The Map At The Bottom Of The World (cont.)
By Doug Fisher
Figure 18a - Two representations of the Tabula Peutingeriana: A reconstruction that is stretched vertically (top) providing a better perspective on the layout of continents and an actual image (bottom) of the 13.5 inch by 22 foot map scaled to fit the page.
Figure 18b - An enlarged section of the Peutinger Table centered on the city of Rome illustrating the extensive detailing including mountains, waterways and a vast network of roads inscribed with distances between various cities and outposts. Like Ptolemy and Schöner’s maps, North Africa is rendered with a mountain range delineating its southern border. Note that the Peutinger Table omits Africa's vast southern region which lies beneath this range.
Another significant aspect of the Peutinger Table is the deliberate distortion plied to the map. The table constricts and flattens both the Mediterranean Sea and the continents and folds the Italian Peninsula in on its side so that it is pointing eastward toward a stubbed Greek Peninsula. The purpose of these and other geographical distortions are clear: To constrain the entire table within the confines of a transportable form being only 13-1/2 inches in height with 22 feet of scrollable length. The distortion of the Mediterranean Sea would have been of little concern since the table was not intended for naval navigation. Equipped with numerous roads drawn throughout along with inscribed measurements revealing the distance of travel between key areas of the Roman Empire, the map was clearly intended for use by overland travelers.
Like the Peutinger Table, Schöner's map deliberately distorts both the Italian peninsula and the Mediterranean Sea to effect a particular design scheme on the over all map. Schöner's map folds the Italian Peninsula on its side away from the Greek Peninsula, while also enlarging the Mediterranean. This attains the final result of a large imposing circular version of the Mediterranean Sea delineated by Italy’s altered eastern coast, Turkey’s western coast and the elevated northwestern coast of Africa (Fig. 19).
Figure 19 - Schöner’s map with rings superimposed demonstrating the concentric design of the Mediterranean Sea. Defining the innermost ring is 1) the eastern coast of Italy, 2) the western coast of Turkey, and 3) the elevated northwestern coast of Africa.
While the Peutinger Table was distorted to facilitate ease of portability, Agrippa’s map was a large map intended for public display similar to the Hereford Mappa Mundi. So how would Schöner's design with its distortion of the Mediterranean find itself suited to this capacity? We need to keep in mind that the creation of the map was intended to record and display Agrippa’s extensive and meticulous survey of the known world, as Pliny confirms, “Agrippa, a man of such extraordinary diligence, and one who bestowed so much care on his subject, when he proposed to place before the eyes of the world a survey of that world.” (NH 3.3) This leaves us with a bit of a conundrum as to why Agrippa would feature the Mediterranean Sea so prominently when the true focus of the map was a land survey. Assuming that Schöner's design is a true representation of Agrippa’s world map we should expect that the purposely rounded and oversized sea would not be relegated to simply portraying a vast watery void, but would be more apt to incorporate content which augmented the map and Agrippa’s land survey. The most practical content to serve this purpose would likely be a consolidation of notes or commentary, a concept that is not completely without basis.