Classical Numismatics Discussion
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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Resources  |  Maps of the Ancient World  |  Topic: Polybius map of the ancient world 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Andrew McCabe
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« on: September 18, 2015, 07:01:59 am »

Reading Polybius, I was intrigued by the map of the ancient world that he describes in book 3,37-39. I think it's simply brilliant. Of course Polybius could have drawn a map, but that drawing would not have made its way into the text books for the next millennia. What he did was instead describe a map in terms of angles and distances and in a way anyone with a piece of papyrus could reproduce for themselves. He starts by dividing the world into three: Asia, Europe and Africa. Three straight lines form their boundaries: the Pillars of Hercules, the river Don and the river Nile. He describes what angles those lines should be placed at (Pillars WSW, Don ENE, Nile S). He assumes only a general awareness that Italy protrudes into the Mediterranean. From a viewpoint seated in Rome he describes the relative directions of other points. He counts off distances along coastlines. For example, the entire coast of Iberia, Gaul and Italy from the Pillars to Rome is paced off, with check lines at the Pyrenees, the river Aude and the river Rhone. So he divides the coast of the Med into segments and names the territory within each. The basis of using the Don, Nile and Pillars of Hercules as the big segments for continents, and then segmenting continents into territories, is inspired. He was careful to state nothing he didn't know for a fact. So, north of Germany is land and possibly sea. The same applies to south of Africa.

I sat down with a postcard and followed Polybius instructions, word for word. Here is the map he drew for me:

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Bill W4
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« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2015, 10:06:15 am »

This is amazing.  My thanks to Polybius and you Andrew. 
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Kostas G
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Kostas Giannakapoulos


« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2016, 08:55:00 am »

Its very interesting my friend.
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K. Giannakapoulos
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