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York, 1843). Peru, the empire of the Incas, had not only ordinary maps, but also maps in relief, for Pedro Sarmiento da Gamboa (History of the Incas, translated by A. R. Markham, 1907) tells us that the 9th Inca (who died in 1191) ordered such reliefs to be produced of certain localities in a district which he had recently conquered and intended to colonize. These were the first relief maps on record. It is possible that these primitive efforts of American Indians might have been further developed, but the Spanish conquest put a stop to all progress, and for a consecutive history of the map and map-making we must turn to the Old World, and trace this history from Egypt and Babylon, through Greece, to our own age.

The ancient Egyptians were famed as “geometers,” and as early as the days of Rameses II. (Sesostris of the Greeks, 1333-1300 b.c.) there had been made a cadastral survey of the country showing the rows of pillars which separated the nomens as well as the boundaries of landed estates. It was upon a map based upon such a source that Eratosthenes (276-196 b.c.) measured the distance between Syene and Alexandria which he required for his determination of the length of a degree. Ptolemy, who had access to the treasures of the famous library of Alexandria was able, no doubt, to utilize these cadastral plans when compiling his geography. It should be noted that he places Syene only two degrees to the east of Alexandria instead of three degrees, the actual meridian distance between the two places; a difference which would result from an error of only 7° is the orientation of the map used by Ptolemy. Scarcely any specimens of ancient Egyptian cartography have survived. In the Turin Museum are preserved two papyri with rough drawings of gold mines established by Sesostris in the Nubian Desert.[1] These drawings have been commented upon by S. Birch, F. Chabas, R. J. Lauth and other Egyptologists, and have been referred to as the two most ancient maps in existence. They can, however, hardly be described as maps, while in age they are surpassed by several cartographical clay tablets discovered in Babylonia. On another papyrus in the same museum is depicted the victorious return of Seti I. (1366-1333) from Syria, showing the road from Pelusium to Heroopolis, the canal from the Nile with crocodiles, and a lake (mod. Lake Timsah) with fish in it. Apollonius of Rhodes who succeeded Eratosthenes as chief librarian at Alexandria (196 b.c.) reports in his Argonautica (iv. 279) that the inhabitants of Colchis whom, like Herodotus (ii., 104) he looks upon as the descendants of Egyptian colonists, preserved, as heirlooms, certain graven tablets (κύρβεις) on which land and sea, roads and towns were accurately indicated.[2] Eustathius (since 1160 archbishop of Thessalonica) in his commentary on Dionysius Periegetes, mentions route-maps which Sesostris caused to be prepared, while Strabo (i., 15) dwells at length upon the wealth of geographical documents to be found in the library of Alexandria.

A cadastral survey for purposes of taxation was already at work in Babylonia in the age of Sargon of Akkad, 3800 b.c. In the British Museum may be seen a series of clay tablets, circular in shape and dating back to 2300 or 2100 b.c., which contain surveys of lands. One of these depicts in a rough way lower Babylonia encircled by a “salt water river,” Oceanus.

Development of Map-making among the Greeks.[3]Ionian mercenaries and traders first arrived in Egypt, on the invitation of Psammetichus I. about the middle of the 7th century b.c. Among the visitors to Egypt, there were, no doubt, some who took an interest in the science of the Egyptians. One of the most distinguished among them was Thales of Miletus (640-543 b.c.), the founder of the Ionian school of philosophy, whose pupil, Anaximander (611-546 b.c.) is credited by Eratosthenes with having designed the first map of the world. Anaximander looked upon the earth as a section of a cylinder, of considerable thickness, suspended in the centre of the circular vault of the heavens, an idea perhaps borrowed from the Babylonians, for Job (xxvi. 7) already speaks of the earth as “hanging upon nothing.” Like Homer he looked upon the habitable world (οἰκουμένη) as being circular in outline and bounded by a circumfluent river. The geographical knowledge of Anaximander was naturally more ample than that of Homer, for it extended from the Cassiterides or Tin Islands in the west to the Caspian in the east, which he conceived to open out into Oceanus. The Aegean Sea occupied the centre of the map, while the line where ocean and firmament seemed to meet represented an enlarged horizon.

Anaximenes, a pupil of Anaximander, was the first to reject the view that the earth was a circular plane, but held it to be an oblong rectangle, buoyed up in the midst of the heavens by the compressed air upon which it rested. Circular maps, however, remained in the popular favour long after their erroneousness had been recognized by the learned.

Even Hecataeus of Miletus (549-472 b.c.), the author of a Periodos or description of the earth, of whom Herodotus borrowed the terse saying that Egypt was the gift of the Nile, retained this circular shape and circumfluent ocean when producing his map of the world, although he had at his disposal the results of the voyage of Scylax of Caryanda from the Indus to the Red Sea, of Darius’ campaign in Scythia (513), the information to be gathered among the merchants from all parts of the world who frequented an emporium like Miletus, and what he had learned in the course of his own extensive travels. Hecataeus was probably the author of the “bronze tablets upon which was engraved the whole circuit of the earth, the sea and rivers” (Herod. v. 49), which Aristagoras, the tyrant of Miletus, showed to Cleomenes, the king of Sparta, in 504, whose aid he sought in vain in a proposed revolt against Darius, which resulted disastrously in 494 in the destruction of Miletus. The map of the world brought upon the stage in Aristophanescomedy of The Clouds (423 b.c.), whereon a disciple of the Sophists points out upon it the position of Athens and of other places known to the audience, was probably of the popular circular type, which Herodotus (iv. 36) not many years before had derided and which was discarded by Greek cartographers ever after. Thus Democritus of Abdera (b. c. 450, d. after 360), the great philosopher and founder, with Leucippus, of the atomic theory, was also the author of a map of the inhabited world which he supposed to be half as long again from west to east, as it was broad.

Dicaearcus of Messana in Sicily, a pupil of Aristotle (326-296 b.c.), is the author of a topographical account of Hellas, with maps, of which only fragments are preserved; he is credited with having estimated the size of the earth, and, as far as known he was the first to draw a parallel across a map.[4] This parallel, or dividing line, called diaphragm (partition) by a commentator, extended due east from the Pillars of Hercules, through the Mediterranean, and along the Taurus and Imaus (Himalaya) to the eastern ocean. It divided the inhabited world, as then known, into a northern and a southern half. In compiling his map he was able to avail himself of the information obtained by the bematists (surveyors who determined distances by pacing) who accompanied Alexander the Great on his campaigns; of the results of the voyage of Nearchus from the Indus to the Euphrates, and of the “Periplus” of Scylax of Caryanda, which described the coast from between India and the head of the Arabian Gulf. On the other hand he unwisely rejected the results of the observations for latitude made by Pytheas in 326 b.c. at his native town, Massilia, and during a subsequent voyage to northern Europe. In the end the map of Dicaearcus resembled that of Democritus.

Scientific geography profited largely from the labours of Eratosthenes of Cyrene, whom Ptolemy Euergetes appointed

  1. Lepsius, Urkundenbuch, Pl. XXII.

  2. These Colchians certainly were not Egyptians. The maps referred to may have been Assyrian.

  3. We are indebted to Strabo for nearly all we know about Greek cartographers anterior to Ptolemy, for none of their maps has been preserved.

  4. The gnomon was known to the Chinese in the 5th century B.C., and reached the Greeks (Anaximander) through Babylon. Pytheas, as far as known, was the first to utilize it for the determination of a latitute.