews further divides the Hemispherical Family of medieval maps into two main branches: the Oceanic or Quadripartite Division and the Non-Oceanic or Non-Quadripartite Division. The maps belonging to the first division, which, to judge by the numerous examples remaining to us, was by far the most popular in medieval times, is further classified as Simple and Zone.
The Simple Genus includes maps such as those in the Liber Floridus of Lambert of St. Omer and some in the works of William of Conches, which depict the whole hemisphere bisected by the equatorial ocean, but do not indicate any division by zones. The northern habitable parts in these maps are often divided in tripartite fashion, but sometimes have no formal divisions .
In the Zone Genus the hemisphere is divided into five zones: Those climate-zones at the two poles, uninhabitable because of the cold; that at the Equator, uninhabitable because of the torrid heat; and the northern and southern temperate zones which were habitable, although only 'our' climate - the northern temperate zone - was included in the known world. Around the landmasses flowed an ocean whose currents Macrobius described as running from the equatorial zone, upwards to the north and downwards to the south, while the equatorial ocean flows west. As can be seen on some exemplary maps, the north and south polar bays, where the waters flowing in different directions met twice daily with a great shock, and in turning back gave rise to the tidal phenomena. Examples of various Species of this Genus are to be found mainly in the Commentarius in Somnium Scipionis of Macrobius, the Philosophia and Dragmaticon of William of Conches, and less frequently in other works. In the Macrobian maps, the Cratesian scheme is usually more fully illustrated by the inclusion of inscriptions dealing with the oceanic tides.
In the Somnium Scipionis of de Republica and elsewhere, Cicero makes clear his belief in the theory of a southern continent or Antipodes. Macrobius' 5th century commentary carries further the statement of Cicero concerning the habitable character of this southern zone, specifically known as the Antichthon. Macrobius affirms that it is reason alone that permits us to assume its habitable character, for the intervening torrid zone prevents us from ever knowing what the truth of that matter may be.
The story of the origin and the persistence of the belief in that continent, of the controversies which grew out of that belief, of the centuries of exploration in search of the elusive shores of the Terra Australis, is one of the most curiously interesting in the record of human thought and action. The maps in which the theory found delineation are of much more than incidental interest in the present discussion. The symmetry and logic contained in the theory that if the earth was indeed a sphere (an idea also proposed by Greek philosophers as early as the 5th century B.C.) then, for the equilibrium of that sphere to be maintained, it was a necessity of the laws of physics that there exist landmasses in the south and west to act as "counter-weights" to the masses of the north and east which formed the oikoumene or inhabited world of Europe, Northern Africa and Asia. This theory of the Antipodes, therefore, has haunted geographical thinkers with a persistence bridging not centuries but millenniums. The concept was continually debated in 'print', often vehemently, by the Church Faithful such as Cosmas Indicopleustes and the influential and respected scholar St. Isidore of Seville; and expounded graphically on maps by Macrobius, Beatus, Lambert of St. Omer, the Venerable Bede, William of Conches, and others, for more than 2,000 years.
The long controversy was settled, so far as the western Antipodes were concerned, when America was discovered and its great extent revealed on maps. The desire to discover the southern antipodes, or the Antichthon, became thereafter one of the impelling motives of exploration and cartography, as can be evidenced in the work of such people as the late 18th century English geographer, Alexander Dalrymple and the continual efforts at Antarctic exploration that has persisted to the present day.
|Macrobian World Map, 1483 (facsimile) Macrobian World Maps , 400 A.D.|
The map illustrated above is characteristic of the later medieval versions of the Macrobian world-picture, although some examples preserve richer nomenclature. This example displays a roughly drawn land mass to the left, representing Europe: Temperata nostra, above which is the northern frigid zone: Septentrionalis frigida inhabitabilis. The enclosed water represents the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, etc. To the right is a vaguely formed Asia with the words Mare Caspian, set down at random, below which are areas intended to depict Arabia and India. The scribe has mislocated the caption for the Red Sea and Indian Ocean: Mare Rubrum Mare Indicum. Africa, intercepted by the equatorial Perusta zona just below the Mediterranean edge, finally tapers off against the impassable stream which cuts the known world off from the bowl-shaped continent at the south of the circle, Temparata Antipodum, and below, the Frigida Australis Inhabitabilis. In the ocean to the left of Europe are two large islands labelled Horcades Insulae [the Orkneys]. Other islands and land masses are reduced, in Cicero's words, to the position of mere 'specks' upon the water.
As mentioned earlier, the orientation is relatively unique for medieval mappaemundi, in that Macrobian maps are oriented to the north, vice the east, where Jerusalem was often mistakenly reflected as the center of the world. It is doubtful how soon the Macrobius plans were altered by medieval copyists into the uncertain orientation which we find in other manuscripts. It is certain, however, that Macrobius himself definitely put north at the top, for in one place he states that the upper temperate zone was inhabited by men of our race. In one of these climate/zone-maps in particular , a distinction is drawn between the 'domestic folk' of the same temperate zone and the 'wild men' of the woods, who inhabited arctic and torrid lands. Not all Macrobian maps display only five zones, some depict seven zones or belts; the division of the world into climate-zones or belts can be traced back to Marinus of Tyre and Ptolemy .
|Macrobian world map ,Macrobian World Maps , 400 A.D.|
|Macrobian world map, 10th century in Bede's De temporum ratione.|
Macrobian World Maps , 400 A.D.
|Macrobian world map, 15th century in Petrus Alphonsus' Dialogus Contra Judeos.|
Macrobian World Maps , 400 A.D.
The work of Macrobius experienced tremendous popularity throughout the time period loosely termed the Middle Ages, even considering the inherent distributive limitations of hand-copied manuscripts. By the 12th century the work of Macrobius had become standard textbook material in the schools, eight centuries after his initial work. Marcel Destombes has recorded about 150 manuscripts dating from 1200 to 1500 A.D., two-thirds of which preserve copies of the basic map design illustrating Macrobius' theories as expounded in parts of the first and second Books of his Commentary. As alluded to earlier, these maps also had extensive influence on the medieval mappaemundi of others, from the Venerable Bede in the 8th century, to Lambert of Liege, William of Conches and Honorius of Autun in the 12th century, and a less direct, though discernible impact on the cartography later developed by Arab scholars. Printed copies of the Macrobius text and derivative maps can be found at least well into the 15th century, one reprint appearing as late as 1500.
Cosmas Indicopleustes' world picture, 6 th century in the Christian Topography
World Pictures of Cosmas , 547 A.D. Cosmas Indicopleustes of Alexandria
Much of the tone of medieval European cartography and geography is reflected and exemplified by the work of Cosmas of Alexandria (later being conferred with the honorary surname of Indicopleustes, i.e., the "Indian - sailor"). During this time cartography was heavily "Christianized" as evidenced by the many religious themes and references incorporated in and even dominating many of the surviving maps from the Middle Ages. The rejecting of 'classical' geography and the impetus and rationale for this theocratic trend, while not originating with Cosmas, was synthesized and exaggerated in his works. Both philosophically and cartographically Cosmas' ideas were strictly dictated by his literal interpretation of the Bible. Cosmas' personal history, however, is rather contradictory to his later narrow interpretation of geography because he was originally a traveling merchant by profession. He claimed to have sailed the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, trading at the market places of Abyssinia and Socotia, western India and Ceylon, among others. This extensive travel can be substantiated through examination of his detailed description of these areas. As a climax to this unusually broad and worldly experience Cosmas embraced Christianity, going so far as to become a religious monk to demonstrate the depth of his conversion. It has been estimated that between the years of 535 and 548 A.D., in the solitude of a Sinai cloister, Cosmas wrote, besides his memoirs, an explanation of the universe entitled Topographia Christiana [Christian Topography].
Unfortunately, the book which he devoted to a description of countries, and which would have revealed his fine powers of observation, has not survived, like all of his other works - his Astronomical Tables, Commentaries on the Psalms, on the Song of Songs, and on the Gospels. Some of his geographic descriptions are to be found as part of the Topographia , and a few fragments of the above writings do exist.
|Tabernacle world view from |
Cosmas Indicopleutes, 6th century
The Christian Topography has been preserved in two copies: one a parchment manuscript of the 10th century belonging to the Laurentian Library in Florence, and containing the whole work except the last leaf; the other, a very fine unical manuscript of the 8th or 9th century, belonging to the Vatican Library, and containing sketches drawn by Cosmas himself, but wanting entirely the twelfth book, which is the last. There is, besides, in the Imperial Library in Vienna, a Cosmas manuscript, but this contains only a few leaves of the Topography. This treatise, completed around 547 A.D., remained rather obscure until 1706 when it was first published in its entirety (the Florentine codex collated with that of the Vatican) by a Benedictine monk, Father Montfaucon, as part of a larger work entitled Nova Collectio Patrum et Scriptorum Graecorum.
|Tabernacle world view in the Christian Topography, Cosmas Indicopleutes, 6th century|
The Christian Topography contains references to nearly seventy authorities selected from among philosophers, historians, travellers, doctors of the Church, soldiers, and statesmen. Comas' primary objective and motivation in writing the treatise was to discredit the "false and heathen doctrine of a spherical earth". This he accomplishes with reprehensible religious zeal in the first book [chapter]. In order to disprove the pagan writers with such stature as Plato, Aristotle, Strabo, Pythagoras, Eudoxus, Pytheas of Marseilles, Ptolemy, Eratosthenes, and many others, Cosmas used two very effective weapons: the words of God and "common sense".
In subsequent Books (II-XII) he fulfills his secondary objective, that of revealing the "true doctrine" of the universe and the earth's place in it, as defined by Cosmas' interpretation of the Scriptures, confirmed by the Church Fathers (Book X) and even non-Christian sources (Book XII).
In addition to the above mentioned classical/pagan writers, Cosmas also takes issue with fellow Christian writers, such as Saint Basil, Isidore of Seville, Origen and others who either avoided the controversy of a spherical earth or argued on the side of the pagan scientists. Some of his fellow Christian writers openly declared that it did not matter so far as faith was concerned whether the earth was a sphere, a cylinder or a disc. But this sort of rationalizing was not good enough for Cosmas. God had once explained to Moses on Mount Sinai exactly how the Tabernacle was to be built, and when it was found in the writings of Saint Paul that there was a passage which could be interpreted to mean that the Tabernacle was a picture of the world, it was quite natural for the Church Fathers to envision the world as a vast tabernacle: a tent with a rectangular base, twice as long as it was broad, and with an arched roof supported by for pillars. Both prophets and apostles, says Cosmas, agree that the Tabernacle was a true copy of the universe, the express image of the visible world.
|World view in the Christian Topography, Cosmas Indicopleutes, 6th century|
Using this biblical passage by the Apostle Paul (Hebrews IX:1-2) which declares that the first Tabernacle was a pattern of this world, for the first "had ordinances of divine service and a worldly sanctuary; for there was a tabernacle made; the first wherein was the candlestick and the table and the shewbread, which is called the Sanctuary". Cosmas undertakes, with much else, to explain the symbolism of that Tabernacle in detail. In calling it worldly, Cosmas explained, St. Paul was indicating a sort of pattern of the world; the candlestick represents the luminaries of the heavens (sun, moon, stars); the table was an analogy to the earth itself and the shew-bread symbolized the fruits produced from the world. The same logic was applied by Cosmas in his conception of the shape of the world, for the Scripture said "thou shalt make the table in length two cubits and in breadth one cubit" (Exodus XXXVII:10). This indicated to Cosmas that the earth was flat and twice as long, from east to west, as it was broad. Moreover, the earth was suspended, as Job said (Job XXXVIII:38), on nothing, but was founded on God's stability.
The heavens come downward to us in four walls, which, at their lower sides, are welded to the four sides of the earth beyond ocean, each to each. The upper side of the northern wall; at the summit of heaven, curves around and over, till it unites with the upper side of the southern wall, and thus forms, in the shape of an oblong vault, the canopy of heaven, which Cosmas likens to the vaulted roof of a bathroom.
This great dome is divided into two strata by the firmament; from the earth to the firmament is the present dispensation of angels and men containing the land, the sea and the inhabitants of the world, with the angels hovering close to the "roof" holding the sun, moon and stars which they controlled. In the second storey, from the firmament to the arch of the second heaven, was to be found the kingdom of the blessed (the saints and angels) and enthroned at the top was Christ himself. From some passages in Book IX it may be inferred that Cosmas estimated the distance from the earth to the firmament as double the distance from the firmament to the summit of the Upper Heaven.
"The sun", said Cosmas via Solomon, "on rising, turns first toward the north, where it went down, and thence hastened to the place in which it arose". The earth, he tells us, gradually rising up from the south, extends westward, until it culminates at last in a huge conical mountain situated somewhere in the far-away frozen north. Behind this immense cone, the sun at the close of the day disappears from view, and leaves not only the world which we inhabit in darkness, but is the source of darkness "even to the ocean beyond our earth, and thence to the land on the other side of our ocean," until, having circled round the cone, it reappears in the east to give birth to a new day. These facts were "proved" by the furniture of the Tabernacle. Here the candlestick, placed to the south of the table of shew-bread, typified the heavenly bodies shining on the earth; the molding that Moses put around the table of shew-bread signified the ocean encompassing our present world; and by a "crown of palm's width" beyond the molding, was indicated the former world of the patriarchs on the other side of the ocean, where man lived before the flood.
In all this Cosmas passed beyond the position of most of the theologians such as Lactantius (the "Christian Cicero" of the 3rd century) who preceded him. Where they had only denied, he affirmed, and affirmed with definitiveness. The faithful Christian in earlier times had been content to doubt or dispute the theory of a round world, and the monstrous fallacies such as the Antipodes associated with this pagan error; but, until Cosmas, they were never offered a clear alternative - God's word for man's. The system extrapolated by Cosmas was constructed from the Scriptures and no 'true Christian' could doubt such a source as this.
To illustrate this interpretive description of the earth and the universe, the Christian Topography contains, in all probability, the oldest Christian maps to have survived. There is little doubt among scholars that the numerous sketches - of the world, of the northern mountains, of the Antipodes in derision and the rest - which are to be found in the 10th century Florentine manuscript copy were really drawn by Cosmas himself (or under his direction) during the 6th century; and are thus contemporary with the Madaba mosaic map and at least two centuries earlier than the map of Albi , or the original sketch of the Spanish monk Beatus .
The world, as expressed by Cosmas on one of his diagrammatic maps shown here, is of course rectangular and flat, and is divided into two parts: present and antediluvian. The central part of the rectangular landmass (the present) is surrounded by a likewise rectangular unnavigable Oceanus which, in turn, is surrounded by another earth or borderland, Terra ultra Oceanum, in which the Paradise of Adam was located and "where men lived before the Flood". Located in the eastern portion of this antediluvian 'borderland' or Paradise can be found a large rectangular lake, and from this the 'four sacred rivers' flow, somehow, through or under the Oceanus to the inhabited present world.
Of these the Pheisôn [Pison] is the river of India, which some call the Indus or Ganges. It flows down from regions in the interior, and falls by many mouths into the Indian Sea, enjoying all of the same products as the Nile, from crocodiles to lotus flowers . . . The Geôn [Gihon or Nile] again, which rises somewhere in Ethiopia and Egypt, and discharges its waters into our gulf by several mouths, while the Tigris and Euphrates, which have their sources in the regions of Parsarmenia, flow down to the Persian Gulf . . .
Cosmas' map also contains the four great seas or gulfs: the Mediterranean, Persian, Arabian and Caspian; along with obvious graphic references to the Black and Adriatic Seas. The Mediterranean tapers off sharply in the west before it empties into the Oceanus and the Caspian is still perpetuated as a bay of the encircling ocean. According to Cosmas, the four 'corners' or extremes of the world are occupied by four nations [i.e., races of man]. In the east are the Indians, in the south the Ethiops, in the west the Celts and in the north the Scythians. But their regions are not of equal extent. As the world is an oblong, and the length of it is from east to west, the nations dwelling upon these sides have a far wider range than those which are placed at the two ends. The Scythians occupy what is left over from the course of the sun (i.e., the North); the Ethiopians over against them extend from the "Winter East to the Shortest West".
Concerning the dimensions of the world Cosmas writes: "for if, on account of a miserable trade, men now try to go to the Seres, would they not much rather go far beyond, for the sake of Paradise, if there were any hope of reaching it?" The Seric or Silk Land, indeed, lay in the most distant recesses of India, far past the Persian Gulf, and even past the island of Ceylon. It was also called Sina [Malaya ?], and just as Barbary or Somaliland had the ocean on its right, so this remote country was washed by the ocean on the left. And so the Brahmin philosophers declared that if you stretched a cord from Sina, through Persia, to the Roman Empire, you would exactly cut the world in half.
"Moreover, for as much as beyond Sina on the east, and beyond Cadiz on the west, there is no navigation, it is between these points that we can best measure the length of the world;" just as from the land of the Hyperboreans "living behind the north wind," and from the Caspian, that flows in from the Arctic waters, to the Southern Ocean and the extremest coasts of Ethiopia, one may estimate the breadth. The first will be found to be about 400 stages; the second about 200. Specifically, the breadth - from the Northern Ocean to Byzantium, 50 stages; from Byzantium to Alexandria, 50 stages; from here to the Cataracts, 30 stages; from here to the area called Axum, 30 stages; and from here to the incense-bearing coast of Barbary, a district called Sasou, about 50 stages. The length - from Sina to Persia, 150 stages; from here to the Roman Empire, at Nisbis, 80 stages; from here to Seleucia, 13 stages; and to Cadiz more than 150 stages.
Cosmas, like all good Christian geographers, shrank from the idea of an inhabited part of the world in the Antipodes, separated from Christianity by an ocean belt near the equator. The theory of such a region, found in some of the pagan writings of the early Greeks and later by the likes of Macrobius, Isidore and other perpetuators of pagan thought, was impossible, according to Cosmas, on two counts. In the first place, the region, if indeed there was land there, would be uninhabitable because of the withering heat. In the second place, the inhabitants could not possibly be descended from Adam, since the Ark of Noah carried the sole survivors of the great Flood. The subject of the Antipodes and the possibility of inhabitants in that region became an important theological issue, ably debated by St. Isidore of Seville in the 6th century . Two hundred years later Virgil of Salzburg with Basil and Ambrose agreed that even though it was a delicate subject, it was not necessarily closed to the Church. Cosmas was most emphatic on the subject. Pagans, he said, "do not blush to affirm that there are people who live on the under surface of the earth . . . But should one wish to examine more elaborately the question of the Antipodes, he would easily find them to be old wives' fables. For if two men on opposite sides placed the soles of their feet each against each, whether they chose to stand on earth or water, on air or fire, or any other kind of body, how could both be found standing upright? The one would assuredly be found in the natural upright position, and the other, contrary to nature, head downward. Such notions are opposed to reason and alien to our nature and condition."
In support of the same truth, Cosmas quotes the added testimony of Abraham, David, Hosea, Isaiah, Zachariah and Melchizedek, who clenched the case against the Antipodes - "For how, indeed, could even rain be described as 'falling' or 'descending' in regions where it could only be said to 'come up'?" Over against these disproofs of folly and error stands the countless array of evidences for the true tabernacle theory, for the flatness and immutability of earth, founded upon God's stability, and for the shape of heaven, stretched like a skin-covering over our world, and glued to the edges of it at the horizon.
The place of Cosmas in history has been sometimes misconceived. No scholar admits that his works had any major impact or traceable influence on medieval geographical thought. For, on the whole, its influence is only slightly, and occasionally, traceable. Its author stated his position as an article of Christian faith; but even in those times there was anything but a general agreement with his didactic conclusions. The subtleties of Cosmas were left to the Greeks, for the most part; the western geographers who pursued his line of thought were usually content to stop short at the merely negative dogmas of the Latin fathers; and no great support was given to the constructive tabernacle-system of the Indian merchant.
Yet, after all, the Christian Topography will always be remarkable for other than the intended purposes. It represents perhaps the final warning of a certain habit of mind, of that religious dogmatizing which fears nothing but want of faith. Quite apart from the genuinely useful notes that it contains of commercial and missionary travel, it is also one of the earliest important essays in scientific or strictly theoretic geography, within the Christian era, written by a Christian thinker. It is extraordinary that Cosmas should have really done some work in astronomy, and yet should have denied every lesson that astronomy teaches and nearly every assumption on which its progress has been based, yet so stand the facts; and in the Topography we have to deal, not with a mere fabulist like Solinus, still less with a servile statistician or tabulator, but with a bold and independent cosmographer. Had he not set out with the purpose of making facts conform to pre-judgements and forcing the heavens to tell the glory of God, Cosmas might have advanced the science that he set himself the task to overthrow. But it was this very destructive purpose that led him to write.
He recognized no good in knowledge apart from the word of the Scriptures; and the observations which are to be found like fossils scattered among the layers of his arguments are, in part, merely to illustrate the latter, and, in part, as we mentioned, are probably taken from his other treatise. In the Topography Cosmas was mainly interested in constructing a theological system of the universe: never before or since was so complete and so ambitious an attempt made in this direction; but considerable knowledge, many opportunities, and some education were here allied to fervent piety. It was not because of ignorance or through living in the "Dark Ages" that Cosmas wrote as he did. He flourished at the time when Christianity perhaps most entirely and exclusively controlled a major area of the civilized world; and he seems conscious, not of a feeble and barbarized mind, but rather of having all knowledge for his province. He was not without profane science, but he now saw it (and saw through it) in the light of theology, the crown of sciences. (Nova Collectio Patrum et Scriptorum Graecorum, Florentine Codex, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence, Italy. )
The Albi or Merovingian Map ,750 A.D.
In the library of Albi, in Languedoc, exists the earliest mappamundi which has survived from the period loosely termed, the Middle Ages. It is bound in a 8th century manuscript, measures 29 X 23 cm and was designed to illustrate the cosmographies of Julius Honorius and Orosius. The geographical content is simply and curiously executed and represents a mere sketch of the world. Some of the more obvious misrepresentations include Judea appearing to the south of the Mediterranean, Antioch to the southeast of Jerusalem, Crete to the north of Cyprus, Sardinia to the north of Corsica, and the Ganges in the south of Africa. Furthermore, the zephyr [west wind] is turned into a south wind; the Caspian Sea is displayed as an inlet from the Northern Ocean; Sicily is sharply four-cornered; and Britain is reduced to about the size of Corsica, and lies close off the northwest coast of Spain. Spain and France, together, form a single peninsula. The Red Sea, Persian Gulf, Black Sea, and Caspian Sea (all colored green as is the Rhine, Rhone, Nile, etc.) are made parallel, with a general direction from north to south; the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf are exactly opposite to the Euxine [Black Sea] and Caspian Seas.
The habitable world is pictured as an oblong, rounded at the corners, and surrounded by the ocean; and the map is generally confined to the Mediterranean lands, or the area of the "Old Empire", and Asia is reduced to a fringe of land on the east of the Mediterranean. Yet, though so strictly Roman in plan, Italy is very crudely drawn. India, Media and Babylonia appear all together along the eastern boundary of the map, where the Tigris and Phison [Ganges ?] suggest an Oriental Paradise which is not expressly indicated. The Nile joins the Red Sea and the Mediterranean; Mount Sinai is designated by a huge triangle, and all of the people of northern Europe are included in Gothia.
Yet, poor though it is scientifically, the Albi map, as it stands, is the unaltered work from the time of the Venerable Bede and Charles Martel (ca. 730 A.D.), and, accordingly, venerable as the oldest geographical monument of Latin or Western Europe in the Middle Ages.
(Albi, Bibliotheque Municipale, in the manuscript entitled,
Miscellanea scilicet Dictionarium Glosae in Evangelia)
*Bagrow, L., The History of Cartography
*Beazley, C., The Dawn of Modern Geography, volume I
*Harley, J.B., The History of Cartography, Volume One
|Reconstruction (Avezac/Beazley) of a world map by the Anonymous Geographer from Ravenna|
World Map of Ravenna , 7th century , author unknown
In the middle of the 7th century an anonymous cleric from Ravenna, Italy wrote a description of the world in five books. Though entirely the result of compilation, according to J.K. Wright this cosmography is in many respects the most elaborate and interesting geographical book dating from the early medieval West. The sources quoted and utilized are extremely varied, including the Bible, "Jordanis" [Jordandes], Orosius, Isidore, pagan authors such as Porphyry, Iamblichus, Aristarchus and Lollianus, Ptolemy (whom he styles erroneously 'King of the Macedonians in Egypt'), and possibly the Tabula Peutingeriana , in addition to a number of Greek, Roman and Gothic writings otherwise unknown. The unknown author most frequently cited is a Roman cosmographer of the name of Castorius. The citations, names and extracts from Castorius correspond very closely to the legends on the Tabula Peutingeriana and have led scholars such as Konrad Miller to the conclusion that the latter represents the work of Castorius (presumably a Roman cosmographer of the 3rd century).
Many scholars have presumed that a map of the world accompanied this Ravenna treatise, even though none has survived. Yet the map of the Ravennese, if it was ever really executed, must have been very different from such itinerary-type plans as the Tabula Peutingeriana, considering the anonymous geographer's written descriptions. Was it round, square, oval, or of some other shape ? Was it planned from a center at Jerusalem, Constantinople, or Ravenna itself ? Or was it, after all, only the work of the Castorius whom the Ravennese so constantly quotes, and who was possibly the the compiler of a pictorial itinerary of the classical pattern ? Included here are two attempts at a reconstruction of the "map of the anonymous geographer from Ravenna", the first from the facsimile atlas of Professor Miller, the second from Beazley with a Ravenna-centered oval reconstruction modified from that by Avezac. Kiepert has given, in Pinder and Parthey's edition of the Ravennese, a circular restoration, with Jerusalem in the center; Marinelli (Erdkunde, 71-74) has argued very skillfully for a middle point at Constantinople; while Lelewel believes that the map of the Ravennese was right-angled.
The main importance of the work of the anonymous geographer from Ravenna in relation to the geography of the Crusading age lies in the fact that a large portion of it was included in a compilation made by a Guido in 1119 .
|Beatus world map, London copy, 1109 A.D. (Santarem)|
The Beatus Maps, Ashburnham or New York I
ca. 776 A.D. , Beatus of Liebana (died 798)
|Beatus world map, Turin copy, 1150 A. D.|
According to Beazley and Miller, the relationship between these two works is a key to all satisfactory study of the Spanish designs. This relationship is further demonstrated in many other details such as in the names of the peoples, cities, hills, and rivers of various countries, and in the Indian, Syrian and African legends. In Gaul, not only are the same provinces named and the same divisions made, but the more striking omissions of the Table also occur in Beatus copies such as the St. Sever. Of the more than 130 names of towns that appear in the Beatus maps, more than ninety of them agree with the Peutinger Table, and among these ninety parallels, all except two of the important places are marked by pictures (usually houses); on the other hand, the great vignettes at Rome, Constantinople and Antioch, as seen in the Table, if existing in the works of Beatus, have undergone transformation and reduction to a much lesser level. However, the Beatus designs have nothing similar to the Roman Itineraries, or to the station-, distance- and road-markings of the Table. Nor, of course, can the latter's 600 references to pagan temples and worships be found in these designs of the 10th and subsequent centuries. But, in spite of whatever differences exist, it appears that in the various works derived from the Spanish priest of Liebana and Valcavado, there can be found a medieval reflection of one or more cartographical works of the Old [Roman] Empire, free from all additions of the Crusading period, and of inestimable value as a link between the ancient and medieval worlds.
|St. Sever world map after Beatus, 1030 A.D.|
(oriented with East at the top)
From the close similarity among all members of the Beatus Family, we can therefore deduce with some certainty the character, not merely of the primitive copies or intermediates, but also of the original itself, as drawn by the "obscure hill-man and cave-dweller" in about 776 A.D. Of these 14 Beatus copies, seven are in the shape of an oval, somewhat inclining to the oblong; the oldest one, Ashburnham,is a right-angled rectangle; two of the latest, Turin and Paris III, are circular. What was the original form? This question can only be answered by reviewing the conditions under which it was drawn. All of the copies mentioned are drawn on two pages; each page gives half of the map, or displays half of the known world; and perhaps the oblong shape so often to be used is due merely to the copyist lengthening the two halves of the circle in order to fill-up his space and give the work more room. The height of the map is, of course, the height of the accompanying manuscript in all instances, thus supporting the theory that the elliptical form was circumstantial. The comparatively short, upright axis, from top to bottom of the single page, represents the longitude, or east-to-west prolongation of the earth; while the breadth, the comparatively long horizontal axis reaching across the two pages, represents the latitude, or north-to-south extension of the world. But neither in classical antiquity, nor in the Middle Ages, do we meet with any geographer who believes the latitudinal extension of the oikoumene to be greater than the longitudinal. If this were so, then the very terms of longitude and latitude themselves would have been disputed; but, on the contrary, they were always accepted. Hence, it will not do to use the Beatus maps as proof that the ancient Orbis picti, and especially the world map of Agrippa , were oblong or elliptical.
|Beatus world map, Paris III copy, 1250 A. D.|
Beatus seems to have followed Isidore in his limiting of Africa to this side of the Equator, this was also the practice of many of the classical geographers such as Cicero, Pliny and Mela. Although he never displayed it on his maps, Isidore conceded the probable existence of the southern Antipodes, and, based upon a single sentence or two from his pen, all of the Beatus copies, except the Paris III map of 1250, portrayed an unknown continent south of Africa and the Indian Ocean. Even the Paris III map, however, gives a relic of the 'Australian Continent' by indicating, in a corner, the Skiapod, a shadow-footed monster whom the Osma map of 1203 shows in the 'Southern Land'; this last was doubtless the original position.
As to the appearance of the circumambient fish and boats, these fish occur in every Beatus derivative except the Turin map; the boats are found on the following copies: St. Sever, Ashburnham, Valladolid, Gerona, and the Paris III map of the 13th century.
The rivers of the world are more realistically portrayed on the best copies of Beatus, the St. Sever and the Osma; on the other examples, and especially on the Paris III map of 1250, the representation of the streams may sometimes be used for restoring the probable contents of the original Beatus map. Thus, apparently the original map contained no Spanish rivers, but marked the Rhine, the Rhone, the Danube, the Euphrates, the Tigris, the Jordan, the Nile with its delta, and certain affluents of the Caspian.
|Beatus world map, Altamira copy, 12 th century.|
(oriented with East at the top)
Albania, so called from the whiteness of its people, and color of their hair, extended from the east, close to the Caspian Sea and the shore of the Northern Ocean [into which the Caspian was believed to flow] to the Maeotid Lakes [Sea of Azov], through desert regions where the dogs were so strong and fierce that they could kill lions.
Hyrcania, so called from the Hyrcanian Wood [a confusion with the Hercinia Sylva of Germany] which lay 'under Scythia', was full of tigers, panthers, and pards. Many races lived here and in Scythia, among them cannibals and blood-drinkers. Scythia, stretching from the extreme east and the Seric Ocean, to the Caspian Sea (at the setting sun) and southward to the ridge of Caucasus, abounded in gold and gems, in the best emeralds and in the most pure crystal; but all of these treasures were guarded by Gryphons, and no man could approach thereunto. Armenia, between the Taurus and the Caucasus, and between Cappadocia and the Caspian, was divided into two parts, the 'Greater' and the 'less', and contained the source of the Tigris. Arabia, the land of incense and perfumes, of myrrh and cinnamon, of the phoenix and sardonyx, was also called Saba, from the son of Chus.
|St. Sever world map after Beatus, 1030 A.D.|
detail: the Antipodes
Of these legends on the Beatus maps, most of them are to be found in the writings of Isidore, but some have, ultimately, far more ancient origin. Thus the notice of Parthia plainly refers to a time before the Persian revival of 226 A.D.; while the dimensions of the Dead Sea and Lake Gennesaret, in stadia, also prove a considerable antiquity, perhaps back to a source at the time of Pliny. The legends referring to the Hellespont and the Bosphorus correspond, in substance, with the descriptions of these areas found in the writings of not only Pliny, but also Mela and Solinus; the measurements of the greater islands (i.e., Britain), in Roman miles, seem to be reminiscent of an imperial Itinerary.
(A general stemma [genealogy] for the large Beatus maps which shows the lineage of the extant Beatus manuscripts containing full-page maps is provided in Harley's History of Cartography, Volume One (adapted from Klein).
Sino-Tibetan World Map [Go bu sin kwan]
ca. 733 A.D.  , Zenkaku, died 1214
This unique world map, when found, was originally part of a volume of documents in scroll form and in three parts, whose dimensions were respectively: 31.5 x 994 cm, 30.7 x 932 cm, and 29.5 x 217 cm. The first and third parts each contain two modern leaves, those of the first part being the preface by Onson Kosugi, 1834-1910, a well-known classicist and those of the third, a Government certificate. The overall document, therefore, is a scroll about 30 cm high and 18 meters long. The map, itself, takes up only three pages of the volume, each 20.5 x 28 cm (61.5 X 84 cm overall), the remainder of the volume is concerned with Buddhist iconography.
This map, like the imago mundi of the European Middle Ages, is simple but grotesque. A score of rectangles artificially arranged, represent the various countries. The names of 21 countries, written in the rectangles, are in Chinese and Tibetan characters. No one succeeded in deciphering these until Professor Teramoto did so, publishing his findings at the end of 1931 in an article entitled Relations between Japan and Tibet in the history of Japan. M. Teramoto had ten years previously studied a very old copy then in the possession of Professor B. Matumoto, but this was destroyed in the great fire following the September 1923 earthquake at Tokyo. M. Matumoto saved, however, a manuscript facsimile copy made in 1890.
These two facsimile copies, ancient and modern, were formerly in the possession of Zyensuke Nanbu. In a letter quoted by Teramoto, Onson Kosugi gives Nanbu information about the document, telling him that the original was in the Onzyozi Temple, bearing the title Go bu sin kwan, that it was carried from China to Japan by a priest named En-tin (better known by his posthumous title of Ti-syo Daisi, 814-891), and that he, Kosugi, had seen a copy of part of it in the Tozi Temple at Kyoto. In 1893 Nanbu presented the new copy to the Bureau for Enquiry into the National Treasures for examination. This committee gave both dates and names, carefully written by the editors and collators, and these enabled future scholars to trace the source of the map.
According to modern authorities, the map was copied in the Mii Temple (Onzyozi) by Zenkaku (died 1214) between the 1st of January and the 6th of February in the year of the lunar calendar, 1194, from a document borrowed from the Taihoin temple. The copyist, being unable to decipher the "Sanskrit", i.e., Tibetan characters, copied them exactly as they were so that later he might make a more careful study of them. At the same time his master, Sinen (died 1204), 45th chief priest of the Onzyozi Temple, had collated this copy with another preserved in the Zisso-bo convent and also with that of the library of their own temple, but the unfamiliar characters baffled him. After three separate attempts at collating he confesses despairingly that the matter of deciphering and correcting them was beyond him. He therefore left them as they were. In 1200, the 26th of February by the lunar calendar, Zenkaku made a final attempt, using the Taihoin map. Still later En-zyo, 1189-1256, 56th chief priest of Onzyozi, made three attempts at editing the map, the last one being dated February 26th, by the lunar calendar, in 1220.
Thus by the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th centuries several copies of the document were in existence. The original copy at Onzyozi, thought by Teramoto to have been made around 733 A.D., was brought from China in 858 A.D. by En-tin, to Japan. It had been formerly in the possession of the priest Huei-kuo, in the T'sing-loung-tseu [Blue Dragon] Temple at Tch'ang-ngan, then capital of China, and passed to his successor, Tchoan-kiao, who made a present of it to his Japanese disciple En-tin, along with other Buddhist documents.
The map covers almost the whole of Asia, from the extreme east to Persia and the Byzantine Empire in the west, from the countries of the Uigours, the Kirghis and the Turks in the north to the Indies in the south, an area incomparably wider than that covered by such accounts as Hiuen-tchoang's travels. Therefore, according to H. Nakamura, this map proves that maps such as the Go Tenjuku Zu , does not represent the whole of the known world to the Chinese at the time of the T'ang Dynasty (618-907), but that their knowledge extended into the west and north beyond the areas indicated by the Si-yü-ki [a geographical encyclopedia].
The geometrical form of the Sino-Tibetan map is a design that was certainly foreign to China during this time (the T'ang Dynasty), so that it must owe something to possibly a western influence. According to Teramoto's study the original map may represent the earliest example of Arabian maps introduced to China under the T'ang Dynasty through Central Asia. For it is a historical fact that, under the T'angs, the Chinese, having conquered the eastern Turks, annexed an immense territory, stretching from Tarbagatan in the north to the Indus in the south, and their national prestige was then at its zenith. They were constantly in touch with Tibet, Persia, Arabia, India and other countries, both by land and sea, diplomatically and commercially. The names on this map, given the assumed general communication among these countries, seem to be based on Chinese and translated, for political and administrative purposes, merely to make their understanding easier for the Tibetans. (Onzyozi Temple, Japan)
*Nakamura, H., "Old Chinese Maps Preserved by Koreans", Imago Mundi, vol. IV
*Nakamura, H., East Asia in Old Maps
|Chinese world-picture from the Chhin-Ting Shu T'u Shuo.|
|Anglo-Saxon, or Cottonian world map, 900 A.D.|
(oriented with East at the top)
The Cottoniana or Anglo-Saxon Map
ca. 995 A.D. , from Priscian 's Periegsis
The Cottoniana does not appear to belong to any one of the identifiable Families of medieval maps. It is far removed from all of the members of the Beatus group ; it is equally far removed from the school to which the Ebstorf, Psalter and Hereford plans appear to belong . Nor has it any relation with the various types of Zone/Climate maps which are known under the names of Macrobius, Sallust, or T-O diagrams . The map itself occurs in a copy of Priscian's Periegesis, a 5th century manual of geography based upon an earlier treatise. The manuscript which contains the map (Cotton MSS, Tib. B. V.) is made up of various pieces, collected by Sir Robert Cotton in 1598. The map is on folio 56, and is immediately followed by a copy of Priscian's Latin version of the Periegesis of Dionysius, De situ terrae Prisciani Grammatici, quem di priscorum dictis exerpsit Ormistarum, written in the same hand as appears on the map. However, the map stands in no special relationship to the work that it professedly illustrates. It is, indeed, more closely linked with Paulus Orosius' Universal History (out of the 146 legends, 75 occur in Orosius; 75 contain the textual basis of the whole map, and all of its names of countries, with few exceptions ); it also has certain obligations to Pomponius Mela's De Chorographia [Cosmography] of 40 A.D., St. Isidore of Seville, and the topographical writings of St. Jerome; and finally it bares some indications of a much later time, the age of the discoveries and the migration of the Northmen in the 8th, 9th, and 10th centuries. The correspondences of various names and descriptions in Adam of Bremen afford at least a possibility that the former sometimes drew from the same originals as the great northern annalist, while some of the names in the British Isles, in Gaul, and in the Far East and northeast, support the 10th century date, which most scholars are inclined to accept.
In its presentation of the world as a whole, this map adopts a roughly square form measuring 21 X 17 cm, and in this one respect it recalls some of the less desirable aspects of examples of the Beatus derivatives . However, though of small size, it is one of the most unique of all medieval world-pictures. In the execution of this right-angled design there is all the difference between the narrow perspective of an uncompromising symmetry found in most of the maps of its period (such as the T-O designs), and a certain respectable, if not highly developed, knowledge and scientific insight reflected in this map. It portrays, with comparative fullness and accuracy, various places, regions, and natural features elsewhere omitted, or misunderstood in cartography until a much later date. In fact there is hardly any map from the Middle Ages, before the appearance of the portolani, which can be compared with the Cottoniana in its detailed delineation of various coastlines.
In geographical content, it is one of the few medieval maps not to center on Jerusalem, as did the majority of highly theocratic maps of the age. The bulbous projection of land on the coast, north of Jerusalem, is perhaps meant for Carmel. Some idea, though exaggerated, of the Syrtes on the North African coast is evidently possessed by the cartographer. Its eastern limit is the Persian Gulf and Red Sea. Asia is shown at right angles to the coast of North Africa, an inferior representation when compared with such earlier, though uncirculated, renderings of Ptolemy. In Africa, the lakes east and west of the Lacus Salinarum near the north coast are noteworthy; like Brigantia (of Lighthouse fame) in the northwest of the Spanish peninsula. Mons Clinax [-max] in the middle of the South African coast, is perhaps a misty reference to the "Chariot of the Gods", as described by Hanno and the Greek and Latin geographers who copied him; while the two small unnamed isles, west of Mount Atlas, are probably intended for the Insulae Fortunatae.
Of purely inland geography, unconnected with the coast, there is not much in the European region of this map: the Huns, Dalmatia, Dardania, Histria, and Tracia, all circling around Pannonia. What is now European Russia is here contracted to a mere neck of land. The Caspian Sea, inaccurately opening into the Northern Ocean, is of unusual size. However, this is apparently the first map to add to the knowledge of Ptolemy with regards to northwestern Europe. England, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark (Neronorweci or Neronorroen), and France are better drawn on the Cottoniana than any other medieval map. The British Isles are prominently depicted with Ireland oriented east-west, vice north-south. Scotland is curiously twisted to the left instead of to the right, as in Ptolemy. There is also no small comparative merit in the land of the Scrito-Finns and Island, representing present-day Scandinavia, and in Sicily, whose three angles appear; the north coast of Asia Minor is likewise good. On the other hand, the western Mediterranean is rather crude and very contracted. France is so squeezed between Spain and Italy that its south coast almost disappears, except for the Gulf of Lyons, which is fairly well delineated. In Greece the name Macedonia seems to be written over Morea; Athens and Attica are widely separated.
In Asia there is much more inland geography, chiefly connected with the Twelve Tribes and Biblical history. To the west of the Caspian Sea can be found Gog and Magog, adjoined by the Turchi; the Bulgari is placed between the Danube and the Arctic Ocean; and Taprobane occupies the place usually given to the Terrestrial Paradise.
A lost Roman province map may have been the source of the divisions so clearly marked in Asia Minor, in Central and Southeastern Europe, and in North Africa. The Biblical loans may be traced in many names and also in certain aspects of the general plan. Indeed, it is obvious that here the design was not merely indebted to the Scriptures for details such as almost all medieval maps exhibit, but it was also, to a large extent, devised for a special Biblical lesson - a picture of the settlement of the Twelve Tribes of Isreal. Other Biblical connections, traceable especially in the center of the map, include (directly or indirectly) not only the Twelve Tribes and Jerusalem, but also Bethlehem, Babylon, Tarsus, Caesarea Philippi, and the Ark of Noah (among the vignettes). Most of the Biblical names found on the Hereford, Lambert, Henry of Mainz, the Psalter, and Ebstorf maps are perhaps, in many cases, borrowed directly from this earlier Anglo-Saxon work. There are several names and features which show striking independence of any other known map authority of the earlier Middle Ages. Among these are five names in Britain: Camri or Cambria, and Marinus-portus in the northwest; Kent, London, and Winchester on the southern shore; and Arma or Armagh in Ireland; the Sud-Bryttas [South Bretons] in northern Gaul; the Golden Mountain of the Far East and the Boreani and abundant lions of the northeast of Asia.
The comparative excellence of the Cottoniana is perhaps due to its being the production of an Irish scholar-monk living in the household of the learned and travelled Archbishop Sigeric of Canterbury (992-994), with whose Itinerary, from Rome to the English Channel, the present design has several curious resemblances. In the British isle of the pre-Norman period, there is no school of learning art, or science comparable to that which sprang from the Irish Church of Patrick, Colomba, and Ardan; and the insertion of the name of Armagh, so rarely found in medieval maps, strengthens the view that there we have the handiwork of a student who was trained in Irish schools, or derived his knowledge from men so trained.
The coloring of the Cottoniana is grey for most seas; red is used not only for the Red Sea (top right), but also for the Persian and Arabian Gulfs, the Nile with its delta and other African rivers and lakes; and bright green is used for all mountains. The handwriting is small and difficult, with peculiar formation of various letters, i.e., C is written like an R, O like A, R like P and A. (British Library, Cotton MS. Tiberius B.V)
World Map of al-Istakhri
1193 , Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Muhammad al-Farisi al Istakhri
Al-lstakhri was virtually unknown apart from his one work. He does not appear in any of the standard Arab biographies, and all we know about him personally was his meeting with Ibn Hawqal (Slide #213), which is related in the latter's own book. Even his work Kitab al-masalik wa-al-mamalik can be dated only from internal evidence, to the middle of the 10th century A.D. It soon became popular, however, for there are many early editions, abridgments, and translations into Persian, often differing considerably from each other.
In the Balkhi-Istakhri-Ibn Hawqal set of writings, there are four distinct recensions of what is basically one set of maps. For these this monograph shall follow Kramers's example and call the four types Istakhri I, Istakhri II, Ibn Hawqal I, and Ibn Hawqal III. The manuscripts of Ibn Hawqal III, though all undated, are much later than the other texts, probably from the late 13th or early 14th century A.D. The regional maps are nevertheless copies of the earlier versions. The world map of Ibn Hawqal III, however, is so different from the other world maps that it warrants special consideration.
The maps accompanying the geographical texts from what is termed the "Balkhi School" of geography, seem at first sight to be a not necessary supplement to the texts, the text being so complete in itself. This is often so with illustrative material in classical Arab texts, certainly with maps in some later geographical works. This set in most cases comprises twenty-one maps, although some manuscripts lack a map or so. The consistency with which the same set of maps appears in so many manuscripts and with several different authors led Konrad Miller to call the set the "Islam-atlas," and it has been called this by several other scholars. The set consists of a world map, maps of the three seas-the Mediterranean, the Persian Sea (Indian Ocean), and the Caspian Sea-and maps of seventeen "provinces" of the Islamic empire. The word "provinces" is placed in quotation marks because in some cases provinces are linked together in one map (Azerbaijan, Armenia, etc., and Spain and the Maghreb) and because the Persian Desert is hardly a province. The word the texts use for "province" is iqlim, from the Greek word that reaches Arabic through the translation of Ptolemy. The word was used first to translate the Persian kishvar, which was a specific geographical region, and hence comes the present usage. A complete list of these maps in the order usually found in a manuscript is as follows:
(1) world map;
(3) Indian Ocean;
(4) al-Maghrib [North Africa];
(7) Mediterranean Sea;
(8) al-Jazirah [Upper Mesopotamia];
(9) Iraq (Lower Mesopotamia);
(14) Armenia, Arran (Alvan), and Azerbaijan;
(15) Jibal (central Persian mountains);
(16) Daylam and its neighbors (Rayy, Tabaristan);
(17) Caspian Sea;
(18) Persian Desert;
|al-Istakhri's world map, Arabic, 977/1570 A.D.|
oriented with South at the top
The maps of each of these regions consist of an area that is roughly rectangular and usually, although not always, surrounded by a line representing its boundary with the surrounding areas. There is no projection to form the base of the map. The maps cannot be joined together as a multi-sheet map like the sectional maps of al-Idrisi (Slide #219). Even if they are reduced to the same scale, this cannot be done as it can for the sectional maps of the European edition of Ptolemy. The maps are thus individual entities and are seen as such by the draftsman.
This set of maps does not cover the whole world as do the sectional maps of al-Idrisi that follow in the 12th century and the texts of the earlier geographers like Ibn al-Faqih or Ibn Khurradadhbih. These latter include considerable detail on China and India and give some account of Africa and Europe. The Balkhi maps specifically cover the Islamic empire as it appeared in the 10th century. Even Spain has no separate map and is omitted in the text, though it was Muslim at the time. It was, of course, never part of the Abbasid Empire. Inside the Dar al-Islam each province is then given its own map and a description that forms an individual chapter dealing systematically with towns, rivers, mountains, and inhabitants, followed by itineraries throughout the province. S. Maqbul Ahmad has a theory that this Islamicization of the maps and geography was a deliberate policy developing away from the work of the earlier al-Ma'mun type of geographer, which, based mainly on Ptolemy, covered the whole of the known world.
Besides this policy of portraying only the areas of the Abbasid caliphate at its greatest extent, it is further obvious that there is a bias toward things Iranian: so much so that Kramers has suggested there may have been old Iranian maps that are the basis of these Balkhi maps. There is no evidence for the existence of the former, but the maps may ultimately be based on early lists of postal routes surviving from Sassanid times. These lists may perhaps also be seen as the origin of the lists of Islamic postal routes found in the works of the al-Masalik waal-mamalik type. The Iranian bias also appears in the contents of the set of maps. The Iranian area is divided systematically into areas for mapping, whereas the areas the Arabs conquered from the Byzantines were treated in a much less systematic way. This may, however, reflect the administrative situation in the two empires that preceded the Islamic empire at the time when the Arab conquest took place. Al-Balkhi and al-lstakhri were both patronized by the Samanid rulers of Persia, and the emphasis is very much on the Iranian area.
The world map (al-Istakhri I/II and Hawqal III) and the map of the Indian Ocean, which is enlarged from it and always referred to as the Persian Sea, are a different proposition. These two maps are built up by what might be called academic conjecture-an armchair attempt to see all the provinces set down relative to each other. The whole has to fit into a stereotyped idea of what the whole world should look like. According to Arab geographical theory based entirely on Ptolemy, this would be a sphere. Since the far side of a world sphere (an upside-down world) was practically inconceivable, only a hemisphere was thought to be inhabitable. This could easily be "projected" onto a flat area and represented by a circle. That Ptolemy represented the inhabitable world as occupying 180 degrees of the earth supported this idea. Thus al-lstakhri represented the world as a circle surrounded by the Encompassing Sea, with the two main seas reaching in from the east and the west toward the center, where they would join except for a small, narrow land barrier-the barzakh of the Qur'an .
In his text, al-lstakhri gives a simple description of the world to explain his map. "The earth is divided into two by the two seas, so that we have a north or cold half and a south or hot half. People in these two halves get blacker as you go south and whiter as you go north etc." The main kingdoms are listed together with the kingdoms that adjoin them. This is the only place where non-Islamic areas are given any mention. Measurements are attempted; thus the width from the Encircling Ocean in north-western Africa to the ocean in China was 400 days' journey. However, the distance north to south was not measurable. There were 210 days' journey through inhabitable lands, but the extreme north was uninhabited because of intense cold and the extreme south because of intense heat. The seas were described briefly, and the fact that the Khazar [Caspian] Sea and the Khwarazm [Aral] Sea were landlocked is mentioned, as well as the sea connection between the Encircling Ocean and Istanbul-that is, the Baltic joins up to the Bosporus.
The map of the Persian Sea is an enlarged version of a portion of the world map, although there are enough differences in the shape of the ocean in the two maps to necessitate some explanation. Three large islands, Kharak, Awal [Bahrain], and Laft [Qishm Island], are set symmetrically in what is the Arabian Sea, with the Tigris to the left and the Indus to the right. India and China coalesce into one narrow peninsula, matching Arabia on the other side. The attempt is probably to match the Mediterranean on the other side of the world. Hence India also has a large mountain (Adam's Peak) to match the Jabal al-Qilal near the Strait of Gibraltar. This is the Indian Ocean map in the first recension (Istakhri I).
The second (Istakhri II) is not so symmetrical, and the mountain and three islands become much smaller (as they also do in the Mediterranean). In the world map, the islands disappear altogether in the second recension but are there, very large, in the first. There is no "mountain" in either recension of the world map. The surprising difference is that the western tip of the Indian Ocean, which represents the Red Sea (Sea of Qulzum), points to the west in the ocean map, but in the world map it turns back on itself to almost touch the southeastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea.
Al-lstakhri and Ibn Hawqal show no interest in projections or mathematical astronomy. Neither do they mention longitude and latitude in any form, or any sort of map construction. They both give distances between places on their routes (marhalah = day's journey), and they add these up roughly to give the dimensions of the inhabited world. These distances are not recognizable on the map, however. It therefore does not seem that the authors envisaged any kind of formal scale at all in constructing these maps.
Each map consists of a set of geometric configurations. Though some are more geometric than others, most lines are straight or arced, rivers are wide parallel lines, and lakes are often perfect circles. Towns are sometimes squares, circles, or four-pointed stars or, if they are stopping places on a straight route, resemble small tents or perhaps doors to caravansaries. Thus much of the drafting is ruled with either a straight or a curved edge. The only exceptions are mountains, which are drawn as a collection of peaks or perhaps piles of rocks, though even here the base, which probably represents the position of the range on the map, is a straight line or a regular curve.
The basic purpose of the maps (especially those of the Persian-speaking areas) seems to be to incorporate the caravan routes across the province, with all the stages marked. This is most noticeable on the map of the Khurasan Desert, where the boundary of the desert is given with the bordering villages and oases marked around it. Straight lines then join those places on opposite sides where traffic flows, and the name of the route is written on the line so drawn. (Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna) (Bibliothek der Rijksuniversiteit,Leiden)
Harley, J.B., The History of Cartography, Volume Two
Kramers, J.H., "La question Balkhi-Istahri-Ibn Hawkal et l'Atlas de l'Islam", Acta Orientalia 10 (1932)