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NYRB: "How the Greeks Got There" -- Exhibit “Measuring and Mapping Space: Geographic Knowledge in Greco-Roman Antiquity” (NYU Institute for the Study of the Ancient World)


A folio from a fifteenth-century Latin translation of Ptolemy's Geography


From the article:


"Around 450 BC, Hanno, the King of Carthage, led a fleet of sixty ships on a colonizing expedition down the west coast of Africa. Along the way he kept a log, recording the locations of the colonies he founded and the sights he saw: a race of men called the Troglodytae, said to run faster than horses; “a country burning with fire and perfume;” a towering volcano called the Chariot of the Gods. This type of log was called a periplus, an ancient wayfinding document that listed the ports of call and natural landmarks navigators could expect to find when sailing from one location to another. According to the exhibit “Measuring and Mapping Space: Geographic Knowledge in Greco-Roman Antiquity,” these texts, which often incorporated literary description and even myth (many, for instance, have debated the veracity of Hanno’s periplus), were among the preferred means of navigating for ancient mariners.


'Measuring and Mapping Space,' at NYU’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World through January, aims to explain how Greeks and Romans thought of the world around them, and how these beliefs were in turn represented in maps, globes, and even coins and pottery. Unfortunately, though a number of ancient geographical treatises still exist today, almost no actual maps have survived. But the show’s curator, Roberta Casagrande-Kim, has dealt with this brilliantly. By displaying, among much else, a striking collection of illustrated Renaissance manuscripts on geography and cosmology—themselves reconstructions of the work of classical geographers like Ptolemy—the exhibition manages at once to suggest not just what ancient maps may have looked like, but how ancient geography influenced modern notions of topography and geography."

Man, I'd like to see this one ...

Source: http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/gallery/2013/dec/04/ancient-maps-how-greeks-got-there