The Tabula Peutingeriana: Recent Approaches and New Results

The Tabula Peutingeriana: Recent Approaches and New Results

DFG-Projekt „Commentary on the Tabula Peutineriana“, Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt
Vom - Bis
19.09.2019 - 21.09.2019
Url der Konferenzwebsite
Silke Diederich, Institut für Altertumskunde, Universität zu Köln

A range of high-class international experts from USA to Russia met in Vienna in the rooms of the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, the very institution where the Tabula Peutingeriana (TP) is stored. One of the highlights, accordingly, was a display of the impressive original. The very instructive and inspiring talks given by senior as well as by early-career researchers were discussed in a warm and positive atmosphere and provided many new results.1

The thirteen papers were organised into six panels, chaired by distinguished experts in the history of cartography. One focus laid on the entries of the still little researched eastern and liminal parts of the map, their chronology and ideological backgrounds, another on the map’s transmission and its medieval afterlife.

After a welcoming speech by MONIKA KIEGLER-GRIENSTEIDL (Vienna), vice director of the collection of manuscripts and old printed editions at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, MICHAEL RATHMANN (Eichstätt) reinforced some of his stimulating hypotheses as a basis for further discussions. He regards the Tabula as a descendent of a Hellenistic prototype, stemming from a tradition of what Strabo and Ptolemaios would label as “chorographikoi pinaces”. As Italy is represented very extensively in the Tabula in comparison with Asia minor, Rathmann considerates the possibility that the mapmaker might have compilated two or even three different maps, one of Italy, one or two for Greece and Asia Minor, and for the east. He surmised a senatorial environment as the social background of the map’s origin and duly warned against pressing the TP too rashly into any rigid frame of interpretation such as labelling it as an “itinerarium pictum” or stemming it back to the Agrippa map.

The second panel was chaired by EKKEHARD WEBER (Vienna) who made a point of responding to Rathmann’s challenging statements: Weber rather wants to stem back the TP to Agrippa, arguing that no Hellenistic map could be imagined to give such a predominance to Italy and that the rudimental representation of Germany, which according to Rathmann represents the state of knowledge in the early Hellenistic era, in fact mirrored the lack of knowledge about this region in Agrippa’s time. He also doubted Rathmann‘s compilation theory.

Art historian EKATERINA ILYUSHECHKINA (Moscow) talked about the representation of rivers in the Tabula, exemplified at the two great continent dividers Tanais/Don and Nile. Examining their description in ancient literary sources, the symmetries in their depiction in the Tabula and the commentating notes attached to them in a form also common in medieval maps, she came to the conclusion that rivers on the Tabula, far from being mere ornaments, do have a semantic and rhetoric function that is completely consistent with their descriptions in ancient literature.

India in the Tabula Peutingeriana was the subject of RICHARD STONEMAN (Exeter). Analyzing the relevant map entries, he found out that the TP in this section mainly draws on pre-Ptolemaic sources sometimes better than Ptolemy himself. A focus of Stoneman’s investigation was on the island of Cryse in the eastern ocean as represented in the TP and in ancient and Arabic sources, which defers from the Christian concept of the earthly paradise in the farest east. He interprets the map’s several references to the conquests of Alexander as a foreshadow of the later legends that connect the Ports of Alexander with the apocalyptic tribes of Gog and Magog. Stoneman reached the conclusion that the Tabula was not designed as an itinerary for warfaring, but rather as a mirror of the Augustian dream of conquering the whole world while also showing the awareness that the world has an end.

MONIKA SCHUOL (Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt) imparted profound insights into the depiction of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa in the TP with its relations to the ancient written geographical texts. Comparing the Tabula furthermore with the medieval Hereford and Ebstorf maps, Schuol carved out important characteristical features of the TP, such as the lack of monstrous creatures and the overall ideological framework, which does not convey a theologically grounded symbolical and allegorical worldview like the medieval maps, but a geographical depiction of the inhabited world as described by classical authors.

The puzzling and often anachronistic ethnonyms in the Tabula were examined by SALVATORE LICCARDO (Vienna). One important result was that their letterings do not show any semantic differentiation by size or colour. As they are concentrated mainly in the non-Roman and marginal parts of the world, they fill and order the little known edges of the world by creating a dichotomy between Roman-ness and otherness. Playing with the associations they evoked in the minds of the Tabula’s ancient viewers, who were familiar with them from written sources, these inscriptions served as substitutes for the missing borderlines making the less known parts of the world more familiar by representing them as a domesticated space.

In Panel 3, RICHARD TALBERT (Chapel Hill) tracked down an astonishing and most disconcerning amount of copyists’ errors and random “corrections” committed by the humanists and the modern editors of the Tabula, in spite of all their diligence, a discovery that urgently warns against having too much confidence in their readings and, even less, in the accuracy of the antique and medieval copyists.

The issue of why the Tabula’s reception in the middle ages had been so scarce was raised by art historian MARCIA KUPFER (Washington DC). Her explanation was that the TP not only failed to meet the public’s expectations of a synoptic view on the world, perceptible all at once in the format of a brevis tabella, but also failed to position the earth in an overall cosmological framework and to give the world a pervasive structure, preferably in geometric patterns easy to memorise, as the bulk of the more successful medieval circular or rectangular map types did. The copy of the Tabula, which was nevertheless drawn around 1200, can be understood as an experimental play with the scroll as a media, which became a fashion about this time.

Panel 4 focused on the Balkans and Asia Minor. Examining the road net of Dacia Ripensis, IVAN GARGANO (Lille) found out that this route framework is closely connected with the requirements of military defence. The administrative situation displayed here resonates the time up to 283 or perhaps 272 AD. On the other hand, the exemplary examination of two famous river crossings, Constantine’s Bridge and Dierna/Dobreta fits into a time slot from 328-367 AD only. Gargano’s conclusion is that what is represented on the TP is an antiquarian, anachronistic and idealised picture of a Roman road net in its topmost state.

ANDREAS KÜLZER (Vienna) gave an account of Asia Minor as depicted in segment 8 of the Tabula, which he, like Rathmann, regards as a Hellenistic world map copied and redesigned repeatedly until the 5th century. He, too, focused on the road system, subject as it was to political, military, economical and geophysical changes. Discussing a substantial number of road stations, he arrived at similar results as Gargano for Dacia: that the Tabula displays, with some exceptions, a reasonably true representation of the ancient road net, though by no means a chronologically consistent one.

Cappadocia on the Tabula, particularly the roads radiating from Tyana, were the topic of JACOPO TURCHETTO (Padova). In order to reconstruct the perilous routes between inaccessible mountain ranges where the archaeological and historical evidence for verifying the map entries are lacking, he resorts to a digital least cost path analysis. As a special treat, Turchetto presented a fascinating new smartphone augmented reality application that allows to integrate pictures, texts and even videos into a digital representation of the Tabula.

MUSTAFA SAYAR (Istanbul) took his audience on a journey along the roads of Cilicia, well established from the 2nd century onwards. He shared some of the prolific up-to-date historical and archaeological information gathered in 20 years of research that proves the entries of the road stations in the TP to be with some exceptions correct as far as the coastal roads are concerned, but much less so for the hinterland connections.

In Panel 5, EVGENY VIKTOROWICH VDOVCHENKOV (Rostov) examined the tribal names in the northern Black Sea region and the north Caucasus. His analyses led him to date this part of the map around the 2nd century AD, reasoning e.g. from the presence of tribes like the Alans, Sarmati vagi, Rocolani and Don Maeotians on the one hand and the absence of Aorsi/Amaxobii and Goths on the other hand.

ALEXANDER PODOSSINOV (Moscow) compared Northern Asia in the Tabula with its description in the ancient geographic sources, the area north of Mons Taurus, which in the TP is erroneously depicted as one coherent mountain range reaching from Cilicia to the Eastern Ocean, echoing Dikaiarch’s and Eratosthenes’ diaphragma. In the Tabula this vast space is filled with mostly misplaced rivers and numerous ethnonyms, especially of Scythian tribes, dating from the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. It also features two altars of Alexander the Great, the sources of which Podossinov traces back to Plutarch’s Vita Alexandri. Overall, the data given in the TP blends the Hellenistic state of knowledge with more recent discoveries from Roman times in a mix of reality and fiction. The ideological massage conveyed here, again, is in line with the Augustan propaganda of an imperium sine fine.

JOHANNES ENGELS (Köln) thoroughly compared the Caucasian region as depicted in the Tabula Peutingeriana with its description in the ancient written sources, especially Ptolemy, who left only scarce traces in the TP, possibly much less than his sources, the pinakes akribesteroi. As mythological geography, except for the Amazones, is lacking (or superseded by hints to the Alexander legend), Engels finds the TP widely in accordance with the classical tradition of Herodotus, with little or no influence by Eratosthenes and later learned sources or by the exploits of Roman military expeditions. An exception are the roads and stations that clearly reflect a post-Hellenistic state. Due to the scarceness of settlements in this region, more space is given for sketchy and largely incorrect mountain symbols, whose varying colours and patterns do not seem to have any semantic function, with Hiberia and Albania positioned south of the Taurus, which might have been confounded with the Caucasus, a mistake Engels dates back to a rather early period.

In the concluding panel, SILKE DIEDERICH (Köln) gave a short summary of the topics and main results presented at this conference which is planned to be continued with focus on the Tabula’s place in the history of ancient and medieval cartography.

Conference overview:

Panel 1: Opening and welcome

Monika Kiegler-Griensteidl (vice director of the collection of manuscripts and old printed editions at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna): Address of welcome

Michael Rathmann (Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt): Address of Welcome

Panel 2: The Representation of the Ancient World in the Tabula Peutingeriana

Chair: Ekkehard Weber (Universität Wien)

Ekaterina Ilyushechkina (Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Moscow): Zur Repräsentation von Flüssen auf der Tabula Peutingeriana: Eine graphische Abbildung von literarischen Angaben?

Richard Stoneman (University of Exeter): India in the Tabula Peutingeriana

Monika Schuol (Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt): Das Horn von Afrika auf der Tabula Peutingeriana im kartographiegeschichtlichen Kontext

Salvatore Liccardo (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna): Geography of Otherness – Ethnonyms and non-Roman Spaces in the Tabula Peutingeriana

Panel 3: The Copying Process of the Tabula Peutingeriana: The Mapmaker and his Model

Chair: Anne Kolb (Universität Zürich)

Richard Talbert (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill): Copyists’ Engagement with the Peutinger Map

Marcia Kupfer (Washington DC): The Limited Reception of the Peutinger Map

Presentation and status report of the new online commentary on the Tabula Peutingeriana

_Panel 4: The Balkans and Asia Minor

Chair: Ingrid Baumgärtner (Universität Kassel)

Ivan Gargano (Université de Lille): Topography, Settlements and Roads of Dacia Ripensis. A Comparison between the Tabula Peutingeriana and Other Sources

Andreas Külzer (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna): Kleinasien in der Tabula Peutingeriana: reale und fiktionale Kommunikationswege zwischen Ephesos und Ankara

Jacopo Turchetto (Università degli Studi di Padova): Cappadocia and the Peutinger Map. Routes, Landscape and a Hint of Augmented Reality

Mustafa H. Sayar (İstanbul Üniversitesi): Städte und Straßen Kilikiens auf der Tabula Peutingeriana

Panel 5: The Edges of the World

Chair: Monika Schuol (Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt)

Evgeny Viktorowich Vdovchenkov (Rostov Regional Museum): The Northern Black Sea Region and the North Caucasus on the Peutinger Map: The Problem of Dating

Alexander V. Podossinov (Lomonosov Moscow State University): Northern Asia on the Tabula Peutingeriana: Some Observations on the Ancient Concepts of this Territory

Johannes Engels (Universität zu Köln): Die Visualisierung der kaukasischen Gebiete auf der Tabula Peutingeriana (mit Vergleichen zu Ptolemaios, Geographike Hyphegesis 8,18,1-8,19,14 = Asien 2. und 3. Karte)

_Panel 6: Closing

Silke Diederich (Universität zu Köln): Concluding remarks

Final discussion

1 The results and contributions will be published in the periodical Orbis Terrarum.