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Research Projects of the University of Cologne‘s Faculty of Arts and Humanities

Tabula Peutingeriana (Segment) Image: Silke Diederich

Commentary on the Tabula Peutingeriana

Principal Investigators: Prof. Dr. Michael Rathmann (KU Eichstätt), PD Dr. Silke Diederich (University of Cologne) | Department of Classics (Classical Philology)

Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)

The Peutinger Map, part of the UNESCO world heritage, is a sui generis in the history of cartography. The parchment scroll from 1200 CE is a replica of an original that probably received its final form in 435 CE. As it is the only large-size map passed down from antiquity, it is clear how essential its analysis is for understanding ancient concepts of geographical space. The first fascinating feature of the scroll is its dimensions: At ca. 6.80m long, but only 33 cm high, it represents the oikumene from Iberia to India with extreme distortions. Here, we see first-hand the antique tradition of not-to-scale maps outside the highly elitist schools of mathematical geography, which provides unparalleled insight into the geographical knowledge of a larger non-specialist audience among Rome’s upper classes – something that has made it the subject of lively discussion for over 250 years now.
Responding to these controversies, this DFG-funded project will focus on the following aspects: dating, and stages of development, relations to other maps and written geographical sources, design, purpose, accuracy and functionality, copy errors and medieval modifications.
Our methodical approach for commentating and analyzing the roughly 3600 map entries is pioneering in many regards: first of all, because the dating the prototype of the TP goes as far back as to the early Hellenistic period: If this hypothesis is correct, the history of ancient cartography will have to be rewritten. Instead of fixing one certain date of origin, we rather understand the TP as a work that involved multiple stages of development, during which its purpose and function might have shifted with the changing cultural and historical contexts. Based on modern spatial theories, evaluated will be how this particular form of representing geographic as well as social, politic and religious spaces has been used through the ages as a repository of knowledge and a medium of memoria, which will enable conclusions to be drawn about forms of generating and transmitting know-ledge.

Text: Silke Diederich


Department of Classics (Classical Philology)
Prof. Dr. Michael Rathmann (KU Eichstätt), PD Dr. Silke Diederich

Researchers: apl. Prof. Dr. Monika Schuol (FU Berlin)

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