Author of the Month

The Map At The Bottom Of The World (cont.)
By Doug Fisher

The geometric framework begins with a set of concentric circles or arcs. Figure 21 reveals four of these:

  1. The innermost circle formed by the coasts of eastern Italy, Turkey and Northwest Africa. This represents the largest section of the Mediterranean Sea, Zone 2, and as discussed earlier this was most likely used to accommodate Agrippaís commentary.
  2. The next ring runs along the opposite, western shore of the Italian Peninsula as well as along a short peninsula extending off of Western Africa. (Note both peninsulas fit within the band created by circles A and B.)
  3. A third ring is defined by the combined coasts of north central Africa and the Middle East, and lastly
  4. A ring along which the mythical meandering Upper Nile is centered.
Fig. 21
Figure 21 - Authorís reconstruction of the mapís original framework and orientation. In the process of creating the original map, a set of perpendicular lines, E and G, were drawn setting the four cardinal directions. Bisecting lines, F and H, established the western coasts of the Iberian and Greek peninsulas and the extent of the lower North African/Mideast coast. Concentric circles A thru D, centered on the map, established guides for interior coastlines and the positioning of the Upper Nile. Circle L centered on centerline G sets the coastline west of Italy. The final design divides the Mediterranean into 3 geometrically aligned zones, 1, 2 and 3.

These rings were not only guides for coastlines and waterways, but they also established a center point upon which was built the remaining framework. There are two lines that align with this center point in the form of two of the mapís straightest stretches of coastlines. These are the western coasts of the Iberian and Greek peninsulas, which also happen to be the only two significant intrusions into the mapís innermost circle, Zone 2. Figure 21 draws two lines (F and H) running along these coasts and through the common center point of the concentric circles. The intersection of these two lines creates angles that are 3.7į off from perpendicular. Agrippaís original map may have ran these lines perpendicular to each other and the 3.7į discrepancy here as well as slight discrepancies elsewhere in the framework can be attributed to minor alterations incurred as the map was replicated without the benefit or awareness of the original guides.

Confirming that these lines were indeed part of the framework is the fact that these two lines intersect the lower North African coast which runs along circle C, roughly coinciding with the width of the African coast just before it rises at Mauritania in the west and Turkey in the east. This also establishes the second largest section of the Mediterranean Sea, Zone 3, which is an arcing band lying between Zone 2 and Africaís northern coast.

The third significant portion in the design of the Mediterranean Sea, Zone 1, is located along Italyís western coast. In Figure 19, circle B delineates the lower surface of this space, while the upper half of circle L defines the arched coastline opposite Italyís western coast. Circle L has been created by drawing a circle through circle Bís intersection with the European coast (points J and K) with a center point set equidistant to those intersections on centerline G.

With this framework established, the linear nature of the map becomes clear, the map defines the Mediterranean Sea with three center-aligned geometric zones: Zones 1, 2, and 3. Utilizing the centerline running through the midpoints of these three zones, the map has been rotated so that the centerline runs vertically with the arched Zone 1 positioned toward the top. The reasoning behind this orientation is based on the shape of Zone 1. The zone is a semicircular shape mimicking the Roman arch, an architectural creation popularized by the Romans. Roman arches are oriented arching upward above structural openings, so it is fitting that the Romans purposely distorted the Iberian Peninsula in order to create this arched zone rising majestically above the city of Rome. The location suggests that this zone was set aside to honor Rome or one of its rulers, much like the Peutinger Tableís representation at Rome of an enthroned woman framed by a large inscribed circle (Fig. 18b).

One of the noticeable effects of this alignment, which further supports this as the original orientation, is how it places the inner circle, Zone 2, very near the mapís horizontal and vertical center. The four arrows along the mapís perimeter mark the mapís true horizontal and vertical centers demonstrating the slight variance between Zone 2ís center and the mapís actual center. The sense of the mapís original symmetry can also be seen in that the horizontal line drawn through the mapís center (E) bisects Asia at its outermost point with the coastline falling away on either side at a similar angle. Similarly, the vertical line drawn through the mapís center (G) bisects Europe in the north at its highest point with the coastline again falling away on either side at similar angles.

It may seem odd to refer to the alignment of the map as having a northern orientation while the Italian Peninsula is clearly lying on its side, but the map is actually discerned as having a northern alignment based on the positioning of the continents; Europe located above Africa and Asia off to the right. This also proves true of the Roman Peutinger map, which also places the peninsula on its side.

Figure 22 resurrects Agrippaís Orbis Terrarum with a reconstruction based on SchŲner's map. The three major zones composing the oversized rendering of the Mediterranean Sea can be seen accommodating components that would later be redistributed about the mappae mundi. Zone 1 which is located at the top of the map, adjacent the city of Rome, is fitted with a banner inscribed with the name ĎAugustusí while rising above it is a semicircular frame conforming to the arch of Zone 1. The arched frame houses an image of Caesar Augustus that along with the banner bestows honor and credit to the man responsible for the mapís existence. Mappae mundi like the Hereford and Psalter maps still retain this space, but relocate it above the map, replacing the Roman representation with an image of Jesus Christ.

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