How Was the Tabula Peutingeriana Made?

In the 500 years since the rediscovery of the only extant Roman chart of the world, no one has proved how it was made. I am treating that as a challenge.

There is now progress towards a solution to report. My working method is to revisualize the manuscript, the Tabula Peutingeriana, by laying its route network over a modern map of the world. This is impossible to do with the whole TP chart, but surprisingly this works quite well with some more localized regions.

If one increases the page height of the route network, one often finds a sweet spot where the layout of a whole swatch of cities fairly closely matches their pattern on a modern map. This correspondence between overlay and underlay rarely extends beyond discrete geographical areas, for example Greece or the Italian peninsula. After surveying about 60 per cent of the Tabula, I have so far found nine of these patches. This diagram of their locations around the Mediterranean Basin shows them:

At the time when I was discovering the first three or four by trial and error (previous post), I was still sceptical. I did not even bother to note the patches' exact angles of divergence from a north orientation, and I still remained concerned that the patches might later turn out to be nothing more than a chance alignment in the data.

But by the time I moved to analysing Anatolia it was clear that alignment was a rule that was a reliable predictor of where towns were going to be found on the TP.

These patches are in some way comparable to the wireless cells of a cellular phone system extending over a landscape. Unlike a territory, the edges of the cells are not distinct, and there are some places that are outside any cell. But within each cell, an objectively measurable value prevails uniformly.

The phenomenon can alternatively be visualized by showing bearings on a horizontally compressed copy of the Tabula Peutingeriana. In the following sketch, you can see how Provence (the leftmost region) is drawn with north at the upper right, whereas Gallia Comata (top left) has north at the upper left:

The cells are distinguished from their neighbours by an objectively measurable value: an angle of difference between lines of longitude (I have the latitude/longitude data for these places) and verticality between places on the TP (I have a database of the coordinates), as shown below.

We could attach a mathematical value to every place-label on the chart, group these and analyse them statistically to find more patterns.

This is still a work in progress, and I can only speculate about where this is leading to. But I have a suspicion. The maker of the Tabula Peutingeriana may have designed his diagram with the help of a collection of "chorographic" charts which depicted different regions with varying orientations.

A majority of scholars nowadays think that the world of antiquity had little familiarity with scale maps (despite Ptolemy of Alexandria having written a book, still extant, on how to make a map of the world). A cruder type of chart, the pinax chôrographikos, was adequate to explain locations visually, and even this visualization may not have come into use among educated people until late antiquity.

The only instances of an ancient Greek/Latin pinax chôrographikos we know at present are the mappaemundi (see my previous post), the controversial sketch on the "Artemidorus Papyrus" and the Dura Europos "shield". Each of these seems to have a different compass direction at top and it may be that a varying, ad hoc orientation is the hallmark of the pinax chôrographikos.

If this hypothesis turns out to be correct, it may be that we will be able reconstruct several more pinakes using the data in the Tabula Peutingeriana, which would mark a major advance in the study of early cartography.

You can see the graphic abstracts for eight of the TP cells on my website, as listed below. On each chart, press the "landmass-on" button to see how the layout compares to the geographical situation.
The seventh and last visualization unites two cells, Bithynia-Galatia on the left and Cappadocia-Euphrates on the right. I have not yet completed a visualization for Syria, although I pre-emptively marked this as a red cell in my drawing above.

Each of these revisualizations may give at least the layout of what might have been drawn on an early pinax.

The more immediate object of this research is however to focus on the creation of the TP, which might have taken place as follows:
  1. The compiler copied pinakes of all the regions of interest;
  2. Using texts, he copied travel itineraries onto the pinakes and connected the sheets without concern for the compass orientations.
  3. His final copy of this assemblage drastically reduced the height of the chart to the TP as we see it.
This is nothing more than a proposal, and it differs in some of its details from the best hypothesis being offered today, that of Professor Michael Rathmann of Germany, who also sees the TP as a chorographic map. But the idea would at least bear further study. Use the comments box below if you wish to respond.


Moerbeke Archimedes is Now Online

My friend Pieter Beullens discovered and made known that the Archimedes Codex of William of Moerbeke at the Vatican Library is online at last. Although this Latin book is one of their most historic digital publications, the coders at Digita Vaticana somehow botched the release, lodging the manuscript in the wrong area of the portal, where no one would ever look for it.

Only three witnesses in the original Greek of the works of Archimedes -- A, B, and C -- are known to have survived the Byzantine period.

C is the privately owned Archimedes Palimpsest (images) which is the famous subject of the book The Archimedes Codex by Reviel Netz and William Noel (2007).

B, not recorded since 1311. 

A was last seen in 1564, but was copied several times, foremost by Poliziano, whose apograph, imitating the writing and mise en page of the antigraph, is in Florence and online (ms. Plut.28.4)

William of Moerbeke, who was a Dominican, generally taken to be Flemish, used A and B to compile a Latin version of Archimedes in or about 1269. William is a giant in the medieval transmission of the classics (see Pieter Beullens' tweets for a feeling). In 1881, it was realized that codex Ott.lat.1850 at the Vatican is the draft/original/autograph of the Archimedes part of his work.

You can now page through Ott.lat.1850. I at first thought this was a 2018 digitization, but @LatinAristotle tells me he first spotted it in 2016.

The Moerbeke pages are bound together with two extraneous parts, one of them printed Latin text.When this posting went up, the URL was https://digi.vatlib.it/view/Ott.lat.1850, which wrongly places it among the incunables and in fact should attach to Cardinal Ottoboni's own copy of the Anthologia Graeca Planudea (ia00765000). I'll message the library on Monday, and if we are right I expect they will fix it.

Why is the Moerbeke codex historic? Firstly, it was the only witness of the text of Floating Bodies until the beginning of the 20th century and the discovery of C above. Secondly it is our only means of accessing B. Thirdly, it can guide us to what copyists of A may have overlooked. And fourthly, with Moerbeke's own marginal notes, it is itself a major artefact in the history of science.

Clagett, M. (1982). William of Moerbeke: Translator of Archimedes. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 126(5), 356-366. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/986212


Fake News in History

Is Roman history fake news? That idea is not new, it turns out. Back in the 16th century it was already being argued that the classical author Sallust was biased and prone to misreporting. Costanzo Felici (1525-1585), an Italian physician, naturalist and historian, took the charges so seriously that he revised Sallust's Historia de coniuratione Catilinae to "restore" the "neglected role" of Cicero.

Of course he overdid it. Anthony Grafton in the Rome Reborn catalog says "Cicero's role in suppressing Catiline, largely dismissed by Sallust himself, was magnified to superhuman proportions". There's presumably more of the story in a paywalled article, 'Constantius Felicius Durantinus and the Renaissance Origins of Anti-Sallustian Criticism' by Patricia Osmond (de Martino).

The dedication copy for Pope Leo X, Vat.lat.3745 has just been digitized by the Vatican Library. Of course it is wonderfully illuminated. Felici's career, but not this book, is summarized in the Treccani.

In all, 31 new manuscripts have been digitized over the past week at the library. The full list:
  1. Vat.lat.2295, Consilia by Baldus de Ubaldis the jurist
  2. Vat.lat.2298,
  3. Vat.lat.2304,
  4. Vat.lat.2452,
  5. Vat.lat.2462,
  6. Vat.lat.2578, Ioannis de Turrecremata (Cardinal Juan de Torquemada): Summa de Ecclesia. NOT: Quesivisti fili carissime de incantatione adiuratione... (15c). See eTK
  7. Vat.lat.2725,
  8. Vat.lat.2994,
  9. Vat.lat.3387,
  10. Vat.lat.3475,
  11. Vat.lat.3540,
  12. Vat.lat.3556,
  13. Vat.lat.3596,
  14. Vat.lat.3620,
  15. Vat.lat.3621,
  16. Vat.lat.3627 (Upgraded to HQ),
  17. Vat.lat.3630 (Upgraded to HQ),
  18. Vat.lat.3633,
  19. Vat.lat.3635,
  20. Vat.lat.3636,
  21. Vat.lat.3640,
  22. Vat.lat.3649,
  23. Vat.lat.3676,
  24. Vat.lat.3684, Exhortatio pro calendarii emendatione by Paul of Middelburg, a Dutch-born 15th century bishop eager for calendar reform. Incipit: Mirum tibi fortasse in debitum ... See eTK Anthony Grafton in Rome Reborn says the Hebrew quotes at the start are Paul detailing the arguments used by contemporary Jews to criticize Christians for observing Easter at the wrong time.
  25. Vat.lat.3686,
  26. Vat.lat.3695,
  27. Vat.lat.3696 (Upgraded to HQ),
  28. Vat.lat.3708,
  29. Vat.lat.3745 (Upgraded to HQ), revised Sallust, above
  30. Vat.lat.3789,
  31. Vat.lat.3798.pt.4,
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 171. Thanks to @gundormr for harvesting. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.


New Edition of the Tabula Peutingeriana

The Tabula Peutingeriana is a UNESCO Memory of the World treasure which is the nearest thing to a Roman road-map still in existence.  Today I have relaunched the Tabula Peutingeriana Animated Edition with some major improvements to help both scholars and the general public understand this priceless roll now kept in a Vienna vault.

The biggest improvement to my digital reproduction at piggin.net/ta.svg will be visible when you start hovering a cursor or holding a finger on the yellow boxes which mark the mutations. In many cases, the lines now move incrementally so that you can compare the before and after states.

I hope readers will begin to perceive the Tabula more sympathetically, realizing that is is damaged rather than hopelessly old and wrong. Despite its idiosyncrasies, there is a more rationality to it than meets the eye.

The animations were technically complex to build with SMIL coding, but I decided the effort was worth it, because it can sometimes be quite difficult to spot the differences when simply flipping between two static views. On a slow computer you may find it takes a while for each of the animations to kick off, so it is prudent to hover in and out a couple of times to make sure you have seen all the steps. In Microsoft's Edge and Explorer browsers they do not seem to work at all. Use another browser.

The second big improvement here is the addition of a new database of annotations to the 62 emendations so far. I have launched this in the form of a blog, Restoring the Tabula Peutingeriana, to make it as easy as possible for readers to comment directly on every note. There has never been any central forum for these issues and I would be very glad if scholars would come here if they need, on the fly, to discuss the cases.

Other improvements include an extension of the chart's colored and emended area to Asia Minor as far as Samsat and a new link policy whereby all my charts will have very short, easily noted URLs such as piggin.net/ta.svg to make it easier to cite them. ta stands for Tabula Animated.


Textual Errors in Old Bibles

Modern literary scholarship has its roots in the painstaking work of medieval clergy to eliminate mutations in the text of the Bible. The Vatican Library has just digitized one of the great monuments of this rich scholarly past, the Correctorium Vaticanum, Vat.lat.3466.

This 13th-century compilation is by a Franciscan, Guillelmus Lamarensis, born about 1230. He is believed to have been an Englishman, so he may well have gone by the name William Delamare (see CERL). His work is introduced in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible.

The corrector was expert in Greek and Hebrew and devoted himself to the hunt for instances where the 13th century text was did not correctly reproduce the fifth-century Latin Vulgate translation by Jerome of Stridon. Such a project may have consumed much of his lifetime.

Last week 69 new manuscripts became available. Here is the full list:
  1. Barb.gr.411,
  2. Borg.ind.33,
  3. P.I.O.5,
  4. Ross.11,
  5. Ross.15,
  6. Vat.gr.1249,
  7. Vat.lat.901, "Amabile est a melioribus persuaderi ...", author Jacobus de Alexandria. See eTK
  8. Vat.lat.1548 (Upgraded to HQ), "Annus solaris qui magnus sepe vocatur...", (12c); .author Manfred. See eTK
  9. Vat.lat.1912,
  10. Vat.lat.2928,
  11. Vat.lat.2952,
  12. Vat.lat.2955,
  13. Vat.lat.2956,
  14. Vat.lat.2961,
  15. Vat.lat.3040 (Upgraded to HQ),
  16. Vat.lat.3458,
  17. Vat.lat.3466, Correctorim Vaticanum, see above
  18. Vat.lat.3468.pt.1, the other half of Ramon Llull's Arbor Scientiae, see last week's post.
  19. Vat.lat.3478,
  20. Vat.lat.3503,
  21. Vat.lat.3509.pt.2,
  22. Vat.lat.3517,
  23. Vat.lat.3519,
  24. Vat.lat.3522.pt.1,
  25. Vat.lat.3522.pt.2,
  26. Vat.lat.3524.pt.2,
  27. Vat.lat.3525,
  28. Vat.lat.3527,
  29. Vat.lat.3535,
  30. Vat.lat.3538,
  31. Vat.lat.3546,
  32. Vat.lat.3547 (Upgraded to HQ),
  33. Vat.lat.3551 (Upgraded to HQ),
  34. Vat.lat.3562,
  35. Vat.lat.3566,
  36. Vat.lat.3568 (Upgraded to HQ),
  37. Vat.lat.3577,
  38. Vat.lat.3578,
  39. Vat.lat.3579,
  40. Vat.lat.3582,
  41. Vat.lat.3583,
  42. Vat.lat.3593,
  43. Vat.lat.3598,
  44. Vat.lat.3600,
  45. Vat.lat.3606,
  46. Vat.lat.3610,
  47. Vat.lat.3613,
  48. Vat.lat.3615 (Upgraded to HQ),
  49. Vat.lat.3618,
  50. Vat.lat.3626,
  51. Vat.lat.3634, Martirium pariter et gesta, the awful story of Ferdinand the Holy Prince, a Portuguese royal who was sent to Morocco as a hostage and died in captivity after his compatriots refused to pay up as promised.
  52. Vat.lat.3637,
  53. Vat.lat.3641,
  54. Vat.lat.3656,
  55. Vat.lat.3670,
  56. Vat.lat.3673,
  57. Vat.lat.3678,
  58. Vat.lat.3679,
  59. Vat.lat.3680,
  60. Vat.lat.3693,
  61. Vat.lat.3699,
  62. Vat.lat.3700,
  63. Vat.lat.3701,
  64. Vat.lat.3702,
  65. Vat.lat.3704,
  66. Vat.lat.3707,
  67. Vat.lat.3714, "Quem veritas virtus et scientia ubique...", author Barnabas de Riatinis. See eTK
  68. Vat.lat.3728,
  69. Vat.lat.7194 (Upgraded to HQ),
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 171. Thanks to @gundormr for harvesting. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.


Tree of Science

Among the most creative ideas to emerge from the mind of the Catalan philosopher and logician Ramon Llull was the "tree of science". Llull, who was born about 1232, wrote this mature work in Rome between 1295 and 1296. The Tree of Science (Arbre de la ciència, Arbor Scientiae) explores the generality of science, ars magna, for the non-university reader.

Llull's trees are not true networks but simply rely on a teaching analogy that had become popular in the preceding 13th century: the comparison with an organism, in which each science is represented by a tree with roots, trunk, branches, leaves and fruits. It is perhaps not a surprise that the comparison mixes with the idea of Christ's cross as a tree. Here is a drawing on fol 266r:

The roots represent the basic principles of each science; the trunk is the structure; the branches, the genres; the leaves, the species; and the fruits, the individual, his/her acts and his/her finalities (Wikipedia). The 16 trees in the work have been described as an "encyclopaedic grove".

The Vatican Library's copy dates from 1428 and is bound in two volumes. The first has been online for a while, and the second part came online last week and opens with the incipit, In desolatione et fletibus stans Raymundus sub quadam arbore.  The electronic Thorndike and Kibre (eTK) adds that the title first appeared in print at Barcelona in 1482.

Last week's digitizations also include several items in Beneventan script and a selection of law texts:
  1. Barb.lat.3808,
  2. Chig.R.VIII.62,
  3. Ross.9,
  4. Vat.gr.1298.pt.1 (Upgraded to HQ),
  5. Vat.ind.20,
  6. Vat.ind.43 (Upgraded to HQ),
  7. Vat.ind.44 (Upgraded to HQ),
  8. Vat.ind.46 (Upgraded to HQ),
  9. Vat.lat.2136 (Upgraded to HQ),
  10. Vat.lat.2267,
  11. Vat.lat.2280 (Upgraded to HQ),  Huguccio, Summa Decreti (1ra- 248rb; 256ra-370vb); Johannes de Deo, Continuatio Summae Huguccionis [Cause 23-26] (371ra-388rb)
  12. Vat.lat.2291, Baldus, Lectura in Codicem [I] (1ra-118rb)
  13. Vat.lat.2292, Baldus, Lectura in Codicem [VI] (1ra-335vb)
  14. Vat.lat.2294,
  15. Vat.lat.2317 (Upgraded to HQ),
  16. Vat.lat.2500,
  17. Vat.lat.2556, Panormitanus, Apparatus on the Decretales [X 3]
  18. Vat.lat.2675,
  19. Vat.lat.2720,
  20. Vat.lat.2920 (Upgraded to HQ),
  21. Vat.lat.2927,
  22. Vat.lat.2958,
  23. Vat.lat.2977,
  24. Vat.lat.3183,
  25. Vat.lat.3353 (Upgraded to HQ),
  26. Vat.lat.3380,
  27. Vat.lat.3388 (Upgraded to HQ), Angelo Colocci, see @DigitaVatican tweet above
  28. Vat.lat.3402 (Upgraded to HQ),
  29. Vat.lat.3406,
  30. Vat.lat.3428,
  31. Vat.lat.3444,
  32. Vat.lat.3453 (Upgraded to HQ),
  33. Vat.lat.3457.pt.1,
  34. Vat.lat.3468.pt.2, Llull (above)
  35. Vat.lat.3471,
  36. Vat.lat.3472,
  37. Vat.lat.3480,
  38. Vat.lat.3484,
  39. Vat.lat.3487,
  40. Vat.lat.3489,
  41. Vat.lat.3490,
  42. Vat.lat.3494,
  43. Vat.lat.3495,
  44. Vat.lat.3496,
  45. Vat.lat.3502,
  46. Vat.lat.3505,
  47. Vat.lat.3507,
  48. Vat.lat.3512,
  49. Vat.lat.3539, a late 11th century Beneventan script item noticed by Lowe: Sulpicius Severus, Vita S. Martini; Caesarius, Homiliae; Basilius, Regula, etc.
  50. Vat.lat.3542,
  51. Vat.lat.3544,
  52. Vat.lat.3549, another late 11th century Beneventan script item noticed by Lowe: Cassianus, Collationes.
  53. Vat.lat.3563,
  54. Vat.lat.3567 (Upgraded to HQ),
  55. Vat.lat.3569,
  56. Vat.lat.3585,
  57. Vat.lat.3589,
  58. Vat.lat.3590,
  59. Vat.lat.3605,
  60. Vat.lat.3607,
  61. Vat.lat.3609 (Upgraded to HQ),
  62. Vat.lat.3623,
  63. Vat.lat.3628,
  64. Vat.lat.3629,
  65. Vat.lat.3643,
  66. Vat.lat.3644,
  67. Vat.lat.3650,
  68. Vat.lat.3652,
  69. Vat.lat.3662,
  70. Vat.lat.3691,
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 170. Thanks to @gundormr for harvesting. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.


Diocletian and the Goats

Was the Emperor Diocletian of Rome a former Egyptian goat-herd? That is apparently what many Copts believed. This claim features in a Coptic manuscript just digitized at the Vatican Library, Vat.copt.65, which relates the life of Saint Theodore of Shwtp (or Saint Theodore the General), who was burned alive between 305 and 310 CE in Pontus in modern-day Turkey.

The contents of the 14th-century manuscript are discussed in detail by Dioscorus Boles on his blog. Among the interesting aspects are the story's allegation of Roman racism towards Egyptians and the practice of press-ganging Egyptians for Roman military service. Shwtp, in case you are asking, is town in Egypt.

Last week 26 manuscripts were released online. Here is my full list:
  1. Barb.lat.3996,
  2. Reg.lat.1350,
  3. Vat.ar.52 (Upgraded to HQ),
  4. Vat.copt.65 (Upgraded to HQ),
  5. Vat.copt.66 (Upgraded to HQ),
  6. Vat.copt.67 (Upgraded to HQ),
  7. Vat.gr.1702 (Upgraded to HQ),
  8. Vat.lat.2286, Bartolus de Saxoferrato 1314-1357 wrote this legal commentary: Lectura in primam partem Digesti Infortiati and Lectura super secunda parte Digesti novi. This is a 15th century copy.
  9. Vat.lat.2311,
  10. Vat.lat.3299,
  11. Vat.lat.3404,
  12. Vat.lat.3424, Ermolao Barbaro or Hermolaus Barbarus (1454-1493): letters to Jacopo Antiquario, seemingly attacking a book, Cornucopia, by his fellow humanist Nicolo Perotti. See eTK.
  13. Vat.lat.3433,
  14. Vat.lat.3440,
  15. Vat.lat.3442,
  16. Vat.lat.3457.pt.2,
  17. Vat.lat.3465, a panegyric of Thomas Aquinas. This Renaissance codex and others in the range were originally possessions of Antonio Carafa (1538-91), Vatican librarian.
  18. Vat.lat.3477,
  19. Vat.lat.3485,
  20. Vat.lat.3488,
  21. Vat.lat.3491,
  22. Vat.lat.3497,
  23. Vat.lat.3504,
  24. Vat.lat.3509.pt.1,
  25. Vat.lat.3536,
  26. Vat.lat.8866,
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 169. Thanks to @gundormr for harvesting. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.