The Map At The Bottom Of The World (cont.)
By Doug Fisher
The final recognizable detail pertains to Turkey (Fig. 12) where it is first worth noting that the southern coastline, although a bit condensed, exhibits an undulating shoreline very similar to its modern day coastline. While this feature alone may not be overly convincing in validating this as a portrayal of Turkey, taken in tandem with the detailing of a small hook-shaped peninsula extending off the western coast, the combined features should prove sufficient. The hook-shaped peninsula is a rather accurate rendition of the peninsula that bounds the Gulf of Izmir. Not only is the peninsula correctly located east of the representation of Greece, but it is also accurately aligned with its point paralleling the coast in a counterclockwise direction. The gulf itself accurately conforms to the actual gulf’s 40-mile deep by 20-mile wide proportions and even appears to add the little bump of land that projects out from the lower end of the gulf. The fact that this gulf is one of the more accurately defined features of the map reflects the importance of the ancient city of Smyrna, a city once located inside the gulf that existed as a prominent city port under both Greek and Roman rule.
Figure 12 - Turkey as depicted on Schöner’s 1515 Antarctic map (left) alongside modern day Turkey. Schöner’s map compresses the country’s undulating southern coast, but provides a surprisingly accurate portrayal of the Gulf of Izmir (inset), even including the small cape projecting from the southern shore. The gulf would have been an important feature to include as it was once the location of Smyrna, a prominent city port under both Greek and Roman rule.
So who do we credit with authoring Schöner's source map? The Greeks? The overall design of the map negates this possibility. The Greeks maintained a Greco-centric view of the world so when they went about constructing their simple circular world maps, it was the customary practice to locate Greece in the geographical center of the world. (Reference the Hecataeus and Homer maps, Fig. 5) Schöner's map clearly does not conform to this rule of design, which would rule out Greek origin.
The first key to determining the source map’s origins can be found in a feature stretching across the width of Schöner's Africa in the form of the map’s lone inland waterway, an unusual water feature appearing as a long thin undulating channel terminated at both ends by large mountain lakes. This feature may seem out of place as there are no such water features even remotely similar existing in Africa, but as it turns out this design follows very closely ancient Rome’s concept of one of the most historically renowned rivers in the world, the Nile.
Figure 13 is a reconstruction of one of Rome’s most famous world maps, Agrippa’s Orbis Terrarum, which was a large display map completed around 20 A.D. Copies of the map were distributed throughout the ancient empire and continued to be in existence in medieval Europe where they were referenced when designing the mappae mundi, medieval maps of the world. Copies of the Roman original eventually disappeared, therefore, reconstructions like the one shown here base their design upon a combination of geographical information gleaned from ancient historians as well as the medieval mappae mundi derived from the Roman original.
Figure 13 - A modern reconstruction of Agrippa’s Orbis Terrarum, which like Schöner's map depicts a lateral landlocked waterway in Africa that is terminated at each end by large lakes (highlighted in red).