Home > 999. Lost Landscapes > Tabula Peutingeriana: A 5th-Century Roadmap

Tabula Peutingeriana: A 5th-Century Roadmap

File:Part of Tabula Peutingeriana.jpg


This map is a bit of an eye-bender. From the top, this section of the Tabula Peutingeriana shows Dalmatia, the heel and toe of Italy, and the northern coast of Africa. The map was made by a monk in Colmar (about 1300) and discovered around 1500 in Worms; it was published in 1598.

The Tabula is an itinerary and the only surviving map of the Roman public road system, and is thought to be descended from an original compiled during the reign of Augustus (though the map contains 5th-century corrections).


Wow! Talk about mind-bending! But what may be most interesting about the Tabula is its combination of aesthetic and schematic qualities: it is attractive to the eye, and depicts the entire public road system (and thus the complete map covers the entire Roman Empire plus the Middle East, India, and Sri Lanka, even indicating the direction of China!) The original mapmaker distorted the shapes of landmasses in order to include the necessary information, yet produced a work of art that is pleasing to inspect. It may not be going to far to say that it represents the best qualities of the early Roman Empire. As RT has pointed out before, maps always represent the qualities of the people and age that produced them (in this case, accurate, comprehensive, useful, and pleasing).


MapPart of Tabula Peutingeriana, showing Dacia, Epirus, Macedonia, Dalmatia, Achaia, Sicily, Cyrenaica; facsimile, Konrad Miller (1887). WikiCmns; Public Domain.


  1. April 9, 2013 at 9:02 am

    This is a brilliant document, as you say, for both aesthetic and scientific reasons. For us moderns it is difficult at first to orientate oneself, but the clue is in the word: the top of the map is the orient, where the sun rises and where traditionally, in Christendom at least, the Garden of Eden was situated. Once I realised that, many years ago, the unmistakeable boot of Italy hoved into view!

    Must check out your links. Thanks for a reminder about this unique survivor from the past! And now, how about a post of that other wonderful survivor, the Hereford Mappa Mundi?

    • April 9, 2013 at 6:46 pm

      calmgrove: thanks for your comments, and, no, i haven’t heard about the Hereford map…looks like another Wikipedia search (and new post) is in order! RT

      • April 9, 2013 at 6:56 pm

        Yay! When I last saw the Mappa Mundi it was freely available to view in the Cathedral, but there’s now an admission charge. It’s larger than you might imagine, and surprisingly impressive. Great images too dotted around the map, including the labyrinth on Crete!

  1. August 22, 2013 at 5:59 pm

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