It has recendy been argued that, in order to understand Roman military strategy, w e must use R o m a n rather than m o d e m maps of the Empire. Only then does Europe emerge 'not as a vulnerable band of land circling the Mediterranean at one tip of the Eurasian land-mass'... but as 'the larger portion of the habitable earth, poised on the verge of world rule'.1 Medieval maps can likewise give us a useful image of some of the assumptions and habits of medieval writers and audiences. Mappae mundi, maps offering world-images, were once deplored for their inexactitude by historians of cartography. 'The first feeling awakened by the ', wrote Konrad MiUer in a major study of 1896, 'is one of compassion for its maker's lack of geographical knowledge'.2 Nearly a century later, the symbolic aspects of mappae mundi have been increasingly recognized and n o w fuUy estabUshed with the pubUcation of David Woodward's survey in the n e w History of Cartography.3 It is clear that, although medieval map-making embraces topographical accuracy (as in the portolan sailing charts used by sailors and merchants), the genre of mappae mundi reads the world
Parergon – Australian & New Zealand Association of Medieval & Early Modern Studies, Inc. (ANAZAMEMS, Inc.)
Published: Apr 3, 1991
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