The GEOGRAPHY (Greek : Γεωγραφικὴ Ὑφήγησις,
Geōgraphikḕ Hyphḗgēsis, lit. "Geographical Guidance"), also
known by its
Latin names as the GEOGRAPHIA and the COSMOGRAPHIA, is a
gazetteer , an atlas , and a treatise on cartography , compiling the
geographical knowledge of the 2nd-century
Roman Empire . Originally
Claudius Ptolemy in Greek at
Alexandria around AD 150, the
work was a revision of a now-lost atlas by
Marinus of Tyre using
additional Roman and Persian gazetteers and new principles. Its
translation into Arabic in the 9th century and
Latin in 1406 was
highly influential on the geographical knowledge and cartographic
traditions of the medieval
* 1 Manuscripts
* 2 Contents
* 2.1 Cartographical treatise
* 2.3 Atlas
* 3 History
* 3.1 Antiquity
* 3.5 Early modern
* 4 Longitudes error and
* 5 Gallery
* 6 See also
* 7 Notes
* 8 Citations
* 9 References
* 10 Further reading
* 11 External links
* 11.1 Primary sources
* 11.2 Secondary material
The world map from Codex Vaticanus Urbinas Graecus 82, done
according to Ptolemy's 1st projection The world map from Codex
Seragliensis 57, done according to Ptolemy's 2nd projection
Versions of Ptolemy's work in antiquity were probably proper atlases
with attached maps, although some scholars believe that the references
to maps in the text were later additions.
No Greek manuscript of the Geography survives from earlier than the
13th century. A letter written by the Byzantine monk Maximus Planudes
records that he searched for one for
Chora Monastery in the summer of
1295; one of the earliest surviving texts may have been one of those
he then assembled. In Europe, maps were sometimes made redrawn using
the coordinates provided by the text, as Planudes was forced to do.
Later scribes and publishers could then copy these new maps, as
Athanasius did for the emperor
Andronicus II Palaeologus . The three
earliest surviving texts with maps are those from Constantinople
Istanbul ) based on Planudes's work.
Latin translation of these texts was made in 1406 or 1407
Jacobus Angelus in Florence ,
Italy , under the name Geographia
Claudii Ptolemaei. It is not thought that his edition had maps,
Manuel Chrysoloras had given
Palla Strozzi a Greek copy of
Planudes's maps in Florence in 1397.
The Geography consists of three sections, divided among 8 books. Book
I is a treatise on cartography , describing the methods used to
assemble and arrange Ptolemy's data. From Book II through the
beginning of Book VII, a gazetteer provides longitude and latitude
values for the world known to the ancient Romans (the "ecumene "). The
rest of Book VII provides details on three projections to be used for
the construction of a map of the world, varying in complexity and
fidelity. Book VIII constitutes an atlas of regional maps. The maps
include a recapitulation of some of the values given earlier in the
work, which were intended to be used as captions to clarify the map's
contents and maintain their accuracy during copying.
Maps based on scientific principles had been made in Europe since the
Eratosthenes in the 3rd century BC. Ptolemy improved the
treatment of map projections . He provided instructions on how to
create his maps in the first section of the work.
The gazetteer section of Ptolemy's work provided latitude and
longitude coordinates for all the places and geographical features in
Latitude was measured from the equator in
expressed in terms of hours rather than in degrees of arc : the
equator was set at 12 hours of midsummer daylight, while the Arctic
was thought to have 24. His
Prime Meridian ran through the Fortunate
Isles , the westernmost land recorded, at around the position of El
Hierro in the
Canary Islands . The maps spanned 180 degrees of
longitude from the
Fortunate Isles in the Atlantic to
Ptolemy was aware that Europe knew only about a quarter of the globe.
Ptolemy's work included a single large and less detailed world map
and then separate and more detailed regional maps. The first Greek
manuscripts compiled after
Maximus Planudes 's rediscovery of the text
had as many as 64 regional maps. The standard set in Western Europe
came to be 26: 10 European maps, 4 African maps, and 12 Asian maps. As
early as the 1420s, these canonical maps were complemented by
extra-Ptolemaic regional maps depicting, e.g.,
Ptolemy world map
Ptolemy world map , including the countries of "
Serica " and
Cattigara ) at the extreme right beyond the island of
Sri Lanka ) and the "Aurea Chersonesus" (Malay peninsula
1st Map of Europe
The islands of Albion ">
2nd Map of Europe
Hispania Tarraconensis ,
Baetica , ">
3rd Map of Europe
Gallia Lugdunensis ,
Narbonensis , ">
4th Map of Europe
Greater Germany ">
5th Map of Europe
Liburnia , ">
6th Map of Europe
7th Map of Europe
The islands of Sardinia ">
8th Map of Europe
Sarmatia in Europe
9th Map of Europe
Moesia , ">
10th Map of Europe
Achaea , the
Peloponnesus , ">
1st Map of Africa
2nd Map of Africa
3rd Map of Africa
Marmarica , Libya , Lower Egypt , ">
4th Map of Africa
North , West , East , and Central
1st Map of Asia
Bithynia & Pontus , Asia ,
Pamphylia , Galatia , Cappadocia ,
Cilicia , ">
2nd Map of Asia
3rd Map of Asia
Colchis , Iberia , Albania , ">
4th Map of Asia
Cyprus , Syria , Palestine /Judea ,
Arabia Petrea & Deserta ,
Mesopotamia , ">
5th Map of Asia
Susiana , Media , Persia ,
Parthia , and
6th Map of Asia
Arabia Felix ">
7th Map of Asia
Scythia within Imaus ,
Margiana , ">
8th Map of Asia
Scythia beyond Imaus ">
9th Map of Asia
Arachosia , ">
10th Map of Asia
India within the Ganges
11th Map of Asia
India beyond the Ganges , the
Golden Chersonese , the
Magnus Sinus ,
12th Map of Asia
The original treatise by
Marinus of Tyre that formed the basis of
Ptolemy's Geography has been completely lost. A world map based on
Ptolemy was displayed in
France ) in late Roman
times. Pappus , writing at
Alexandria in the 4th century, produced a
commentary on Ptolemy's Geography and used it as the basis of his (now
lost) Chorography of the Ecumene. Later imperial writers and
mathematicians, however, seem to have restricted themselves to
commenting on Ptolemy's text, rather than improving upon it; surviving
records actually show decreasing fidelity to real position.
Whereas previous Greco-Roman geographers such as
Strabo and Pliny the
Elder demonstrated a reluctance to rely on the contemporary accounts
of sailors and merchants who plied distant areas of the
Indian Ocean ,
Marinus and Ptolemy betray a much greater receptiveness to
incorporating information received from them. For instance, Grant
Parker argues that it would be highly implausible for them to have
Bay of Bengal as precisely as they did without the
accounts of sailors. When it comes to the account of the Golden
Malay Peninsula ) and the
Magnus Sinus (i.e. Gulf of
Thailand and South
China Sea ), Marinus and Ptolemy relied on the
testimony of a Greek sailor named Alexandros, who claimed to have
visited a far eastern site called "
Cattigara " (most likely
Oc Eo ,
Vietnam , the site of unearthed
Antonine -era Roman goods and not far
from the region of
Jiaozhi in northern
Vietnam where ancient Chinese
sources claim several Roman embassies first landed in the 2nd and 3rd
Geography and cartography in medieval Islam The Amir
of Bani Bu Ali tribe, the likely Bliulaie of Ptolemy's map.
Muslim cartographers were using copies of Ptolemy's
Geography by the 9th century. At that time, in the court of the
caliph al-Maʾmūm , al-Khwārazmī compiled his Book of the Depiction
Earth which mimicked the Geography in providing the
coordinates for 545 cities and regional maps of the Nile , the Island
of the Jewel , the Sea of Darkness, and the
Sea of Azov
Sea of Azov . A 1037 copy
of these are the earliest extant maps from Islamic lands. The text
clearly states that al-Khwārazmī was working from an earlier map,
although this could not have been an exact copy of Ptolemy's work: his
Prime Meridian was 10° east of Ptolemy's, he adds some places, and
his latitudes differ.
C.A. Nallino suggests that the work was not
based on Ptolemy but on a derivative world map, presumably in Syriac
or Arabic . The colored map of al-Maʾmūm constructed by a team
including al-Khwārazmī was described by the Persian encyclopædist
al-Masʿūdī around 956 as superior to the maps of Marinus and
Ptolemy, probably indicating that it was built along similar
mathematical principles. It included 4530 cities and over 200
Despite beginning to compile numerous gazetteers of places and
coördinates indebted to Ptolemy, Muslim scholars made almost no
direct use of Ptolemy's principles in the maps which have survived.
Instead, they followed al-Khwārazmī's modifications and the
orthogonal projection advocated by Suhrāb 's early 10th-century
treatise on the Marvels of the Seven Climes to the End of Habitation .
Surviving maps from the medieval period were not done according to
mathematical principles. The world map from the 11th-century Book of
Curiosities is the earliest surviving map of the Muslim or Christian
worlds to include a graticule but the cartographer seems to have not
understood its purpose, starting it from the left using twice the
intended scale and then (apparently realizing his mistake) giving up
halfway through. Its presence does strongly suggest the existence of
earlier, now-lost maps which had been mathematically derived in the
manner of Ptolemy, al-Khwārazmi, or Suhrāb. There are surviving
reports of such maps.
Waldseemüller map ,
Sino-Roman relations ,
Indo-Roman relations , Europeans in Medieval
China , and Chronology of
European exploration of Asia
Ptolemy's text reached
Constantinople in about 1400 and
was translated into
Jacobus Angelus of
Scarperia around 1406.
The first printed edition with maps, published in 1477 in
was also be the first printed book with engraved illustrations. Many
editions followed (more often using woodcut in the early days), some
following traditional versions of the maps, and others updating them.
An edition printed at
Ulm in 1482 was the first one printed north of
Alps . Also in 1482,
Francesco Berlinghieri printed the first
edition in vernacular Italian . Edition printed in
Ulm in 1482
Ptolemy had mapped the whole world from the Fortunatae Insulae (Cape
Canary Islands ) eastward to the eastern shore of the
Magnus Sinus. This known portion of the world was comprised within 180
degrees. In his extreme east Ptolemy placed
Serica (the Land of Silk),
the Sinarum Situs (the Port of the
Sinae ), and the emporium of
Cattigara . On the 1489 map of the world by Henricus Martellus, which
was based on Ptolemy’s work, Asia terminated in its southeastern
point in a cape, the Cape of Cattigara.
Cattigara was understood by
Ptolemy to be a port on the Sinus Magnus, or Great Gulf, the actual
Gulf of Thailand, at eight and a half degrees north of the Equator, on
the coast of Cambodia, which is where he located it in his Canon of
Famous Cities . It was the easternmost port reached by shipping
trading from the Graeco-Roman world to the lands of the Far East. In
Ptolemy’s later and more well-known Geography, a scribal error was
Cattigara was located at eight and a half degrees South of
the Equator. On Ptolemaic maps, such as that of Martellus, Catigara
was located on the easternmost shore of the Mare Indicum, 180 degrees
East of the
Cape St Vincent at, due to the scribal error, eight and a
half degrees South of the Equator.
Catigara is also shown at this location on Martin Waldseemüller’s
1507 world map, which avowedly followed the tradition of Ptolemy.
Ptolemy’s information was thereby misinterpreted so that the coast
of China, which should have been represented as part of the coast of
eastern Asia, was falsely made to represent an eastern shore of the
Indian Ocean. As a result, Ptolemy implied more land east of the 180th
meridian and an ocean beyond.
Marco Polo ’s account of his travels
in eastern Asia described lands and seaports on an eastern ocean
apparently unknown to Ptolemy. Marco Polo’s narrative authorized the
extensive additions to the Ptolemaic map shown on the 1492 globe of
Martin Behaim . The fact that Ptolemy did not represent an eastern
coast of Asia made it admissible for Behaim to extend that continent
far to the east. Behaim’s globe placed Marco Polo’s Mangi and
Cathay east of Ptolemy’s 180th meridian, and the Great Khan’s
capital, Cambaluc (
Beijing ), on the 41st parallel of latitude at
approximately 233 degrees East. Behaim allowed 60 degrees beyond
Ptolemy’s 180 degrees for the mainland of Asia and 30 degrees more
to the east coast of
Cipangu and the mainland of Asia
were thus placed only 90 and 120 degrees, respectively, west of the
The Codex Seragliensis was used as the base of a new edition of the
work in 2006. This new edition was used to "decode" Ptolemy's
coordinates of Books 2 and 3 by an interdisciplinary team of TU Berlin
, presented in publications in 2010 and 2012.
Relevant research on Ptolemy's Geography manuscripts and printed
editions, concerning the Geography versions coordinates, has been
carried out since 1998 by members of the cartography group, school of
surveying engineering, at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
See, e.g. selective papers in the web journal "e-Perimetron"
Christopher Columbus modified this geography further by using 53⅔
Italian nautical miles as the length of a degree instead of the longer
degree of Ptolemy, and by adopting
Marinus of Tyre ’s longitude of
225 degrees for the east coast of the
Magnus Sinus . This resulted in
a considerable eastward advancement of the longitudes given by Martin
Behaim and other contemporaries of Columbus. By some process Columbus
reasoned that the longitudes of eastern Asia and
were about 270 and 300 degrees east, or 90 and 60 degrees west of the
Canary Islands . He said that he had sailed 1100 leagues from the
Canaries when he found
Cuba in 1492. This was approximately where he
thought the coast of eastern Asia would be found. On this basis of
calculation he identified
Hispaniola with Cipangu, which he had
expected to find on the outward voyage at a distance of about 700
leagues from the Canaries. His later voyages resulted in further
Cuba and in the discovery of South and Central America
. At first South America, the Mundus Novus (
New World ) was considered
to be a great island of continental proportions; but as a result of
his fourth voyage , it was apparently considered to be identical with
the great Upper India peninsula (
India Superior ) represented by
Behaim—the Cape of Cattigara. This seems to be the best
interpretation of the sketch map made by Alessandro Zorzi on the
Bartholomew Columbus (Christopher’s brother) around 1506,
which bears an inscription saying that according to the ancient
Marinus of Tyre and
Christopher Columbus the distance from
Cape St Vincent on the coast of Portugal to
Cattigara on the peninsula
India Superior was 225 degrees, while according to Ptolemy the same
distance was 180 degrees.
EARLY MODERN OTTOMAN EMPIRE
Prior to the 16th century knowledge of geography in the Ottoman
Empire was limited in scope, with almost no access to the works of
earlier Islamic scholars that superseded Ptolemy. His Geography would
again be translated and updated with commentary into Arabic under
Mehmed II , who commissioned works from Byzantine scholar George
Amiroutzes in 1465 and the Florentine humanist Francesco Berlinghieri
LONGITUDES ERROR AND EARTH SIZE
Lucio Russo points out two apparently distinct
* considering a sample of 80 cities amongst the 6345 listed by
Ptolemy, those that are both identifiable and for which we can expect
a better distance measurement since they were well known, there is a
systematic overestimation of the longitude by a factor 1.428 with a
high confidence (coefficient of determination r² = 0.9935). This
error produces an evident deformations in Ptolemy's world map most
apparent for exampled in the profile of
Italy , which is markedly
* Ptolemy accepted that the known
Ecumene spanned 180° of
longitude, but instead of accepting
Eratosthenes estimate for the
circumference of the
Earth of 252,000 stadia, he shrinks it to 180,000
stadia, with a factor of 1.4 between the two figures.
Ptolemy took as location for the longitude 0° the Fortunate Isles
which at his times were identified with the
Canary Islands . The
strange coincidence of the two aforementioned errors may be accounted
for if one assumes that this identification was wrong and that at the
time of Ptolemy's sources the
Fortunate Isles where actually the
Antilles . Since Ptolemy could estimate the actual distance to
the Canaries, Russo proposes that he purposely shrank the
Earth to accommodate his data and his wrong
identification of the Fortunate Isles. This suggests or even proves
that the American continent was known in
Classical Antiquity .
Codex Seragliensis GI 57, fol. 33v
Scandinavia in the
Zamoyski Codex (c. 1467)
1535 printed edition, title page
19th-century print in Greek (3 volumes)
Prima Europe tabula One of the earliest surviving copies of Ptolemy's
2nd century map of the British Isles. 2nd edition, 1482.
* Atlas portal
Almagest , Ptolemy's astronomical work
Geography and cartography in medieval Islam
* ^ They are the Urbanas Graecus 82 , the Fragmentum Fabricianum
Graecum 23 , and the Seragliensis 57 The Urbanas Graecus is usually
considered the oldest, although some argue for the precedence of the
* ^ For example, the illustrations for Burney MS 111, most of
which were inserted into an earlier copy of the Geography during the
early 15th century.
* ^ Berggren (2001) .
* ^ Dilke (1987b) , pp. 267–268.
* ^ A B C Dilke (1987b) , p. 268.
* ^ Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana . Vat. Gr. 177. Late 13th
* ^ Milanesi (1996) .
* ^ Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana . Urbinas Graecus 82. Late 13th
* ^ Universitetsbiblioteket . Fragmentum Fabricianum Graecum 23.
Late 13th century
* ^ The Sultan's Library in Istanbul. Codex Seragliensis GI 57.
Late 13th century
* ^ Dilke (1987b) , p. 269.
* ^ Diller (1940) .
* ^ A B Stückelberger (2006) .
* ^ A B Angelus (c. 1406) .
* ^ Clemens (2008) , p. 244.
* ^ Wright (1923) .
* ^ Images from Burney MS 111 at Wikicommons.
* ^ A B Dilke (1987a) , p. 234.
* ^ A B Parker (2008) , p. 118.
* ^ Young (2001) , p. 29.
* ^ Mawer (2013) , p. 38.
* ^ Suárez (1999) , p. 90-92.
* ^ Yule (1915) , p. 52.
* ^ A B Edson (2004) , pp. 61–62.
* ^ A B C D Rapoport (2008) , p. 128.
* ^ A B Rapoport (2008) , p. 127.
* ^ Nallino (1939) .
* ^ al-Masʿūdī , 33.
* ^ Rapoport (2008) , p. 130.
* ^ A B Rapoport (2008) , p. 129.
* ^ Rapoport (2008) , p. 126–127.
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* ^ J.W. McCrindle, Ancient India as described by Ptolemy, London,
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to COSMOGRAPHIA .
* (in Greek) Claudii Ptolemaei Geographia, ed. Karl Friedrich August