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Cartographic maps of ancient Rome

Road surveys and maps

Use of maps for gaining practice, meeting demands of military and administrative apparatus had a profound effect on the development of cartography in ancient Rome. Economic and political life of Rome was largely dependent on transport links with its remote provinces and neighboring countries. Dense road network covered the possession of Rome. Road representation on map could provide a valuable guide for the military, administrative and shopping needs, and those maps were created. According to the decision of Julia Caesar, Romans initiated roads measuring. Roads were marked every mile by stone column that indicated distances. The results of these measurements, completed by August, allowed Mark Vipsaniyu Agrippa (about 63-12 y. BC) to prepare materials for creating maps of the world, discovered by Romans at that time.

It was very convenient to use Roman maps in trips. One of such maps, known as Peytingerov table, copied with some later additions from the original of IV cent., came to our days. It looks like a roll with a length of 7 m and a width of 1 / 3 m, so that the use of roll folded map was very handy on the way.

The map depicts the Roman Empire and other known at that time countries from the British Isles to the mouth of the Ganges. From the north and south continents, depicted on map, were washed by Ocean. Its represents human settlements, cities, fortifications, places of military unit residence, roads, rivers, mountains, lakes and forests. For settlements were used prospective conventional signs. Cracks on the road indicated the stations, the distance between which was marked along roadside. The original map in the form of stripes seemed strange and primitive, the presentation was deliberately condensed from north to south. It looked like a convenient picture when looking at flat surface of the Earth from the south.

The Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the other seas were stretched on map in the form of narrow strips. Rivers and roads were represented in the same directions. But, taking into account map representation, it will be given high estimate, because it was very detailed, informative and realistic one.

Surveys work

Land policy of Rome needed the performance surveys while building new settlements and colonies, giving land (choice of location, layout of settlements, layout of land, building roads, etc.) and generally in favor of land tenure. The profession of surveyors appeared. Certain guidelines and manuals were written, which describe survey equipment with the help of pictures. These documents are preserved and can give us a clear idea of the technique used for land measurement. The duties of surveys also included mapping that represented settlements, rivers, mountains, roads, land, etc. It was ordered to create maps of military and administrative units from bronze in two copies, one of which was intended to be archived in Rome. These maps of local values and other surveying materials didn’t survive. Certificates of them survived only as fragments of maps carved on stones found in Orange, and what especially important is that they survived in fragments of a large and very detailed plan of Rome (16X13 m), manufactured on marble under Emperor Septimie Sever (193-211 y.).

Guide to Geography by Ptolemy

But especial interest in cartography rise combined academic writings on ancient cartography world. In the epoch of Roman Empire they reached their fullest flower in the works of Claudia Ptolemy (II cent. BC). He was Greek mathematician, astronomer and cartographer living like Eratosfen in Alexandria. His “Guide to Geography” in the eight books, no doubt belongs to a remarkable masterpiece of ancient culture, which predetermined the development of cartographic science for nearly fourteen centuries.

Realizing that transfers of spherical surfaces on the plane entail inevitable distortion, and criticizing cylindrical projection, Ptolemy proposed two new projections in building: conical and pseudoconical that represented quiet well square ratio. They are widely used nowadays in an improved form, of course.

The author of “Guide to geography” gives a lot of information about the way how to make maps. Six of the eight books are devoted to the Earth description, known by Ptolemy at that time. The description of each country includes systematic enumeration of settlements, rivers, mountains, etc., on map the situation of which is determined by geographical coordinates. The same way tribes, which inhabited country, are indicated on map. Much of the information is presented in tabular form suitable for future transferring on map. The total number of represented geographical objects obtains 8000.

In general, “Guide to Geography” gave the ground for 27 maps, including the map of the world and 26 private maps for the major units of Earth. They made up first known systematic collection of maps, which were detailed and accurate enough in countries representation. Ptolemy determined that the length of the earth's meridian was equal to 180 thousand stadiums that at the length of the stadium - 210 meters was 37800 km, i.e. slightly lessened the size of the globe.

Note that Ptolemy believed that land area occupied much more space than oceans and considered Indian Ocean to be a close basin. But this mistaken conception can be explained as a lack of information of remote parts of the world. In general the work of Ptolemy amazed by the quantity of its material, by accurate systematization and its scientific foundations. “Guide to Geography” was known and used for many centuries.