Ancient Perspectives

Ancient Perspectives : Maps and Their Place in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome


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"Ancient Perspectives" encompasses a vast arc of space and time - Western Asia to North Africa and Europe from the third millennium BCE to the fifth century CE - to explore mapmaking and worldviews in the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. In each society, maps served as critical economic, political, and personal tools, but there was little consistency in how and why they were made. Much like today, maps in antiquity meant very different things to different people. "Ancient Perspectives" presents an ambitious, fresh overview of cartography and its uses. The seven chapters range from broad-based analyses of mapping in Mesopotamia and Egypt to a close focus on Ptolemy's ideas for drawing a world map based on the theories of his Greek predecessors at Alexandria. The remarkable accuracy of Mesopotamian city plans is revealed, as is the creation of maps by Romans to support the proud claim that their emperor's rule was global in its reach. By probing the instruments and techniques of both Greek and Roman surveyors, one chapter seeks to uncover how their extraordinary planning of roads, aqueducts, and tunnels was achieved. Even though none of these civilizations devised the means to measure time or distance with precision, they still conceptualized their surroundings, natural and man-made, near and far, and felt the urge to record them by inventive means that this absorbing volume reinterprets and compares.

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Product details

  • Hardback | 272 pages
  • 184 x 260 x 18mm | 698.53g
  • The University of Chicago Press
  • University of Chicago Press
  • Chicago, IL, United States
  • English
  • 9 colour plates, 82 halftones, 34 line drawings, 2 tables
  • 0226789373
  • 9780226789378
  • 1,202,501

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Author Information

Richard J. A. Talbert is the William Rand Kenan, Jr., Professor of History and Classics and the founder of the Ancient World Mapping Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World and Rome's World: The Peutinger Map Reconsidered.

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Review quote

Nowhere has been mustered into one place so much new and critically examined, or reexamined, evidence from the beginnings of the historical record from Mesopotamian clay tablets to late Roman monuments and texts to dispel, once and for all, any lingering anachronistic myths about the enduring nature and scope of the human mapping impulse. Here is illuminated, sometimes brilliantly, always readably and in scholarly fashion, a range of contexts, subjects, perspectives, styles, orientations, functions, structures, and presentations of maps, whether concerning geographies of the ground or geographies for thought, that applies equally to all later history. --Catherine Delano-Smith, Institute of Historical Research, London"

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