Ancient Roman road map linking Spain to India unveiled (Re-issue)

November 29th, 2007 - 2:06 pm ICT by admin  

London, Washington, Nov 29: An ancient map which shows the network of main Roman roads from Spain to India has been unveiled at the Austrian National Library.
This document is the only surviving copy of a road map from the late Roman Empire, and is normally never shown to the public.
Known as the Tabula Peutingeriana, this parchment scroll is almost seven meters long, is extremely fragile, and reacts badly to daylight.
It has been estimated that the map probably dates from the late 12th or the early 13th century and was made in Southern Germany or Austria.
At the centre of the Tabula Peutingeriana is Rome. The city, represented by a crowned figure on a throne, has numerous roads leading to and from the metropolis. Some, such as the Via Appia and the Via Aurelia, still exist today.
The features of this map are different from other maps of the same time.
For example, both the landmass and the seas have been stretched and flattened. The Mediterranean has been reduced to a thin strip of water, more like a river than a sea.
Another unique feature is that instead of being oriented from north to south, the map, which is only 34 centimetres wide, works from west to east.
But despite its unfamiliar appearance, Andreas Fingernagel, the director of the Department of Manuscripts, Autographs and Closed Collections at the Austrian National Library, says that it is an intensely practical document, more like a plan of the London Underground than a map.
“The red lines are the main roads. Every so often there is a little hook along the red lines which represents a rest stop - and the distance between hooks was one day’s travel,” BBC quoted Fingernagel as saying. “Every so often there is a pictogram of a building to show you that there was a hotel or a spa where you could stay,” he added.
Some of the buildings have large courtyards - a sign of more luxurious accommodation.
“It was meant for the civil servants of the late Roman Empire, for couriers and travellers,” said Fingernagel.
But Fingernagel says it is very different from other medieval maps and is clearly a copy of a much earlier document, dating back to the 5th century.
“In maps from the 12th or 13th century, Jerusalem, not Rome, was in the centre,” said Fingernagel. “The interests of map makers in the Middle Ages were quite different. They don’t show roads or rest stations, instead they show the holy places of Christianity,” he added.
The map contains other details which indicate the original probably dates back to the 5th century, including the city of Aquileia, which was destroyed in 452 by the Huns.
“It’s unique,” said Fingernagel. “It’s the only map of the ancient world - although it’s a copy - that gives us an impression of how things used to be,” he added. (ANI)

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