A Very Ancient Document|
Drawn in 1265 by a monk from Colmar and made up of 11 parchments scrolls measuring approximately 34 cm high by 6,74
m. long when assembled, this document was discovered in 1494 by Konrad Meissel, alias Celtes, and given in 1507 to an Antiquarian of Augsburg, Konrad Peutinger.
This document appears to be a planisphere describing the world as it was known in Antiquity. Indeed several disappeared localities, like Pompeii or Herculanum, are indicated and other places, such as Hatra in Iraq or Tegea in Greece, bear their Roman names which were lost during the Middle Ages. In addition, several notes refer to ancient ideas, such as a wide
river "flowing" under the Sahara, or Alexander's conquests. Moreover, the localities are connected by roads with distances marked in Roman numerals indicating the miles (1480 m.) or, west of Lyon, the Gallic leagues (2220 m.)
|Large cities are represented by thumbnails of variable size and a special importance is given to the thermal cities. The metropolises of
this map are Rome, Constantinople and Antiochia. Immediately below the metropolises in size are
Nicomedia (Izmit), Nicaea (Iznik), Aquileia and Ravenna. Ancyra (Ankara) seems to be a town of the same size as Ravenna but its name was not written. The same applies to Alexandria.
the map seems to indicate some maritime or river ways without clearly
marking their departure or arrival destinations. For instance a ferry could
exist in the Southern Peloponnese, with a destination of either Crete or Cyrenaica,
and Ostia, the harbour of Rome, is positioned
exactly opposite Carthage. There is also a reference to a riverway between Ostiglia and the Adriatic Sea or Ravenna.
|This leads one to the conclusion that the Peutingerian Table, is the result
of successive copies and overprints carried out at various times from
one or several ancient originals. The oldest information probably goes
back to before 79 AD since Pompeii is indicated. Other temporal
indications can be drawn from Jerusalem which is named Aelia
Capitolina, name given in 132 AD and from Constantinople, the name commonly used since the 5th century for Byzantium.
|A Stretched and Flattened Roadmap
reader may be confused with this stretched planisphere on which the
peninsula seems to extend from west to east and where Rhodes is close
to the area of Tel-Aviv. However, one must realize that this map is a
compilation and a positioning of itineraries previously written in the
form of catalogues such as the 3rd century Antonine Itinerary. The
is that the whole map looks like a modern subway plan. The routes were
drawn in order to be clearly readable without taking into account the
scale or of the exact geographical orientation, the essential being
to show the distances and the crossroads, not the land topography.
|For instance, such lists (see segment 2):
Augusta Ruracum XXII
Augusta Ruracum XXII
Petenisca XXII X
copied out on a map without the copyist being able to determine the
existence of a single road or parallel ways. Consequently, several
doublets and errors appear throughout the document.
of this makes the Table of Peutinger particularly interesting. Indeed,
is not a physical and scientific description of the world, as in the
work of Ptolemy, but rather a functional document standing in
comparison with present day roadmaps. The main roads of the imperial
or cursus publicus, are shown, making it possible for the
traveller to easily locate the stops, to calculate the distances to be
covered and to organize supplies at the principal thermal places or
It is, therefore an exceptional document without equivalent before the 16th century. What is
more, we can imagine that the pilgrims, the merchants or the medieval
armies used similar charts in their long travels from the West towards
the East. One can try to plan the route from Trier to Rome or from Rome to Jerusalem. Ydrunte (Otranto) is located opposite Scobre (Shkodër) and Dyrratio (Durrës): thus a crossing of the Strait of Otranto is possible there.
|That being said, there are many errors in the document and we don't know if they are due to:
- omissions (absence of Malta),
- lack of time (free space for the drawing of Alexandria vignette: only the Pharos appears)
- misunderstood coastlines (absence de Euboea),
- misundertood copies of several originals (land of the Parisi near Xanten),
- real antique names (Grecia near Masilia Grecorum or Marseilles of the Greeks),
- identical towns written down with different names (Avodiaco - Abodiaco; In Naronia - Narona)
- vague or duplicated itineraries (unidentified route from Catispi to Masabi)
us note finally that, contrary to medieval maps, the Table of
Peutinger does not mention fantastic beings, dragons or monstrous
humans. The only non-functional inscriptions refer to known
literary data, for instance:
- Grin, un great river flowing under the ground (probably the Niger),
- desert where the Children of Israel wandered for 40 years (Sinai),
- "here are born elephants" (India),
- Sera Major or Land of Silk, that is China,
- or "until where Alexander" to mark the end of the world.
|The Map Presented Online|
At present the Tabula Peutingeriana is conserved at the Austrian National Library (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek). With the authorization of this institution, Euratlas is able to
present online the 11 original segments of this Roman roadmap. The
colors of the images were slightly equalized to increase their
legibility, so they can be viewed interactively in real size.
It is possible to access
each of the 11 sections of this document through either the
thumbnails at the top of this page or the modern map above. By clicking
directly on the sections, you can enlarge the chosen area. The
principal names of places are
indicated in their original textual form followed by their usual Latin
form and then by their modern name. In addition it is possible to
display the same image in black and white simply by clicking on Transcription.
With this view certain places are
transcribed in red to facilitate their location. The home page for each
complete section is designed in such a way that it is possible to
display the modern map of
the described places by clicking the thumbnail on the
bottom left side of the page. Pleae note that, in order to facilitate
their reading, segments are designated by the names of the
aim is to offer everyone the possibility to travel firsthand over this
centuries-old document and to make his or her own discoveries.
Therefore we invite you to travel online and dig through this map
of the world
such as it was known in the Roman time. You will discover a multitude
of easily recognizable places. Not all were transcribed in our version
and, if you wish to compare it with a political chart of the Roman
Empire, you can to also refer to the Historical Atlas Euratlas,
available online or by CD-ROM.|
Christos Nussli, September 2007
Our main source for the transcription of the names and their positioning was the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World.