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Earliest map

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What is the earliest map known?  Are there any known maps that were transmitted from antiquity?  Do we know how the ancients actually visualised the classical world?  Thanks to Andrew for the thought provoking post on Polybius' map.


Andrew McCabe:

--- Quote from: cckk on October 25, 2015, 06:13:35 pm ---What is the earliest map known?  Are there any known maps that were transmitted from antiquity?  Do we know how the ancients actually visualised the classical world?  Thanks to Andrew for the thought provoking post on Polybius' map.


--- End quote ---

Kevin was referring to this post:

Isn't Polybius' map-description effectively a map - given its precise directions regarding angles and distances?

The Greek Ptolemy drew a world map rather like Polybius that has come down to us dating from the second century AD. However Ptolemy's map is as Polybius, descriptive using angles and distances. So it's no different in concept than Polybius' but three hundred years later. Polybius thus may have been the first proper attempt at a world map. Ptolemy is however better known because it was transferred to a drawn layout in the middle ages. See

 There are also quite a few city maps, forum layouts etc, engraved in marble, found in old Roman forums and such like.

Matthew C5:
Hi Kevin, if you wanted to look deeper into the map question, you could take a look at the work done by Rand and rose Flem-Ath in their book 'When the Sky Fell'.  Sure it is a controversial book pushing the limits to find what we now like to ridicule as 'Atlantis', yet it provides some neat takes on reproduced 'source maps' from antiquity. 

Graham Hancock refers to this in his 'Fingerprints of the Gods' which does a good summary in the 1st chapter of the book.  If you like to read non-fiction, I recommend this book;)

O.A.W Dilke _Greek & Roman Maps_ John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, London, 1998 (hb 1985). 
"In Greek and Roman Maps, O.A.W Dilke follows the development of map-making skills, beginning in Babylonia and Egypt, through the contribution of Greek scientists an Roman administrators and surveyors, to the Age of Discovery.  He provides examples of a full range of Greek and Roman maps, including town and building plans, itineraries and road maps, sea itineraries, and maps in art form." from the back cover. pp.224

Anaximander of Miletus, the second philosopher (after Thales), was said to have made the first map (in the Greeks opinion, anyhow).  He may have also made a celestial map.  Herodotus talks about Aristagoras, tyrant of Miletus, having a metal map.  There is a Persian coin that is said to have on the reverse a relief of the valley around Ephesus, but I don't know if that statement is accurate or just wishful thinking.

There are two Greek geographies from the ancient world, Strabo and Pausanias.  Strabo starts his work discussing the "father of geography," Homer.  If I remember right, Strabo is going throughout the Mediterranean and environs.  Pausanias is more a tourist log around mainland Greece.  Neither Pausanias or Strabo actually portray a map, although Pausanias is probably good for modern restoration of temple sites.

Some interesting images here; they might be worth chasing up further.


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