Peutinger Map Lecture Notes: Tabula Peutingeriana
Codex 324, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Hofburg, Vienna.
Named after a man who inherited it in a collection of library materials from Konrad Bickel who died in 1508.
Unclear how or where Bickel got it.
The physical map is from the 12th or 13th century but is most definitely a copy of a much earlier map as it is stylistically different from medieval maps. The original was likely drawn after 328 AD due to various city names mentioned (notably Constantinople, which didn’t exist until after 328.) It was drawn before ca. 400 AD for other datable reasons.
Therefore it was likely drawn in the second half of the 4th c. AD. The mapmaker is clearly using older sources as well… going back to the early 1st century AD.
It is likely more or less modeled on a map made by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (64-12 BC). [See picture of the Pantheon in Rome, below…]
After Agrippa’s death, his map was carved into marble and set up in the Porticus Vipsaniae, not far from the Altar of Peace [Ara Pacis] in Rome, along the Via Flaminia.
This large carved map is referred to by Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD). It was further updated as Rome conquered various lands.
- The map shows the entire Roman empire, the Near East, and India as far as the Ganges and Sri Lanka. Even China is mentioned. No less than 555 cities and 3,500 other place names are shown, often illustrated with small pictures. A town usually consists of two houses, and great cities (Rome, Constantinople, Antioch) receive a medallion. Lighthouses and sanctuaries (e.g., Saint Peter's church near Rome) are also indicated, although not all of them. The distances mentioned on the Peutinger map -usually in miles, but sometimes in Gallic league or Persian parasangae- are more or less correct.
The Peutinger Map is Roughly 1’ X 20’+
PeutingerMapLabels-7.6MB.jpg – Here is a link to a high resolution version of the map.
It is mostly 1st century information, 13th century reconstruction of 4th century map with additions made up to 16th century. This is a cleaned up reconstruction. See next image at end of this “essay” for photo of actual map section. Originally in scroll format.
This web site has some interesting observations on the section of the map near Jerusalem: RomanRoads.html - Peutinger
Roman miles are approximately 1.5 km per mile.
Interesting Classical Geographical References
These make it attractive to think that Peutinger’s Map was in some indirect way based on Agrippa’s Map. This thought is largely speculation though.
-Caesar (in Gallic Wars) describes Britain…
“The island is triangular in its form, and one of its sides is opposite to Gaul [France]. One angle of this side, which is in Kent, whither almost all ships from Gaul are directed, [looks] to the east; the lower looks to the south. This side extends about 500 miles. Another side lies toward Spain and the west, on which part is Ireland, less, as is reckoned, than Britain…”
This is the description that got me interested in this map.
[P. CORNELI TACITI AGRICOLA: 10]
10) The geography and inhabitants of Britain, already described by so many writers, I will speak of, not that my research and ability may be compared with theirs, but because the country was then for the first time thoroughly subdued. And so matters, which as being still not accurately known my predecessors embellished with their eloquence, shall now be related on the evidence of facts. Britain, the largest of the islands which Roman geography includes, is so situated that it faces Germany on the east, Spain on the west; on the south it is even within sight of Gaul; its northern extremities, which have no shores opposite to them, are beaten by the waves of a vast open sea. The form of the entire country has been compared by Livy and Fabius Rusticus, the most graphic among ancient and modern historians, to an oblong shield or battle-axe. And this no doubt is its shape without Caledonia, so that it has become the popular description of the whole island. There is, however, a large and irregular tract of land which juts out from its furthest shores, tapering off in a wedge-like form. Round these coasts of remotest ocean the Roman fleet then for the first time sailed, ascertained that Britain is an island, and simultaneously discovered and conquered what are called the Orcades, islands hitherto unknown. Thule too was descried in the distance, which as yet had been hidden by the snows of winter. Those waters, they say, are sluggish, and yield with difficulty to the oar, and are not even raised by the wind as other seas. The reason, I suppose, is that lands and mountains, which are the cause and origin of storms, are here comparatively rare, and also that the vast depths of that unbroken expanse are more slowly set in motion.
-Cassius Dio's History of Rome (ca. 164-ca. 229+ A.D.)
“This country [Britannia] is 450 stades [60 miles] distant, by the shortest way, from the Belgic mainland, where the Morini dwell, and extends alongside the rest of Gaul and nearly all of Spain, reaching out into the sea." (Dio Ιστορια XXXIX.l.2)
- Pliny the Elder, written ca. 70s AD. in his Naturalis Historia -Liber IV
 Ex adverso huius situs Britannia insula, clara Graecis nostrisque monimentis, inter septentrionem et occidentem iacet, Germaniae, Galliae, Hispaniae, multo maximis Europae partibus, magno intervallo adversa. Albion ipsi nomen fuit, cum Britanniae vocarentur omnes de quibus mox paulo dicemus. haec abest a Gesoriaco Morinorum gentis litore proximo traiectu L. circuitu patere |XXXXVIII|:LXXV Pytheas et Isidorus tradunt, XXX prope iam annis notitiam eius Romanis armis non ultra vicinitatem silvae Calidoniae propagantibus. Agrippa longitudinem DCCC esse, latitudinem CCC credit, eandem Hiberniae, sed longitudinem CC minorem.
Opposite to this region [the Rhine delta] lies the island of Britannia , famous in the Greek records and in our own; it lies to the north-west, facing, across a wide channel, Germania ,Gallia and Hispania ,1countries which constitute by far the greater part of Europe. It was itself named Albion , while all the islands about which we shall soon briefly speak were called the Britanniae . Its distance from Gesoriacum on the coast of the Morini tribe by the shortest passage is 50 miles. 2Its circumference is reported by Pytheas and Isidorus to measure 4,875 miles; 3nearly thirty years ago, its exploration was carried by the armed forces of Rome to a point not beyond the neighborhood of the Silvae Caledoniae .4Agrippa believes the length of the island to be 800 miles and its breadth 300, and the breadth of Hibernia the same but its length 200 miles less. 5
1Germany, France and Spain respectively.
2Gesoriacum of the Morini is now the busy French port of Boulogne; the distance reported is clearly exaggerated, showing that Pliny had no first-hand experience of the area and was using an older, inaccurate reference source.
3This is equivalent to 4,480 English miles or 7,215 kilometers. All distances are of course given in Roman miles, and can be converted into the modern English equivalent by multiplying by 0.919. To convert into kilometers multiply by 1.48.
4The 'Forest of Caledonia' here mentioned, probably means the Grampian Foothills in the Central region of Scotland.
5Hibernia or Ireland, therefore, was thought to measure 276 by 184 English miles (444 by 296 kilometers).
Hibernia lies beyond Britannia, the shortest crossing being from the lands of the Silures, a distance of 30 miles. 1Of those remaining (islands) none has a circumference exceeding 125 miles, so it has been said. Indeed, there are 40 Orcades [Orkneys] separated narrowly from one another, 7 Acmodae [Shetlands], 30 Hebudes [Hebrides], and between Hibernia and Britannia (the islands of) Mona [Anglesey], Monapia [Man], Riginia [Racklin], Vectis [White-horn], Silumnus [Dalkey] and Andros [Bardsey]; beneath (Britain) are Sambis [Sian] and Axanthos [Ushant], and in the oppposite direction, sprinkled in the Mare Germanicum [North Sea], are the Glaesariae [Glass Islands], called by the Greeks in recent times the Electrides, from the amber 2which is produced there.
1The crossing to Ireland was actually made from the lands of the Demetae who inhabited Dyfed in south-west Wales, whereas the Silures tribe lived in the mountains of Glamorgan and Gwent in south-east Wales.
2The Greek word for amber is electrum .
The most remote of all those recorded is Thule ,1in which as we have pointed out there are no nights at midsummer when the sun is passing through the sign of the Crab, and on the other hand no days at midwinter; indeed some writers think this is the case for periods of six months at a time without a break. The historian Timaeus [of Taormina, ca.350- ca.260 B.C.] says there is an island named Mictis 2lying inward six days' sail from Britain where tin is found, and to which the Britons cross in boats of osier covered with stitched hides. Some writers speak of other islands as well, the Scandiae, Dumna, Bergos, 3and Berrice, 4the largest of them all, from which the crossing to Thule starts. One day's sail from Thule is the frozen ocean, called by some the Mare Cronium [Chronian Sea].
1 Probably Iceland, judging from the following description.
2Very likely St. Michael's Mount, a small island off Marazion in Cornwall.
4Possibly the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.
Inside of the Pantheon, looking up.
New web information and comparison.
Some new material has appeared since I wrote this page.
Talbert, Richard J. A. . Rome's World: The Peutinger Map Reconsidered. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Here is a link to a preview on Amazon: preview.
Prontera, Francesco, ed. Tabula Peutingeriana: Le Antiche Vie Del Mondo. Biblioteca di geographia antiqua (Vol. 3). Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 2003. Here is an advertisement for the book: http://www.olschki.it/Plus/htm/2003/52691/52691.htm - TOP. There are no copies readily available in the area unless you ILL it.
Here are some of the Peuterger data on a modern map: http://www.omnesviae.org/
Here is another viewer of the map: http://www.cambridge.org/us/talbert/mapa.html or here is a direct link to the viewer around Rome: http://peutinger.atlantides.org/map-a/ and a collection of plates: http://www.cambridge.org/us/talbert/plates.html