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Tabula Peutingeriana (section)—top to bottom: Dalmatian coast, Adriatic Sea, southern Italy, Sicily, African Mediterranean coast

The Tabula Peutingeriana (Peutinger table, Peutinger Map) is an itinerarium showing the cursus publicus, the road network in the Roman Empire. The original map of which this is a unique copy was last revised in the fourth or early fifth century.[1] It covers Europe, parts of Asia (Persia, India) and North Africa. The map is named after Konrad Peutinger, a German 15–16th-century humanist and antiquarian.

The map was discovered in a library in Worms by Conrad Celtes, who was unable to publish his find before his death and bequeathed the map in 1508 to Peutinger. It is conserved at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Hofburg, Vienna.[2]


Map description

The Tabula Peutingeriana is the only known surviving map of the Roman cursus publicus; it was made by a monk in Colmar in the thirteenth century. It is a parchment scroll, 0.34 m high and 6.75 m long, assembled from eleven sections, a medieval reproduction of the original scroll. It is a very schematic map: the land masses are distorted, especially in the east-west direction. The map shows many Roman settlements, the roads connecting them, rivers, mountains, forests and seas. The distances between the settlements are also given. The three most important cities of the Roman Empire, Rome, Constantinople and Antioch, are represented with special iconic decoration. Besides the totality of the Empire, the map shows the Near East, India and the Ganges, Sri Lanka (Insula Taprobane), and even an indication of China. It shows a "Temple to Augustus" at Muziris, one of the main ports for trade to the Roman Empire on the southwest coast of India.[3] In the West, the absence of the Iberian Peninsula indicates that a twelfth original section has been lost in the surviving copy.

The table appears to be based on "itineraries", or lists of destinations along Roman roads, as the distances between points along the routes are indicated.[4] Travelers would not have possessed anything so sophisticated as a map, but they needed to know what lay ahead of them on the road and how far. The Peutinger table represents these roads as a series of roughly parallel lines along which destinations have been marked in order of travel. The shape of the parchment pages accounts for the conventional rectangular layout. However, a rough similarity to the coordinates of Ptolemy's earth-mapping gives some writers a hope that some terrestrial representation was intended by the unknown compilers.

The stages and cities are represented by hundreds of functional place symbols, used with discrimination from the simplest icon of a building with two towers to the elaborate individualized "portraits" of the three great cities. Annalina and Mario Levi, the Tabula's editors, conclude that the semi-schematic semi-pictorial symbols reproduce Roman cartographic conventions of the itineraria picta described by Vegetius,[5] of which this is the sole testimony.

The fourth-century tabula[6] was the distant descendant of the one prepared under the direction of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, a friend of Augustus. After Agrippa's death, the map was engraved on marble and placed in the Porticus Vipsaniae, not far from the Ara Pacis. That early imperial dating for the archetype of the map is also supported by Glen Bowersock, based on numerous details of the Roman Arabia province that look entirely anachronistic for a 4th-century map.[7] . Therefore, he also points to the map of Vipsanius Agrippa.[8]


The map was copied for Ortelius and published shortly after his death in 1598. A partial first edition was printed at Antwerp in 1591 (Fragmenta tabulæ antiquæ) by Johannes Moretus. Moretus would print the full Tabula in December 1598, also at Antwerp.

The Peutinger family kept the map until 1714, when it was sold. It bounced between royal and elite families until it was purchased by Prince Eugene of Savoy for 100 ducats; upon his death in 1737, it was purchased for the Habsburg Imperial Court Library (Hofbibliothek) in Vienna, where it remains.

In 2007, the map was placed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, and in recognition of this, it was displayed to the public for a single day on November 26, 2007. Because of its fragile condition, it is not ordinarily on display.[9]


The Tabula Peutingeriana, from Iberia in the west, to India in the east.


  1. ^ Annalina Levi and Mario Levi, Itineraria picta: Contributo allo studio della Tabula Peutingeriana (Rome:Bretschneider) 1967.
  2. ^ Its accession number is Codex 324.
  3. ^ Ball (2000), p. 123.
  4. ^ Not all the stages are between towns: sometimes a crossroads marks the staging point.
  5. ^ Vegetius' "...viarum qualitas, compendia, diverticula, montes, flumina ad fidem descripta suggest a more detailed "pictorial itinerary" than either the Antonine Itinerary or the Tabula Peutingeriana offers.
  6. ^ It shows the city of Constantinople, founded in 328, yet it still shows Pompeii, not rebuilt after the eruption of Vesuvius in 79. The prominence of Ravenna, seat of the Western Empire from 402, indicated a fifth-century revision to Levi and Levi. Certain cities of Germania Inferior that were destroyed in the mid-fifth century provide a terminus ante quem.
  7. ^ G.W.Bowersock (1994), pp.169-170,175,177,178-179,181,182,184
  8. ^ G.W.Bowersock (1994), p.185
  9. ^ Bethany Bell, "Ancient Roman road map unveiled", BBC News, 26 November 2007.


  • Annalina Levi and Mario Levi. Itineraria picta: Contributo allo studio della Tabula Peutingeriana (Rome: Bretschneider) 1967. Includes the best easily available reproduction of the Tabula Peuringeriana, at 2:3 scale.
  • Ball, Warwick. (2000). Rome in the East: The transformation of an empire. Routledge. London and New York. ISBN 0-415-11376-8.
  • Glen Bowersock. Roman Arabia (Harvard University Press) 1994. ISBN 0-674-77756-5.

External links



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