The Map At The Bottom Of The World (cont.)
By Doug Fisher
Figure 15 - The Green Globe, which derives its name from the deep green coloring of its seas, depicts an Antarctic continent similar to Schöner’s 1515 depiction, but renders the African water feature as an arc with slight undulations which more closely matches the Hereford’s rendering.
So it would seem that the original Roman portrayal of a mythical Upper Nile could very likely have been a prominent feature similar to the portrayal on Schöner's map and the Hereford Mappa Mundi. This is a very common portrayal of the feature that is carried by a few other notable mappae mundi: The 10th century Cottonian, 11th century Isidorean, 12th century Henry of Mainz and Liber Floridus, and the 13th century Ebstorf map just to name a few. Sometimes these maps portray the waterway as terminated by lakes at both ends and sometimes at only the western end, but in all these maps, just like Schöner's, the unique waterway always stretches across the width of Africa and terminates inland never emptying into the outer ocean or inner sea. Schöner's lack of a lower Nile may be a bit disconcerting, but the 14th century Higden Mappa Mundi (Fig. 16) demonstrates that it was not alone in displaying the mythical Upper Nile while omitting a clear representation of the true Nile itself.
Figure 16 - The Higden Mappa Mundi, which also prominently features the African waterway, like Schöner's map does not have a clear representation of the actual Nile.
While the Hereford and other mappae mundi provide proof of Schöner's map being a true world map, it is the map’s similarity to copies of ancient Roman maps which seals its Roman heritage while providing insights into key aspects of Roman cartography. The first map is a world map from the 1482 Ulm edition of Claudius Ptolemy’s The Geographia. Ptolemy was a Greek mathematician, astronomer and geographer living under Roman rule in Egypt during the 2nd century A.D. who established many of the principal concepts for modern cartography. In his treatise, The Geographia, Ptolemy defines the geography of the Roman Empire and is believed by many to have included a world map, one similar to the one included in the 15th century Ulm edition. (Portion depicted in figure 17) Being that Ptolemy employs a modified spherical projection, the map varies significantly in appearance to Schöner's less technical design, yet there is a key characteristic clearly shared between both maps. Like Schöner's map, Ptolemy’s includes a vast mountain range spanning the full width of the African continent, dividing the continent into an extremely slim northern region and a very deep and vast southern region.
Figure 17 - Section of Ptolemy’s World Map found within a 15th century edition of Claudius Ptolemy’s The Geographia with mountains on the African continent highlighted. Note how the length of mountains range the full width of North Africa. Schöner's map similarly strings a mountain range just inside the coast of North Africa, extending it the width of the continent as well.
That this is a common Roman design concept can be established with the second Roman map offered for our review, the Tabula Peutingeriana (Fig. 18a and 18b). The Tabula Peutingeriana, or Peutinger Table, is a replica of a first century Roman itinerarium, essentially a roadmap of the Roman Empire that is believed to have been referenced in the making of Agrippa’s Orbis Terrarum. This particular copy was discovered in 1494 in a library in Worms, Germany and derives its name from Konrad Peutinger who eventually acquired the map in 1508. The Peutinger Table is composed of Europe, Asia and North Africa—omitting the southern portion of the African continent—and portrays North Africa similarly to Ptolemy and Schöner's maps with a lateral mountain range defining its southern border.